When someone asks me what is a marketing plan, I have them do a little exercise:

Imagine you are a military commander. Would you go into battle without a clear plan for victory? Of course not. You would be setting your troops up for slaughter. Operating your business without a marketing plan has the same effect.

Creating a marketing plan takes a lot of work. First, let’s define strategic marketing and planning, and then I’ll give you the steps in the marketing and planning process.

What is Strategic Marketing and Planning?

Before you worry about the answer to what is a marketing plan, you have to understand strategic marketing and planning.

Some businesses do not worry about planning their marketing strategy. All the owners care about is making enough money to stay afloat and fund their modest lifestyle. While these businesses may taste success, they leave money on the table without strategic marketing and planning.

There are several different types of marketing strategies. Your preferred marketing strategy will influence your marketing plan. The key is to pick a marketing strategy that best fits your brand’s personality.

Once you settle on a marketing strategy, you’re ready to move on to the marketing plan.

How to Write a Strategic Marketing Plan

A marketing plan defines your marketing objectives and then outlines the strategies you’ll use to achieve these goals. Follow these steps below, and you’ll have your strategic marketing plan for 2018.

Analyze Your Business

If you haven’t conducted a financial analysis for your business recently, then now is a perfect time. You need to understand your sales numbers to have a benchmark for measuring the success of your marketing plan.

Conduct a SWOT analysis to get a detailed picture of the health of your business. Consider the following:

  • What is your business doing well? What products or services are generating the most revenue?
  • What are your weaknesses as a business owner? What products or services are underperforming?
  • What opportunities are there to exploit the strengths of your business?
  • What threats are keeping your business from maximizing revenue?

Conduct Market Research

It’s easy to Google some demographics of your business’s area of operation and call that market research. In strategic marketing and planning, demographic research barely scratches the surface.

Good marketing strategists us market research to closely analyze current market trends in a given niche and devise strategies to capitalize on said trends. Here are some questions to get started:

  • How does my market prefer to purchase? Are they online or in-store shoppers?
  • Which products in my niche sold the best the past six months? Which products didn’t sell well?
  • What trends favor my current mix of products or services? What trends go against my mix of products or services?

Define Your Target Market

If you’ve already been in business for a while, then all you have to do is analyze your sales data to get a picture of your best customers. If you’re starting a new business, this process involves some imagination. Create a specific buyer persona for each product or service you offer. This allows you to create highly targeted marketing content and be efficient with distribution resources. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What problem is the customer solving by purchasing this product or service?
  • What about the customer’s lifestyle has caused this problem?
  • How does the customer make their purchasing decisions?
  • What qualities does the customer value most from a business?
  • How much money is the customer willing to spend on this product or service?

Research Your Competition

Competitive analysis is a great way to find marketing strategies that are working in your niche. Such analysis is also good for finding cracks in your competition’s armor.

Once you know your competition’s weak points, you can adjust your marketing plan accordingly to try and target these weaknesses.

Determine Your Positioning

Positioning is everything for a brand, especially one that’s new to the market. What strategies will you use to gain both mindshare and market share in your niche?

This is where you define your marketing objectives. Some typical types of marketing objectives include:

  • Introducing new products or services
  • Enhancing the visibility of current products or services
  • Exploring new markets
  • Optimizing social media presence
  • Expanding SEO and digital marketing efforts

Decide on a Marketing Budget

How much did you spend on marketing the last fiscal year? If the marketing plan you’ve created so far is more detailed than your previous marketing plan, you will have to increase your marketing budget. This is the step of the marketing and planning process where you weigh the pros and cons of outsourcing your marketing efforts.

Develop Your Mix of Marketing Materials

Once you decide on your marketing budget, you need to create the marketing materials that will help you reach your marketing objectives. In today’s age of content saturation, you need high-quality marketing content to get noticed.

One of the benefits of outsourcing your marketing efforts is its the easiest way to get a team of content creation experts on your side. A good internet marketing company helps you create the following types of content and more:

  • Websites
  • Landing pages
  • Blog posts
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Marketing videos
  • Social media posts

Choose Your Distribution Channels

There’s an old marketing maxim that says “ fish where the fish are.” Distribute your marketing materials through the channels that are most likely to reach your target audience. This stage includes picking the social media platforms you’ll focus on to build your digital presence.

Pick Your Metrics

How can you measure the progress of your marketing efforts?  If you can’t easily think of at least one metric to track an objective, then you need to make that objective more specific. Here is an example of some common sales and marketing KPIs:

  • Sales volume over a given period
  • Average transaction value
  • Cost per customer acquisition
  • Email opt-in rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Bounce rate

This is by no means a master list. Each business requires a unique set of metrics based on the objectives of their marketing plans.

What is a Marketing Plan? – Recap

To review, here are the steps of the strategic planning and marketing process:

  • Analyze Your Business
  • Conduct Market Research
  • Define Your Target Market
  • Research Your Competition
  • Determine Your Positioning
  • Decide on a Marketing Budget
  • Develop Your Mix of Marketing Materials
  • Choose Your Distribution Channels
  • Pick Your Metrics

If you need help creating a marketing plan that gets results, leave your questions in the comment box below.



The Ingredients of a Marketing Plan

Researching Your Market