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Struggling to put a marketing plan together?

Here are 6 steps you can easily follow to develop an effective marketing plan.

Why am I sure this works?

I’ve been working in strategic marketing since 2010 in industries such as real estate, tech, healthcare, publishing, and retail.

Marketing plans DO NOT have to be complex and unwieldy documents — sometimes, simple works best. In this post, I’m gonna share my process to develop a marketing plan. Oh, do take notes.

The Six Steps, Outlined

  1. Research
  2. Analysis
  3. Goal Setting
  4. Strategy Creation
  5. Outline Tactics
  6. Scheduling

Step 1: Research

Before you even create a document of your marketing plan to be, you must first stuff your head with relevant information. Research can pull you deep into a rabbit hole and sometimes, most find themselves unable to stop. When researching, here are the important things that you need to find out:

  • What are the important developments in the industry my business or brand is in?
  • Recent reports about or trends within the industry
  • Who are the players in the space my business or brand is in?
  • What does my target audience or market want most?

This part of covers mostly EXTERNAL research or gathering information about the business environment you’re planning to market in.

Aside from Googling those things up, you can also check social media sites relevant to that industry.

Let’s say you’re in the graphic design space, you can fire up Instagram, Pinterest, and other platforms where visuals are the key thing.

To know about what your target audience may want, it’s also good to check communities or forums where they can be found in. These can be Facebook groups, Reddit forums, or other websites with forums about niche topics or interests.

I recommend creating a place where you can store all of this information. For me, I create a sheet where I can create a table to itemize my research, paste links, and write my comments or remarks in an organized way.

The Competitive Set

Find at least three similar businesses in your space. Look for at least two of the biggest or most successful ones and at least one startup.

Create a table where you can list the following things for each competitor:

  • Website — their URLs, sub-brands, monthly traffic
  • Social Media Presence — follower numbers, frequency of posts, perceived value
  • Logos
  • Recent Ad Campaigns — Facebook ad library is great for this. This lets you see what they’ve been promoting.
  • Products or Services
  • Pricing

This part of the research is typically called the Competitive Scan and must be updated regularly. Knowing what your enemy does is an important part of planning.

Step 2: Analysis

From all of the information you’ve gathered, you need to deep dive into these to get actionable insights. What are the best practices? What are the opportunities? What have been the challenges other businesses have faced?

List down challenges and opportunities in two columns — and yes, I write them down with a pen as it helps engage my critical thinking better. A good way to find opportunities is to see where audience demands are not met.

Let’s say you’ve read about how a particular segment (or group of people in your target market) finds the process of taking out a home loan or mortgage very confusing or intimidating. This can tell you that there’s an opportunity to simplify marketing messages to help that segment understand better.

Finding opportunities does not only mean it is an opening for your business to take advantage of — but also means a window for you to provide value that your audience will learn or benefit from.

Once you’re done analyzing your mostly external or environmental data. It’s now time to dive inward.

Step 2B: Analysis Yet Again

Okay, so I cheated but this step requires its own section. You now have to do a bit of introspection and comparisons.

Think about what makes your brand or business special. What makes it tick? How does it provide value? What has been successful and what have been failures?

An analysis tool I use is the SWOT or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats framework. It’s simple enough: you write down all of the possible things about your business that falls under the four SWOT categories.

There are myriad other tools you can use but I find that this is sufficient enough for most plans.

Once you’re done analyzing your data, you must now define what makes your brand stand out. Here are the important points to display:

  • Unique Selling Proposition — using your Strengths, what Opportunities can you move into to provide value?
  • Benefits — what value will customers get from engaging with or purchasing from your business?
  • Brand Identity — what space will your business fill in the market? Combine your external research findings with opportunities and strengths
  • Differentiation Point — what separates you from other players in the market? Check your Competitive Set table, Weaknesses, Threats, and not just your Strengths.

Now you’re ready to CREATE that document. For marketing plans, I usually use a presentation deck such as Google Sheets or Powerpoint as it can present ideas clearly with visuals to stakeholders.

Step 3: Goal Setting

There are two main things you need to produce in this step: 1) define your target market and 2) set your marketing objectives.

Defining Your Target Market

Who is your target market — and more importantly what are their demographics and psychographics? It’s critical to focus on only a FEW (like one to three) segments for your target market.

After all, if you aim to please everyone — you please no one.

Demographics is a fancy way of saying the statistics about your target market. Likewise, psychographics is the marketer’s way of saying “how my target market thinks and acts”.

Below is a table listing the information you need to put under each category.

Target Market — Two Segments

For these segmentations above, even if you are basing these on your research and analyses, it is perfectly fine to make assumptions. As an example, here’s a filled-up table of one segment of a target market. Let’s pretend we’re defining the target market for a real estate company that’s in the business of selling mid-priced condominiums in the Philippines.

Demographic and Psychographic Segmentation Examples

The thing to keep in mind is that it is critical to paint a specific picture of your target market as your marketing plan’s programs will be highly focused to hit them in the feels.

