By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin
A marketing plan is your guide to successfully promoting and growing your business.
A good marketing plan will ensure that you know your marketing objectives and the best ways to achieve them.
It also keeps you focused, helps you establish tasks and timelines, and can help you obtain financing.
According to a survey by CB Insights , there are 20 reasons why most startups fail.
The survey showed that 14% of startups fail because of poor marketing.
As you can see, there are other bigger reasons like:
- No market need (42%).
- Ran out of cash (29%).
- Not the right team (23%).
- Get outcompeted (19%).
- Pricing/cost issues (18%).
- Poor product (17%)
A solid marketing plan would help you avoid these pitfalls:
A solid marketing plan would signal you if there’s no market need for your product.
A solid marketing plan would help you make the best use of your budget. (In fact, there are many free, but effective marketing strategies you could use if you’re on a tight budget).
A solid marketing plan would help you recognize and hire the right people who can execute and achieve your marketing objectives.
A solid marketing plan would help you differentiate your business so that you’re not directly competing with your competitors. This helps you avoid getting outcompeted.
A solid marketing plan would help you resolve product/cost issues.
A solid marketing plan would also tell you when you have a poor product or value that wouldn’t be able to compete with what your competitors offer.
The First Step Towards Creating The Perfect Marketing Plan
I hope you’ve now fully understood why having a marketing plan is very important.
I’m sure you can’t wait to create that perfect marketing plan for your business.
Now, you probably want to pick a pen and a sheet of paper, and start drawing up your plan of how you’ll conquer your competitors.
I’m sorry to say this:
It just doesn’t work like that.
The process of creating a great marketing plan can be tedious.
Sometimes, it could take days, or a few weeks to draw up a perfect plan.
Because of this, you need a deadline for your plan. You can’t just sit and start creating a plan without knowing when it’ll end.
Begin with the end in mind. Stephen Covey
Having a deadline in mind would keep you focused and help you come up with something great.
Without a deadline, it’s easy to feel lost and start execution when the plan is not yet completed.
This mistake may seem little to you, but it could wreck the whole business within a short period of time.
You should avoid working with a plan when it’s not completed. That’s why you need a deadline and stick to that deadline.
Who are the people who will execute your marketing plan and what are their roles?
This is where the real planning starts.
Except your business is a one-person show, you’re tight on budget and you’re willing to wear many hats, you’ll need some talented people on your marketing team.
I think your budget would play a big role here.
If you have a decent budget, you may want to make some bold and big marketing moves – which means, you need people who can get the job done.
If you’re low on budget, then you might want to try those little marketing tactics that still gets big results.
What specific roles do you think you’ll need people right now due to your budget?
If you believe you don’t need people, then fine. You may want to use those skills you already have, or the skills you’re willing to learn within a short period of time.
I think you need to know what roles are important in a marketing team:
- Content Creator(s) : This is the person who produces contents for your website and business in general. It’s the person who creates contents that grow organic search traffic, social media traffic and other traffic channels.
- SEO Strategist : This is the person who chooses the keywords to target, does on-page and off page SEO, and handles every other thing connected with SEO.
- Graphic Designer : This is the person who creates custom images, logos, and infographics to use in your blog posts, share on social media and others.
- The PR Professional : This is the person who obtains free publicity for your business by getting it into the news and keeping it in the spotlight. A PR professional also protects, enhances and builds your company’s reputation.
- Website Designer : This is the person who takes care of your website design and ensures it looks attractive.
- Web Developer : This person modifies your website and makes sure its user-experience is great. A web developer also helps you create different forms of contents e.g. free tools for your prospects.
- Account Manager : Of course, you need an account manager to ensure that no one is overwhelmed with their jobs. An account manager provides you with various reports like traffic, links, email subscribers. The account manager presents all these reports to you and helps in figuring things you can improve.
- Email Marketer : The email marketer is focused only on helping you build a massive email list of passionate people who are interested in what you offer.
- Social Marketer : This person is in charge of building your social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and others. A social marketer also helps you develop and maintain a strong relationship with fans on those social platforms.
- Conversion Rate Optimizer (CRO) : This person is tasked with conducting split tests upon split tests, optimizing every aspect of your website for the purpose of generating more profits.
