What to Include In Your Marketing Plan
Before you begin to piece together your marketing plan, it’s key to remember that this document will be the basis of all your marketing activity for the next year (or however long you’ve planned for). Regardless of the scope of your plan, it is important that you keep the document fluid and ensure that it’s easy to read. It is also important to note that although complete, your marketing plan is a living document that should be revisited on a regular basis (we recommend quarterly). You may decide to add to or re-direct your marketing plan as you implement and start to get data and results back.
The executive summary is often considered the most important section of a marketing plan. This section provides a great a way to give your readers a quick, short, and concise synopsis of your marketing tactics and objectives and why your plan will be successful. Whether you are seeking approval, buy-in, or just want to make a strong impression, the executive summary is your first opportunity to grab interest and set the tone.
What should be included in the summary?
Write it last. Although it is included first in the marketing plan, it’s recommended that you only write the executive summary after you have completed your marketing plan. Your executive summary should contain an overview of your marketing in its entirety, which will will allow you to cover your ideas and concepts in a concise summary. The executive summary doesn’t need to cover everything in the marketing plan– there are several key elements that should be included:
- Market Overview
- Competitive Overview
- Product Overview
- Highlight Objectives
- Strategic Overview
- Address Timeline
- Evaluation Overview
Understanding the market situation is essential to developing an analysis of it, as well as the appropriate, creative recommendations that flow from it in your marketing plan. Typically your marketing plan will start with an overview of the current market, also referred to as your market situation. You will often hear this section referred to as a “situational analysis” because it analyzes the situation you face as you launch your marketing plan. This section should detail what you know about your market, including details on:
- What are your products/services or product/service lines?
- What is the dollar size of your markets?
- What is your sales and distribution setup?
- What geographic area do you sell to?
- Describe your audience in terms of population, demographics, income levels and so on.
- What competitors exist in this marketplace?
- Historically, how well have your products sold?
Target Market / Consumer
This section describes the customers you are targeting. It defines their demographic profile (e.g. age, gender), psychographic profile (e.g. their interests) and their precise wants and needs as they relate to the products and/or services you offer. Being able to more clearly identify your target customers will help you both pinpoint your advertising (and get a higher ROI) and “speak the language” of prospective customers.
Five steps to defining your target market
Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or you’re a solo entrepreneur, it is important to fully understand your customer if you want to ensure your marketing plan is effective. Who are your customers, why would they want to buy from you, and what’s in it for them? Below are the 5 steps we use to define target markets for our marketing plans.
1. Define the Problems You Intend to Solve
The first thing that you need to do when defining your target market is to define the problems that you intend to solve with your product and/or service. Once you have a good idea of this, you can begin to define exactly who it is you intend to solve the problem for.
- Understand Exactly Who Will Get Value From Your Product/Service
The next step is to create an initial list of exactly who you think will benefit or get the most value from what you have to offer. Start by asking yourself:
- Who currently faces the challenges my product or service solves?
- Who will benefit the most by having those challenges solved?
- Who will have the most to lose by not dealing with these challenges?
Remember to take into account aspects of stress and the risk to reputation when implementing your solution, as well as a bottom line cost. It is all these factors that make up the value in your offering.
- Create Detailed Customer Personas
Now you can start to list all the different types of customers that suffer from the problems that you intend to solve. Once you have completed this step, you can start to build up a picture of these customers (literally, we recommend you use a real picture).
Creating personas deserves it’s own series of posts and with a Google search you’ll start to see how in depth this process can be. However, once you’ve created these personas to understand your target market, you will be able to use them throughout the entire sales and marketing process.
You want to dig deep and try to understand who your prospective customers really are… not just who you’d like them to be. For example; What do they do for a living? How much do they earn per year? Are they married? Do they have children? Are they male or female? Young or old? What do they like to read? Do they play golf? The whole goal is to define them in as many relevant ways as possible.
- Start to Segment Your Market
Segmenting your market means more effective marketing. You’ll ensure you are only reaching the customers that you absolutely want to target. When starting to segment your market you want to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you want to work with particular types of people? – High net worth individuals, men, women, golfers, and so on? (Defined in your personas)
- Do you want them to be in certain geographical locations? – Winnipeg, Canada, North America?
- Are they in niche markets?
- Marketing agencies, accountants, roofers, manufacturers?
- Understand Your Competition and Other Available Options
Once you have decided on the answers to some of these questions you must look at the market to see what else is available in terms of competition. The question you must have an answer to is “Why am I uniquely placed to solve the problem?” It may be that for some marketplaces there is no answer. However, in certain sectors or geographical locations there may be a compelling response to that question. This is what we would call a differentiator.
If you are unable to answer the question, you either have the wrong target market, the wrong offering, or you are in a commodity business that generally competes on price. In this case, more work will need to be done before you start targeting your potential customers.
This is an extension of the “market situation” section, and it should focus on the bad and good implications of internal and external factors affecting your business.
A SWOT analysis (alternatively SWOT matrix) is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a business.
