Five Steps to Writing A Marketing Plan

Last week I gave you a brief explanation of what marketing actually is (it’s not advertisting.) This week I’m going to give you 5 simple steps to writing a marketing plan. There is a WHOLE LOT which goes into marketing, so this might be a little far along the path for some of you. I’ll re-visit the marketing topic probably quite a few more times, so if this is over your head – just bookmark it for a later date.

Full disclosure: I had no idea what a marketing plan was or that I needed one until I hired a clever business coach a few years ago. Once he pointed it out to me, the lightbulb went off and I realised that I HAD in fact being doing this, just not in an organised fashion. The key to great,effective marketing is in fact planning and organisation.

Here are the five steps to becoming better organised when it comes to your marketing:
(I did this activity via some very simply created tables in Word.)

1) ASSESS: Work out what activities you are already doing and how often you’re doing them.

  •  Make a list of all your marketing activitites. These can include but are not limited to: paid ads on social media, paid ads in print media, events (such as wedding expos or market nights), charitable contributions, customer loyalty programs, Tweeting, blogging, pop up shops, joint ventures with other businesses, daily deal websites, online competitions, voucher books like the Entertainment Book, handing out flyers, writing a monthly newsletter. ANY activity you are currently undertaking which gets your business’s personality out there in the world.
  • Note down how often you’re doing them – are they once a week blog posts, are you facebooking daily, do you advertise once a year, how many expos do you exhibit at and so on. Just work out WHAT you do and HOW OFTEN you do them.

 2) ANALYSE: the current activities for the following things: cost, purpose, effectiveness, effort.

  • Cost: What does it cost you, if anything, to do these activities? This might be money or product.
  • Purpose: What is the point of doing it? Is it to raise your profile, bring in some cash, influence potential clients, drive people to your website, improve your Google ranking?
  • Effectiveness: Go back and check if the things you’ve been doing have been meeting their purpose. ALL your marketing activities must be somehow trackable – if you can’t track if they are working or not, you’re wasting a lot of time and money. Did your clients mention seeing your ads in Bride magazine? How many orders did you take on the day of the expo? How many clients did your sponsored facebook ad get you? How many readers did your blog get after your last post? Did anyone mention they saw you at the Kids Market? How much money did you earn at the Bake Sale? Did anyone take up the offer in your newsletter? (and so on.)
  • Effort: Compared to the effectiveness of it, how much effort was involved? So if it took you 3 months to prepare for the wedding expo, it cost you $1000 to run and you only got one order out of it, this is important stuff to know! However if the activity takes only 5 minutes each day but gets you a new order each week….you need to know that too. Figure out how much effort is involved in these activities.

 3) DECIDE: Based on the information you found in step #2, work out which of your current activities you want to keep, and which ones you want to ditch.

This is also a good time to do some research into activities you have not currently tried but would like to try. Call and get some quotes on having fliers printed, find out what ads cost, contact some local suppliers about setting up joint ventures. Do your research and then decide what new things (if any) you would like to try out this year (hint: if you’ve decided you’re going to do them, ALSO work out how you’re going to track their effectiveness.)

4) CREATE: Create a 12 month long marketing calendar.

This is basically a chart which along the X axis (horizontal) you list all the months of the year, and along the Y (vertical) axis the activities you’ve decided to do. So as an example, suppose you want to run a sponsored facebook ad for products you’ll sell which are attached to the major holidays of the year. Along the Y axis you’ll have “sponsored facebook post” and along the X axis, you’ll have an X under February (Valentine’s Day), April (Easter), May (Mother’s Day), December (Xmas.) For year long activities such as ads in print media, you’ll have an X under every month of the year.

This also will give you an idea of which months are stacked full with activities and which months seem to have not much happening. It gives you the chance to perhaps come up with ways to ‘boost’ your marketing activity during currently quiet months, or spread out activities so you’re not doing too much in certain months. For example, If you look under April, run your finger down the line and there’s only one X, that’s a quiet month. If you did it for December and every single row has an X, that’s a busy month. You might want to add in a few marketing activities for months which are traditionally quiet for your business (eg run a winter special) or spread out some activities.

5) MAKE IT HAPPEN:

  • Go to your normal planner (diary, electronic or otherwise) and about 2 weeks before the next month starts (eg in the middle of April for May), block out some time in which you will check on the current month’s activity (is it working well, not working well) AND either set in motion or plan the next month’s activity. This might only take you a half hour, but actually put it in the diary or it won’t happen.
  • Some of these activities might be year-round (eg an online listing you pay a yearly fee for) and should be ‘checked in’ with maybe only once every quarter (not monthly) – for example, if you pay yearly for an online listing, make sure you’re checking the stats for that listing. Tweak that ad once in a while – change the wording, add an offer, swap out the pretty pictures.
  • Some activities need to be planned more than 2 weeks in advance and need more than one call to action – for example, you want to work out your Xmas product line probably sometime in September but don’t need to promote it just yet. So this activity will appear earlier in your diary and should appear more than once – in September you might have “develop Xmas products” but through November you’ll have “insert Xmas products add into local paper” or “run facebook promo on Xmas products.”
  • Actually PUT IN some time in your calendar for ALL OF YOUR marketing activities. I write a monthly newsletter – so on or near the 21st of each month, my diary says, “Write newsletter” in it. If I didn’t write it down like that (and yes I do this a year in advance), it would likely get lost in the shuffle. 

Any big task like marketing can very easily get overwhelming and therefore shoved into the “when I get around to it” category. If you take the time to do this activity of creating a marketing plan just ONCE a year, this seemingly big task leads to a whole bunch of smaller, more manageable things which you can do over the course of time. Some marketing advice says to “do a little bit each day,” but I’ve never been very good at that. By creating a year-long marketing plan, I’m at the very least making sure the bigger, longer term, more important activities are *definitely* happening, which frees up my time for making some smaller activities happen as an added bonus.

In future posts I’m going to go back to some marketing basics -working out your target market and so on – but in the meantime all of you should be able to create some version of a marketing plan to work with (it’s not the size that matters, it’s the discipline of doing it in the first place!)

As the old saying goes, it’s better to plan to succeed, than fail to plan.

2 comments on “Five Steps to Writing A Marketing Plan

  1. You give some fantastic advice as always. I am guilty of being lazy when it comes to marketing my business, but you just have to make an effort if you want results. I am going to act today! thank you Michelle

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