You’ve likely heard that having a marketing plan in place is essential. Whoever told you that was correct, but do you know why a marketing plan is so important and what it could do for your business?
Effective marketing requires a plan. A marketing plan shows potential investors that you’re well-organized and serious about success. It will also help you achieve your marketing goals and meet customer needs.
Today, we’re going to discuss the purpose of a marketing plan. We’ll also cover how it works and how having one improves your marketing efforts.
How Marketing Plans Work
Often, a marketing plan is a formal document that outlines strategic marketing activities. It should cover:
- The position your business occupies within the market.
- Who are your ideal customers are?
- How you segment your target market.
- Your values and mission, which will influence how you frame your marketing activities.
The techniques you use to achieve your marketing objectives will vary depending on your company’s unique circumstances. Having the above ideas written down and agreed upon will help you develop successful marketing efforts quickly and efficiently.
Ensuring Your Company’s Goals Align With Your Marketing Plan
Very few people spend much time thinking about their company’s mission and value statements. The exception, of course, is if you are in charge of drafting or updating one or both of them. Most of the time, however, neither statement seems relevant to day-to-day business operations.
It’s essential to consider corporate objectives when thinking about the strategies, tactics and methods within your marketing plan.
Ignoring the mission and values of your company is a mistake, particularly when you’re developing a strategic marketing plan.
Your company’s mission is why it exists, and the values inform how it operates. When you have that information, you can start making well-informed, good marketing decisions.
Let’s look at our company, for example. Business Marketing Engine’s mission is to help entrepreneurs plan, build and grow. We call our values our guiding principles. There are 15 of them, and they’re worth the read. If you’re short on time, just know that they’re about providing our clients with the best experience possible.
How, then, do our mission and values influence the business decisions we make?
In our mission, we have identified entrepreneurs as our target market and have outlined what we want to do for them.
Now, let’s take another look at our guiding principles. In this case, more is better. You can view each one as a step to take, with substeps within it. We know where we want to go and can plan how we will get there as a team.
Areas and Activities That Can Be Improved With a Marketing Plan
One of Business Marketing Engine’s guiding principles is continuous improvement. It’s number three on the list, in fact. We believe that anyone can improve most areas and activities within their business.
Right now, we’re going to focus on five things in particular that an integrated marketing plan could boost:
- Your target market.
- Market segmentation.
- Customer profiles.
- Product promotion.
- Sales channels.
1. Your Target Market
If you’re trying to sell something, having a target market for that product or service is vital. Ideally, your target audience is composed of people with the means and motivation to make a purchase. These are your potential customers.
You might think, “well, our product seems like the sort of thing people would find useful.” That’s not going to get you very far. A marketing plan lets you identify and clarify the market you’re targeting.
Who are the people who would find your product helpful? What draws them to your product?
Many products on the market would be helpful to someone. However, there are a few aspects you’ll want to highlight depending on who you’re targeting.
For example, is your market looking for an inexpensive solution? If they’re not explicitly sorting prices low to high, do they want a luxury option? Maybe they’re looking at quality rather than price or extra features when they shop.
Whatever the case, that’s something you should know and highlight in your marketing plan. When you put a standard into writing, it becomes fixed and easier to follow.
2. Market Segmentation
Demographics are helpful for marketing, but only to a certain extent. Think about everyone over the age of 65. Technically, that’s a demographic group. It might even be one you’re targeting.
If age is the only information you have, you’re going to have a hard time advertising and marketing. That’s true of other demographic information as well.
What does everyone over the age of 65 have in common? Most people within that age group are retired, but not all are. Some have grandchildren, but others don’t.
It doesn’t help that demographic age ranges are so broad. The 65+ group encompasses almost 40 years and multiple generations.
What about the other demographic information you might use to target a group? The primary categories other than age are
- Family makeup, including marital status and number of children.
- Income level.
- Level of education.
You probably can’t come up with anything that applies to everyone within one of those groups, nor should you try. It’s an exercise in futility and an easy way to alienate potential customers.
That brings us to the idea of market segmentation. Let’s go back to our original example and say your target market comprises people 65 and older.
Rather than attempting to create one advertisement or marketing campaign that will appeal to all of them, split them up. Create groups based on as many characteristics as you desire.
For example, you might have a group of married men in their 60s who live in a single-family home. Alternately, you might look at widowed or single women in their 80s living in senior housing.
The best way to define valuable segments of your audience is through market research. Focus groups, web surveys, interviews, and even looking at your web traffic statistics can help.
