What is a marketing plan? A marketing plan outlines the steps to take to get potential customers to purchase your startup’s services and/or products. This plan should lead you through your chosen marketing tactics, activities, strategies, costs, and goals with clarity and ease.
These actions should be detailed clearly and thoroughly. This will help your business reach its goals. The timeline for a marketing plan may be designed to be used over a period of weeks, months, or even a year.
How Does a Marketing Plan Help My Business?
You might think that not every small business needs this plan. The truth is if you own and operate a small business, you need a marketing plan even more than big businesses.
Here’s why: every resource is carefully allocated when you’re running a tight ship. You must account for every penny. For example, you might want to design a new website. However, you may wind up making common mistakes without a plan in place. You can overspend on things you don’t need, mismanage your time, and miss valuable marketing opportunities.
While the odd misspending or missed opportunity might be absorbed by a larger company, smaller businesses tend to feel the impact of these setbacks even more.
Creating a marketing plan also doesn’t require any capital. It takes a relatively small investment of your time to set up. Then, the plan pays for itself. Here are the seven benefits that should be offered by your plan.
1. Set clear goals
You need to know what you’re striving for in your marketing efforts. Set clear, quantifiable goals. Write down your goals. Make sure they are clear and measurable. Use this time to answer the question, “What am I trying to achieve?”
For example, you want to earn a certain amount of revenue each month. Your goals might include increasing your client numbers by a specific percentage over a certain number of months. Perhaps you want to double the number of followers you have on Instagram by the new year. Maybe you’re thinking of getting order management software to automate your order processing, and you want to see whether it’s a good way to spend some of your budget.
2. Establish a clear path
Now that you know what you want to achieve, it’s time to lay down the path to reach these goals. A clear path offers consistency. You won’t stray into the metaphorical forest and get lost if you follow a clear path.
Having clear steps to reach your goals simplifies the day-to-day management of your time and efforts. For example, you might decide you want brand ambassadors. What is a brand ambassador? It’s essentially a satisfied customer who sings your praises from the virtual rooftops of social media.
3. Create a budget
Everyone can accidentally overspend on things if they only budget in their heads, and not on paper. It’s easy to think you’re being thrifty when this may not be the reality. You may blow your budget on stuff you don’t need, or on things that ultimately don’t bring in enough business to justify their presence.
Having a clear budget within your marketing plan helps you see where you can afford to spend, and where you should reign it in. By writing down how much you’re willing to spend on marketing and pricing different options, then you can do a cost-benefit analysis.
For example, you might decide that an affiliate marketing program is a solid marketing bet for the business. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t. This allows you to readjust your budget for the next plan. Therefore, you can continue putting your energy into methods that work for the business.
4. Know your audience
Creating a marketing plan inevitably gets you to think about your customers. Who are your customers? What do they want? What do they need?
Adjust your plan accordingly by clarifying who you want to target and who wants your products. The plan will help you figure out who makes up your audience. In turn, your audience will shape your plan.
One thing every small business needs is efficiency. When you don’t have the luxury of hundreds of employees, you need to maximize what you do with your time and wear several hats. For example, it might be a good idea to invest in intelligent documents. This allows you to increase your efficiency so that you can collate all your data easily in one place.
Having a clear plan allows you to avoid taking part in unnecessary tasks that don’t align with your plan or repeating processes. For instance, you may think that updating your social media account every day helps to drive in customers. However, upon analyzing your performance, you may realize that posting at certain times each week brings in more engagement. You might decide that less is more and that you would rather create and schedule in fewer pieces of relevant content.
An easy trap to fall into is trying to do too much. This can lead to exhaustion and disappointment which ends up being massively demotivating. However, by creating a marketing plan you can be much more selective with the areas where you invest your energy.
6. Check in on marketing efforts
While no one wants to see that their hard work is yielding few results, it’s much better to know that your methods haven’t been working than to keep continuing without solid ROI. Here’s what a good marketing plan allows you to do:
- See what steps you can take to engage existing and potential customers
- Learn how much time and money can be put into your marketing strategy
- Discover what works and what doesn’t
Sometimes it’s good to change your goals. Original goals aren’t the be-all and end-all of your business. They serve a purpose, which is to help your business grow and flourish. If your goals aren’t fulfilling their purpose, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with adjusting them.
Having measurable results that you can hold up to your plan allows you to see what is working, not just what isn’t. Putting your energy into the things that work and seeing positive results is rewarding and motivating.
The results aren’t the only motivation. Having a clear path to achieve your goals is motivating because you have a strategy and plan you can implement every day. This provides you with clarity. By simplifying what might otherwise feel like a grand and confusing goal, you make your dreams for your business that much more realistic.
Your business is your baby
Your business is your baby. You conceived it and gave birth to the ideas. Now you want to help it grow up. It’s time to start watching your business as it develops and starts hitting its milestones.
You don’t need to strive for endless growth — that’s unsustainable and unrealistic. But you can help your business flourish with a little bit of forethought. It’s a dynamic thing, and a marketing plan can help you to monitor how it’s doing and where it can go next.
Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution and industry leading automated affiliate marketing platform. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. Follow him on LinkedIn.