Set Your Marketing Objectives

Regardless if you are a new business aiming to enter the market or a company looking to rebrand, crystallizing your goals into a comprehensive marketing objective is essential to a successful plan.

Create one overarching objective that your marketing plan will strive to achieve. The more specific you can be, the better: if what, where, when, etc.

Example:

“Launch and establish BRAND NAME as the preferred dwelling place of professionals within Metro Manila by Q3 of 2023”

Of course, a marketing plan should only aim to cover a specific period of time. Most marketing plans are created to cover three to twelve months of a business’s operations. Planning beyond that isn’t advisable as there will be dynamic shifts and changes in the marketplaces of all industries.

I mention overarching as this is but the MAIN GOAL your plan to achieve. To support this, you will have to employ several marketing strategies. Which leads us to…

Step 4: Strategy Creation

Marketing Strategies — the heart of any marketing plan.

This is typically the heart of most marketing plans. I’ve found that keeping to three main strategies works best as it keeps the focus on what is important to achieve the marketing goal. Marketing strategies or strategic initiatives are not just statements but also guide the programs you plan to launch. There are countless strategies that marketers use but here are a few common ones:

  • Increase Brand Awareness — if your target market doesn’t know about you, how can they engage with you?
  • Increase Loyalty — already have existing customers? Leverage their business with you and ensure they not only continue using you but act as brand ambassadors.
  • Build Trial — increasing your product or user base means you’ll have gotten most people into the first step of your marketing funnel. Offering free use of your product at times is a viable strategy.

There are more strategies to list down and those alone deserve their own article. I’ll get to that someday.

Once you’ve finished setting your marketing goals and strategies, combine them into one page in your document. This helps visualize your plan and sets the direction for the next step.

Step 5: Outline Tactics

The difference between strategy and tactics is sometimes fuzzy as these words are often confused with each other. Strategy, as we discussed earlier, sets the directions. Tactics are the specific actions you will take along the way of your plan’s implementation.

Think about the different marketing campaigns or advertising efforts you’ve seen from your favorite brands. Those are the tactics they’ve planned in their own marketing plans.

Details that I put in my tactical plans include:

  • Objectives — these are very specific KPIs (key performance indicators) that are measurable to track the tactic’s progress
  • Execution Plan — what’s the rationale behind the tactic? what are the key steps involved?
  • Timeline — tactics should have specific dates so that you know when these should be prepared and launched
  • Budget / Resources — as with any undertaking, resources are needed to fund or execute. Listing these helps in knowing what is essential to see things through.

A Tactical Example

Objective: Generate 10 inquiries about the product per day via Social Media

Execution Plan:

  • Create social media cards that are: 1) informative about the homebuying process and 2) give key details about the property to drive interest
  • Assign one to two personnel to engage home seekers in forums and Facebook interest groups
  • Each personnel will post, comment, and answer questions of at least 5 potential homebuyers per day

Timeline:

  • Product Knowledge orientation with assigned personnel — Day 1
  • Creative Assets done — Day 2
  • Scripts / spiels and feedback chart done — Day 3
  • First phase of community engagement — Day 4–12
  • First review of tactical effort — Day 13

Budget:

  • Ad Boosting budget — $500 for XX days (this may vary depending on your industry and country)

Step 6: Schedule the Timeline

Work backwards. That’s my guiding principle whenever I sit down and plan. Having a date in mind when your marketing plan will be put into play is critical to achieving your business goals.

What’s more, each of your tactics and strategies should also have their respective timelines. A framework such as a Gantt chart is EXTREMELY useful to keep your plan humming along the execution process.

Having a timeline will make managing and monitoring all the specific tasks (a.k.a. the bells and whistles) of your plan easier.

Basically, there are three main columns in a Gantt chart. The first one is the task (or the tactic of your plan) and underneath it, you need to write each step involved in that task. In the second column, you should write the date of when that task or item should be done.

On the third column and up, you should put in the whole date range of your plan.

You don’t need a fancy template for this, mind you. You can whip up one on a sheet (Google Sheets or Excel works) for this.

Finally, the Summary

Your Marketing Plan’s summary should fit in one page or slide.

Once all your plans are outlined, detailed, and scheduled tie them up all together in a diagram that summarizes your entire plan. Start with the goal on the left side (I like using a circle for this!), the three strategies in the middle, and the tactics to the right.

All told, creating a marketing plan does take a long time to finish. However, this document is vital to the success of any business. If you follow the six steps I shared, you will have a working marketing plan that can guide you and your team to a win.

Originally posted this article on Medium at: https://medium.com/@jcysison/6-steps-to-create-a-simple-marketing-plan-that-works-87db060a5945

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7 thoughts on “6 Steps to Create a Simple Marketing Plan that Works

  1. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog? My blog is in the same niche as yours, and my users would benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Thank you.

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