- Paid Marketing Expert : This is the person in charge of paid advertising. This person advertises on Google, Yahoo, Bing, LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms where your prospects hang out online.
Sometimes, these skills may overlap. But it’s very important that the people in your marketing team have all these skills.
My list of 11 crucial skills doesn’t necessarily mean you need 11 people in your marketing team.
And like I said above, it depends on your marketing budget and your marketing goals.
For example, you don’t need a paid marketing expert if you’re not looking forward to doing any paid marketing.
Also, you might choose not to have a graphic designer in your marketing team if you think you’re pretty good at designing.
So, it’s good you have a clear picture of the roles you want to fill in your marketing team.
How much are you planning to spend on marketing?
Your budget plays a big role in your marketing campaign.
The marketing industry is filled with thousands of strategies and ideas, but how many companies could afford to implement all those ideas?
That’s why you must know your budget so that you can plan and implement accordingly.
A company with 15 products may need a bigger marketing budget than a company with just one.
A new company may need a different marketing strategy and budget to compete with an established one.
How much you spend on marketing will largely depend on your money reserve and how much risk you’re willing to take.
Even if you have little funds for marketing, you still want to ensure that your dollars are spent wisely and tied tightly to specific objectives.
No matter what your current situation is, you have to set a marketing budget. It’ll help you develop the perfect marketing plan.
What are your marketing goals?
Now you have the roles in your marketing team, you’ve set your marketing budget – so what’s next?
The next step is to establish your marketing objectives.
What goals do you want your marketing efforts to achieve in the next month, quarter, or year?
Below is a perfect example of a SMART marketing objective :
There’s a common marketing pitfall I must address right now:
You can’t just say “I want more website visitors, leads, and sales” or “I want to generate a larger email list.”
You need to set the specific numbers and the time period you want to achieve a marketing goal.
You could say:
“I need 20,000 visitors, 500 leads, and 12 customers within the next 12-months from my inbound marketing efforts in order to achieve my revenue goal of $600,000 from inbound marketing.”
You could also say:
“I want to rank number one for the keyword term “widget consultant,” since I estimate that it will generate 300 visitors to my website per month, producing at least two customers.”
Here’s a 6-step process for setting the perfect and smart marketing goal:
Step 1: Identify how much revenue you need to generate from your marketing efforts.You could say you want to generate a revenue of $600,000 in the next year.
Step 2: Determine how many sales you need to hit that revenue goal.For example, if each product sells for $600, it means you only need to sell 1,000 pieces of your product during the whole year to hit your goal.
Step 3: Identify your closing rate and how many opportunities you need.Let’s assume you have a closing rate of 50%, it means you need 2,000 closing opportunities to hit your goal.
Step 4: Determine how many sales qualified leads (SQLs) you need.You’ll have some leads who are not qualified as your sales lead. Some people are not just yet ready to buy your product, or they may not even be able to afford your product – these people are not sales qualified leads. But they are leads since they could need your product in the future. So we could say you need at least 6,000 sales qualified leads.
Step 5: Determine how many marketing sales leads you need.You could say you need 20,000 marketing leads. Marketing leads are just leads. Most of these people don’t even know if they need your product. They could still become sales qualified leads in the future.
Step 6: Identify your traffic goals.These are the people who visit your website. A small percentage of them would give you their emails qualifying them as marketing sales leads. If you’re going to get 20,000 marketing leads within a year, then your website should be receiving around 50,000 to 100,000 visits per month while you’re actively collecting emails.
These are just guesses of course, but there’s a high chance of success that if your website gets 50,000 to 100,000 monthly visits, then achieving your 1,000 sales goal shouldn’t be hard.
Your revenue could be 300% higher if you sell a subscription-based product.
There’s also a chance that you could up-sell, down-sell and cross-sell which all lead to more profits.
I hope you now know how to establish your marketing objectives.
So, let’s move to the next important step.
Conduct A Market Research
This is the most important phase of your marketing plan.
How solid and accurate your marketing plan is would largely be determined by your findings during your market research.
I’ll assume that you have a product or service that many people want. You probably did a research before developing your product.
(And in case you didn’t conduct any product research, this is still the stage where you’ll know if people would become interested in your product).