While it might take some trial and error, it’s a flexible, customizable process. You’ll find the right segments for your company to target. Doing so will help your business thrive and improve customer satisfaction.
Your marketing plan is where you will lay out the market research you plan to conduct.
3. Define Your Market and Customer Profiles
We’ve narrowed down our target market to a market segment and now we’re going to take it one step further. We’re talking about customer profiles.
A customer profile takes demographic information and the characteristics you use to define market segments into account. However, it builds on that by also considering pain points and other more specific factors.
What makes a customer profile unique is that it’s formatted like a description of a real person. This hypothetical person is your target customer.
Having well-thought-out customer profiles is essential to your content strategy. It helps to have someone specific in mind when you’re creating content.
Without a customer profile, your content is a shot in the dark. You hope it resonates with someone, but it might not.
When you have a customer profile in mind while you create content, your odds are better. Your blog posts, website copy and ads suit the customer profile. Because the profile reflects actual customers, you’re still catering to them.
Customer profiles are an essential part of your marketing strategy. As such, you should outline your process for creating and updating them within your marketing plan.
4. Product Promotion
The prior three areas and activities that a strategic marketing plan can improve are all explicitly focused on the customer. That’s great. The best marketing programs are often completely customer-oriented.
At some point, however, the products, services and anything else your company offers need some time in the spotlight.
Believe it or not, marketing plans can aid in product promotion too. The primary way in which they do so is through the clarity they provide. When you know as much as possible about your target market, it’s far easier to promote products.
You can’t really have a promotion without an audience. You certainly won’t have an effective one. We operate in an online, global marketplace. If you don’t have an audience in mind, your efforts are just noise.
Having a marketing plan that clearly defines your ideal customers can make advertising both cheaper and more effective. In most cases, you get what you pay for, so this is a novel experience.
Let’s say you have a brand new, inspiring product or service you want to advertise. You’ve decided you want to use Facebook to host the ad. That’s a great choice; Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world. With 2.85 billion users, you’re sure to find buyers interested in your product.
The cost of showing your advertisement to every single one of those users doesn’t bear thinking about. So, it would help if you narrowed it down. Because Facebook collects so much data about its users, the options for market segmentation are almost endless.
Following your marketing plan means you will already know which market segments to target. You know which groups are most likely to convert. You don’t have to spend the money to show your ad to uninterested parties.
This is also invaluable if you’re running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. During a PPC campaign, the host of your advertisement charges you based on the number of times it’s clicked.
A well-designed ad will draw clicks. However, if people who aren’t interested in your product are doing the clicking, you’re going to lose money. Even if you’re breaking even or better, that’s still cutting into your profits.
A marketing plan can help you navigate and profit from the sometimes confusing world of advertising sales.
5. Sales Channels
If you’re not familiar with the term, a sales channel is how products move from sellers to buyers. As you might have guessed, that can be quite the process. It’s critical that you have all of the steps outlined and defined.
It can be helpful to perform a situation analysis when putting together your marketing plan. A situation analysis is a way of looking at all of the factors influencing your business at the moment. That includes both internal and external factors.
A situation analysis will let you examine your business’s capabilities as well as your current and future customers. This is helpful when you’re trying to define the various sales channels through which your products move.
You’ve done the work to discover your target market, and you’ve promoted your product. At this point, all that’s left to do is sell it.
The two broad categories of options are in a brick-and-mortar store or online.
Maintaining a web store is the more affordable and versatile option. It allows you to:
- Sell to people almost anywhere in the world.
- Reduce the number of steps a potential customer needs to take to make a purchase.
- Enjoy much lower maintenance costs.
Some products and services lend themselves well to a virtual sales channel. Just imagine trying to sell software as a service (SaaS) out of a physical store, for example. You could do it, but it doesn’t make much sense.
Despite the increasingly digital market in which most of us operate, physical stores aren’t going away anytime soon. Some products are better suited to a physical sales channel, and some customers prefer it too.
After you put together your marketing plan, you’ll know what the right choice is for you and your customers.
Business Marketing Engine is a full-service marketing agency. That means we’re with you every step of the way—we’re like your very own personal marketer. From creating a marketing plan to the marketing implementation stage, we’ll be by your side. Your success is our goal.
Whether you want to see a marketing plan example or could use help making a plan, we’re here for you.
Get in touch with us today to start transforming your marketing program and growing your business. We can’t wait to help you meet your marketing goals!