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Build a Well-Rounded Marketing Plan in 7 Easy Steps

When you’ve poured your passion into launching a business or creating a new product, it’s easy to assume others will share your enthusiasm. But no matter how fantastic the idea, sometimes you need a little help turning your bit of genius into a viable enterprise. The marketplace is crowded with competitors, and it can be a fight to get the attention you deserve. A well-rounded marketing plan, one that will bring customers in the door and generate buzz for your brand, is the secret weapon you want in your corner.

Beefing up your marketing plan also matters for an existing business, and not just when your bottom line is feeling the pinch. Periodically refining your marketing plan keeps your approach fresh, relevant to your customers, and hopefully, one step ahead of the competition.

The seven steps below outline how to create a dynamic marketing plan so you can reach and exceed your business goals.

Step 1: Know Your Business

When it comes to your business, you’re the expert. But don’t let all that business experience live in your head. Outline the particulars of your business in your marketing plan so you’ll have it front and center when you’re crafting the right approach:

  • Years of operation: The strategies differ for marketing a new business versus an established one, so be sure to think about how the age of your company shapes your marketing strategy.
  • Business size: It’s also vital to note how the size of your business affects your plan. Whether you’re operating a small business or a larger corporation, having a marketing plan in place is essential.
  • Business environment: Online or brick and mortar? Office or factory? Your business environment dictates quite a bit about your audience and the channels you utilize to reach them.
  • Products & services: Including a full list of all your products and services can help you think outside the box and spot marketing opportunities you never noticed before.

During this step, it might also be valuable to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. Don’t be intimidated as it’s less technical than it sounds. Use this chance to articulate the strengths and vulnerabilities of your business, any potential avenues for growth, and the challenges you’ll face in the coming year.

Step 2: Know Your Audience

This step isn’t just some ephemeral admonishment to know the people you’re serving. It’s about digging into the details so you can maximize conversions. A targeted audience who is already interested in your products or services and is more likely to become a customer or client. Here are a few factors that should be part of your audience analysis:

  • Demographics: Look at age, gender, education, and income. These are crucial places to start when you’re building an audience that’ll respond to your messaging.
  • Behaviors: Dig deep into data to determine more about your customers or users. Where else do they shop? What are their other interests and hobbies?
  • Decisions: Learning more about how your customers make purchasing decisions will help you understand where in the process to direct your marketing campaigns to achieve maximum impact.
  • Pain points: What problems or challenges are your customers struggling with? You can position your products or services as a potential solution for your customers’ problems.

It’s also helpful to create a persona or group of profiles that represent your audience as buyer personas. These descriptive characters can help you imagine potential buyers as real people and assist in creating more emotional and persuasive marketing.

Step 3: Study Your Competitors

No business big or small operates in a vacuum. There are folks out there doing what you do, and no matter how hard you hustle, they may suck up most of the air in the room. Take heart, though. Researching your competition, no matter how discouraging, has two major benefits.

First, it lets you learn from their successes and failures. Secondly, defining your competition also gives you a chance to articulate your differences. These unique value propositions can and should become the cornerstone of your marketing strategy.

Step 4: Set Goals

It’s tempting to throw some pie in the sky targets onto a piece of paper and see if you can make them happen, but that’s not a recipe for a successful marketing strategy. The goals you set for your marketing plan should be specific, actionable, and measurable. You want to focus on milestones that excite and motivate but are also reasonably achievable. For instance, if your current following on social media is nonexistent, getting 100,000 followers on Instagram by the end of the year isn’t going to happen.

Once you’ve decided on goals, don’t stop. Below each strategy, brainstorm actions that could help you get there. For instance, if you want to grow your mailing list by 25,000 subscribers, you might decide to create a pop-up on your website that prompts customers to sign up. Finally, consider calendaring the actions you’ve listed so you have clear deadlines to meet and reminders to keep your eyes on the prize.

Step 5: Create a Budget

Whether your business budget is best described as shoestring or you’ve got the profits to bankroll something huge, know your financial limitations before you draft your marketing plan. You should also resist the temptation to put all your financial eggs in one basket. It may help to prioritize your goals if you have a limited budget so you can make sure to devote most of the funds up front to the mission-critical campaigns.

Step 6: Draft Your Plan

You’ve gathered resources and strategized. Now it’s time to start building your marketing plan. Focus on using multiple platforms to widen your audience and increase your reach. Here are a few items you should explore to round out your marketing plan and finally get your brand the attention it deserves:

  • Work on your website: If you don’t have a website, invest in one pronto. Since only about two-thirds of small businesses have a website, an online presence could give you an edge in the marketplace. Even if you don’t sell goods or provide services online, it’s still essential to have a site that’s visible to Google. Don’t panic if you’re not tech savvy, though. Finding a straightforward, template-driven platform to build a website isn’t as expensive or as difficult as you might think once you start looking.
  • Start an email campaign or a newsletter: Got an email list? Put it to good use with an email marketing campaign or a regularly published newsletter. Email is an excellent opportunity to secure your customers’ undivided attention in their inbox, where ads and other competitors aren’t crowding the visual field. If you’re ready to get sophisticated with your email campaigns, start testing subject lines and track your open rates with a platform like Mailchimp.
  • Publish a blog: Blogs often fall to the wayside when you get busy, but they’re valuable pieces of online real estate you should be leveraging. Business blogging isn’t about selling your product but about building your brand. It’s a good platform not only to hone your brand voice but also to expand your SEO strategy. Focusing on industry-specific keywords in your blog content can drive clicks to your website and hopefully convert that audience into customers.
  • Network, network, network: Look around at your industry and get connected. Whether you do it through LinkedIn or in person, find ways to get involved in trade organizations or to network with high-profile business leaders in your community. Host a fundraiser, contribute to a local school, or volunteer alongside your staff. Relationships created at these events can drive referrals and recognition.
  • Do a survey: The best way to know what your customers think about your business is to ask them. Because reviews account for 15% of your search ranking, you should definitely respond to your Google, Yelp, or other reviews, but it’s also worthwhile to periodically send out a survey to customers to solicit feedback.
  • Invest in social media: If you want to reach a wider audience, it makes sense to go where they are. And increasingly that’s social media. Facebook alone has more than 1.86 billion monthly active users. If you’re on social media, give your profiles a refresh with new content and photos, and consider a targeted ad strategy on a platform where you have a strong presence.

Step 7: Use Data to Update Your Plan 

Once you’ve started to act on your marketing plan, be sure to build in time to review data from the marketing campaigns you conduct and adjust. This includes not only analytics from Google but also an SEO audit to see how your website is performing. Whether it’s tweaking the flow to help users more easily access their carts or taking a Facebook ad campaign that’s not connecting back to the drawing board, staying agile and aware of what’s effective will keep your marketing budget on track.

Final Thoughts

Small businesses and large corporations can both benefit from being more intentional about their marketing strategies and designing a marketing plan that executes across multiple platforms. Even if you’re just a mom-and-pop shop with a single storefront, marketing keeps your business in the public eye, and increasingly, that requires a robust online presence. It does not, however, require working harder. Marketing is about working smarter and leveraging the right tools to help your business thrive.

Author Bio: Madison specializes in content related to small business digital marketing and building brand awareness. She has a passion for helping entrepreneurs grow their business and set long-term goals.