This is the longest phase because you’ll have to do a lot of things like:
- Research your market potential. You’ll want to find out if a lot of people want your product.
- Research your market share potential. You’ll want to find out if you have any opportunity of quickly dominating a small segment of your market.
- Image research. This is where you’ll draw a clear picture of people who really need your product (and whom can easily be reached).
- Research your market characteristics. This is where you’ll find out any information about your competitors, what affects demands and supply in your niche, when sales tend to peak, and how your target customers may react to your product.
- Forecasting research. This is where you’ll forecast the future and what changes could affect your marketing strategies and objectives.
- Research business trends. These are trends that could put you out of business, or make you a strong market leader.
Here’s a clear picture of what I’m talking about:
A lot of revelations are made during the market research process.
You need to find out about a lot of things concerning your industry.
You may discover that you have to tweak or change your design and delivery in order to stand out from the competition.
You could even consider offering additional services to create more value for your customers.
You may need to conduct one-on-one interviews with some ideal customers (either through by telephone or face-to-face).
Surveys are also effective.
Your objective here is to ensure that you have all the facts and current practices in order to develop a solid marketing plan. So make sure you find out everything you need to know in this phase.
Choose The Marketing Strategies You Need
There are hundreds of marketing strategies out there.
You can’t use every marketing strategy, or none would work.
You have to focus on a few effective marketing strategies.
The marketing strategies you decide to go with would also depend on your budget.
For example, trying to use infographics when you only have less than $2,000 to spend isn’t a wise idea.
A highly attractive and shareable infographic could cost up to $1,000. So infographics are definitely not for you if you don’t have at least $20,000 – $30,000 to spend on marketing.
- Interruption marketing
- Inbound marketing
I’m a big fan of inbound marketing.
That is not to say I hate interruption marketing.
There are some situations whereby you need interruption marketing to hit the ground running.
As you can see in the above image, there are so many marketing strategies inside both interruption marketing and inbound marketing.
What you want to do here is focus on a few effective marketing strategies that fit your marketing budget and industry.
Outline Your Marketing Tactics
Now you’ve selected your marketing strategies – what’s next?
It’s time to outline your tactics.
How are you going to use each marketing strategy?
For example, let’s assume you chose video marketing as one of your marketing strategies, how are you going to use it?
Here are some questions for you:
- What types of video contents will you create?
- Who will produce those video contents?
- How will you promote the videos?
- How will you collect leads from each video?
- How many videos do you intend to create per month?
- What percentage of your marketing budget are you willing to allocate to video marketing?
For example, HubSpot has a YouTube channel named HubSpot Academy .
HubSpot, a marketing software company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts uses its YouTube channel to educate prospects and puts a clickable short link to its video descriptions in order to get leads on its website.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
As you can see in the above image, that’s the link HubSpot uses to collect leads from its YouTube videos.
Build Success Measurement For Each Marketing Strategy
You can’t just say that a marketing strategy is effective so you should continue using it.
Sometimes, you may need to ditch a marketing tactic because it’s not helping you achieve your marketing objectives.
Let’s continue with the video marketing example.
Let’s say that your YouTube video isn’t driving many leads per month to justify your investment, you may decide to change course.
You could decide to put a call-to-action inside your YouTube videos instead of the video description like how HubSpot is doing it.
You could decide to talk about your landing page and directly ask viewers to go and register to download an e-book or an e-course.
You could stop posting videos on YouTube and start creating highly shareable videos for your audience on Facebook or Twitter like HubSpot is doing here:
You may decide to completely stop video marketing and try another marketing strategy that could give you a bigger return on investment (ROI).
Without a success measurement, there’s no way you’ll know if a marketing tactic is giving you the desired result.
By tracking each of your marketing moves, you will begin to evaluate the effectiveness of each marketing tactic.
Action speak louder than words.
You could have the greatest marketing plan in the world, but it’s useless if you don’t stick to it.
Implementing what’s in your marketing plan is crucial to your marketing success on the web.
While it’s highly recommended that you stick to your plan, you should also remain flexible by willing to test new assumptions in small steps.
There’s nothing like a perfect marketing plan.
As you continue to follow what you’ve outlined in your marketing plan, some of your strategies would fail.
Instead of drawing a new plan, starting all over from the scratch again, you should only alter a small part of your plan.