As part of your business plan, you need to have objectives. What marketing objectives do you want to achieve over the course of the plan? Each one of your objectives should include both a narrative description of what you intend to accomplish, along with numbers to give you something concrete to aim for.
How do you set a quantifiable objective? Start with your past. Review your past sales numbers, your growth over the years in different markets, the size of typical new customers, and how new product introductions have fared. Make a low but reasonable projection for what you’ll be able to accomplish with marketing support toward your new marketing objectives. Set modest objectives to start, until you get a feel for the terrain.
SMART Objectives and How They Help Set Realistic Targets
When plotting your marketing objectives for your marketing plan it’s important to look at each objective and ask, “is this absolutely essential?” S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for the 5 steps of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based objectives. It’s a simple tool used by businesses to go beyond the realm of fuzzy objective setting into an actionable plan for results. Our definition of SMART is as follows:
- Specific – Are the details in the information sufficient enough to pinpoint problems or opportunities? Is the objective sufficiently detailed to measure real-world problems and opportunities?
- Measurable – Can a quantitative or qualitative attribute be applied to create a metric?
- Actionable – Can the information be used to improve performance? If not, there is little point in it.
- Relevant – Can the information be applied to the specific problem faced by the marketer?
- Time-related – Can the information be viewed through time to identify trends?
Of course different people interpret and define SMART differently, and you can refer to the Wikipedia definition ofSMART marketing objectives.
Examples of SMART Objectives
Here are some typical examples of SMART objectives, including those to support objective setting in customer acquisition, conversion and retention categories for digital marketing:
- Digital channel contribution objective. Achieve a 25% online revenue increase within 1 year.
- Acquisition objective. Acquire 500 new online leads within 1 year at an average cost per acquisition (CPA) of $30.00.
- Conversion objective. Increase the average order value of online sales to $76.00 per customer.
- Engagement objective. Increase average lifetime value per customer by 5%.
You should make it a point to limit the number of marketing objectives you take on in a given year. We typically recommend between 3-5 objectives per year. Change can bring stress, disorient staff and sometimes even confuse your target market. Keep your objectives challenging but achievable. Better to motivate yourself with ambitious but worthy targets than to depress yourself by failing at too many enthusiastic objectives.
Each marketing objective should have specific strategies and tactics for achieving those goals. In the objectives section of your marketing plan, you focus on the “what” and the “why” of the marketing tasks for the year ahead. In the implementation section you focus on the practical, who, where, when and how. Each objective should consist of concrete actions. Each of these goals needs to have its own series of steps formalized.
Strategies and Tactics
Now you’re ready to start getting into the meat and potatoes of your marketing plan – defining your strategies and tactics.
A common question to ask at this point:
“What the heck is the difference between marketing strategies and marketing tactics…?”
Here is a break down:
Strategy is a strong overarching plan of action, intended to achieve a desired result. These are the actions that you can determine “yes” this has been done or “no” this has not been done.
Tactics are highly practical things you will do every day. Writing blog posts, sending tweets, outreach to bloggers, changing page titles and appointments you make/attend etc.
Planning your Tactics:
Start by thinking about what you should do first to achieve the best results. Start small and build tactics one at a time. For each tactic you develop, note how it fits into your various areas of focus, your strategies, and your objectives. In solid plans, tactics are thorough– all the way down to details concerning execution and measurements of success, such as launch dates and expected reach. The point is that you need to begin measuring whether the tactics are successful at achieving your objectives. You may even choose to stagger your tactics so that you can evaluate their effectiveness and learn which ones work best for your business. Units of measurement can range from web traffic to retail foot traffic to increases in sales volume. Basically, you should strive to measure anything you can track to judge whether a tactic has made a difference.
So what does this all look like so far? Example?
- An objective is a desired result from the marketing plan. It’s usually quantitative.
- A strategy is the approach you take to achieve an objective.
- An objective is a measurable step you take to achieve a objective.
- A tactic is a tool you use in pursuing an objective associated with a strategy.
Example: Objectives, Strategy, Tactics
Here is a high level look at what your marketing plan objectives, strategy, and tactics might look like up to this point. Typically, you’d want to have 3-5 objectives and you’d want to structure your strategies to differentiate your business.
Example Client – ABC Company
- Increase sales of blue widgets by 25% over last year
- Engage target audience at key touch points in their day when receptive to brand messaging
- Drive traffic from new unique visitors to your website
- Encourage repeat purchases from existing customers
1a. Run Targeted Google Adwords advertising campaigns
1b. Run Facebook Advertising based around relative interests
1c. Run Online Banner Advertising on XYZ sites targeted at TA in the evenings
1d. Create content around the needs of your customers
2a. Increase search engine rankings for target keywords and phrases
2b. Add URL to all print materials
2c. Start 5+ conversations per day with target audience on each social channels
2d. Create video content embedded in well SEO’d blog posts with transcripts
3a. Email existing customers with referral % deal for new customers
3b. Run a sweepstakes contest for current customers