6 Steps to an Effective Marketing Plan

A marketing plan may not be at the top of a business owner’s task list, but it should be. When a business is looking to grow, expand, and succeed, the first course of action is to create an effective marketing plan.

Just as someone would bring along a GPS unit when going on a trip, businesses need a marketing plan to guide them to their ultimate destination. Without a working marketing plan, businesses may find themselves off course or closed.

An effective marketing plan will give a business owner a clear idea of the opportunities available in their market, as well as a deep understanding of target audiences and competitors. Using that information, businesses can craft a detailed strategy to guide their marketing efforts toward success and growth.

One company’s marketing plan will be different than another’s in depth, information, and tactics. Even companies within the same industry will find they have different goals and strategies based on their strengths, weaknesses, and situations.

However, there are a few aspects to a marketing plan that every business should have, and that’s what we’ll be discussing in this article. Here are the six essential keys to a successful marketing plan.

1. Market Research

Before laying out strategies and tactics, it’s important to start with research – a lot of research. When we create marketing plans for clients, we spend our first few hours researching the industry and local market. We focus on understanding where the company fits in the market, where their biggest opportunities and challenges are, and where resources are available for their marketing efforts.

When business leaders know where their company fits in the industry and market, they will be prepared to set effective goals for their marketing activities. Without this understanding, companies are flying blind and any plans created are just a roll of the dice.

2. Competitive Analysis

Next, it’s important to review the competitive landscape. Companies need to identify and study competitors in depth. What are their strengths and weaknesses? What kind of marketing are they doing, and is it effective? These are just two examples of the many questions that need to be asked with regard to competitors.

When a business owner understands their competitors, they can use that knowledge to craft strategies and campaigns that will give them an edge in the market.

3. Identify Target Audiences

In order to be successful, a business must identify and know its primary target audiences. Learning who these people are, how they communicate, and what drives them to a company’s products or services will make success a lot easier for business owners.

Companies need to categorize these audiences into groups, so they can better understand how to reach them and what messages customers will respond to. While one group may be active on Facebook, another group may prefer email communication.

4. Set Goals and Objectives

Using the research about the market, competitors, and target audiences, companies can craft their goals and objectives. There should be both short and long-term goals and objectives that push a company to reach their marketing goals, but are also achievable.

These goals and objectives will cover a whole year, and should work alongside other business goals. It’s okay to make adjustments to the marketing goals and objectives over time, but they should challenge companies to work hard and smart to achieve them.

5. Define Specific Strategies and Tactics

This is the meat of the marketing plan. Using all of the previously mentioned information, companies are in a position to develop specific marketing strategies, and define the tactics needed for each strategy.

These strategies could be to use advertising to grow revenue by a certain amount within a set time period, or implement social media to improve customer perception of a business or product. These strategies will differ for each company and brand, but should focus on using marketing to achieve particular goals.

With the strategies in place, companies need to determine the specific tactics needed to fulfill the strategy. This can include creating Google AdWords ads that promote a certain aspect of the business, or creating daily social media posts that invite participation from followers.

These strategies and tactics will naturally evolve over time as companies achieve their goals, and as business leaders discover what works best and what doesn’t.

6. Determine Evaluation Methods

Companies won’t know which marketing strategies and tactics are effective if they don’t implement some form of evaluation. Evaluating marketing comes in many forms. Some marketing tactics allow for direct data collection, like Google AdWords, where companies can review real data that shows exactly how well a marketing effort is performing. Other marketing tactics aren’t as easily evaluated, but companies can get creative in the way they review and assess their marketing practices.

The point is that it’s important to review each strategy and tactic, and determine the best ways to evaluate them for success, even if the evaluation methods aren’t perfect.

Create a Marketing Plan

It’s imperative that companies develop and follow a marketing plan. Without one, business owners and leaders will be spending too much time and money without knowing how effective such efforts are, or if they’re even the right ones to begin with.

Culled from Web International

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