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For anything in life, it’s always better to be as prepared as possible. It’s essential to prepare yourself when taking part in a new business venture. While nothing can ever fully prepare you for being an entrepreneur or running the show, a marketing plan surely can help. A marketing plan acts as an all-encompassing “company bible” that you can and should refer back to frequently. It contains the company’s goals and outlook and defines the personality. For a marketing plan to be truly effective, it should touch on specific elements such as brand identity, target audience, content management, strategic planning, and significant analytics.

Before fully executing a marketing plan, you should do your research to gain a clear understanding of your industry. If you do the correct amount of research, you may start to feel a little overwhelmed, which is where a marketing plan comes into play. This plan acts as your written record to organize your company and your brain when you feel stressed about marketing.

1. How to Perform a SWOT Analysis

Before executing a marketing plan, it’s a smart idea to perform a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Defining these areas will help you find the best places where you can maximize opportunities to grow your company, brand, and vision.

Strengths

When you begin to define your company’s strengths, keep in mind that they should be items that are within your control. Focus on successful business procedures, vast amounts of knowledge, and unmatched skill sets that you possess. Industries can always change, but positive attributes that comprise your company will not.

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Weaknesses

Weaknesses are factors that are not favorable that detract from your strengths. Think about places where your company needs improvement. Recognize areas where processes may need to be enhanced or where employees need a briefing. The attributes you define as a weakness could all eventually turn into strengths.

Opportunities

When defining opportunities, you want to consider external factors in the industry environment that could aid your company’s success. You may want to think about all the topics that are trending that surround your industry. With that, you may want to determine whether you can attend any events, participate in any workshops, or join networking groups that focus on trending marketing topics to develop your knowledge and professional contacts further.

Threats

Outside factors that can impact your company that you have no control over are considered threats in a SWOT analysis. Some factors to consider are potential competitors that could redirect potential business, supply and suppliers’ ability to produce, or consumer behaviors.

Once you’ve figured out your SWOT analysis, you should better understand your company’s marketing advantages and areas you can work to achieve improvement. Now, you can begin to compose your marketing plan.

2. How to Identify Your Brand

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When creating your company’s marketing plan, you should first start by identifying your brand. Your brand is the company’s reputation and legacy. If it’s consistently inconsistent, people will not fully understand your brand or company, and it’s essential to create the exact messaging you want to convey.

Mission

When identifying your brand, first start with your company’s mission. What was the point of starting the company? Was the purpose to provide people with a product or service? Make sure you can state the company’s vision in a sentence or two.

Values

Once you establish your mission statement, you can begin to focus on your company’s values. A set of values for a company is the same as a set of values for people. These values outline how your company will meet its mission and conduct business. For example, a value for an architecture firm could be to remain sustainable, while a value for a dance studio may be to promote teamwork among dance students.

Vision

Your vision is the outlook for the future of your company. Where do you see the company going? What do you want the company to accomplish during the next several years? These vision statements could partially be a dream or goal. You want to have an idea of your company’s vision so that your marketing plan can help you achieve the vision.

Art, Graphics, and Copy

Once you’ve declared your mission, values, and vision, it’s good practice to begin to think about the arts, graphic, and copy side of marketing. Remember that part of your brand reflects elements such as color, typography, logos, and language. To accurately reflect your brand, you want artistic and language components to be consistent so that you maintain clear, concise, and consistent brand communications efforts.

After you have a detailed summary of your brand, you’ll want to create a style guide. Within the style guide, you could potentially include the entire marketing plan, but it’s more stylistic as the title implies. The style guide is less about strategy and guiding traffic and more about keeping visuals and language consistent. Some topics to include in a style guide are color codes for the logo, typography information (font and font size), the spelling of commonly used words, and the desired voice and tone the company wants to achieve in written communications. Whether your company is already enormous or simply growing, a style guide is an excellent resource for your employees to reference.

3. How to Determine Your SMART Goals

After you’ve gone through fundamental brand identity elements, it’s time to tackle SMART goals: specific (S), measurable (M), achievable (A), relevant (R), and timely (T). SMART goals are goals for your company denoted in a way that’s similar to a SWOT analysis but with action items in mind. In keeping with the SMART template, you can further explain your goals as follows:

Make Your Goals Specific

When trying to set specific goals, you should start by asking yourself the “Five Ws:” what, why, who, where, and when (or which). What is the goal? Why is it so important? Who else is involved with the goal? Where is this goal located? When are other resources getting involved?

Make Your Goals Measurable

The importance of making goals measurable is so that you can track your progress and determine whether you’re making strides toward reaching your goal or if you need to readjust. Quantifiable goals should address factors such as “How much?” “How many?” or “How will I know?”

Make Your Goals Achievable

In the same way you wouldn’t start a savings account with an unattainable goal of having a million dollars in a month, you shouldn’t start your business with one either. It’s key to be realistic with your goals so that you can keep achieving them, rather than being disappointed and losing steam.

Make Your Goals Relevant

While goals are similar to dreams in the sense that you should aim high, goals for your company should be relevant. Relevant goals include the following:

  • Attaining a specific percentage of market share for your product.
  • Increasing search traffic directed to your website.
  • Acquiring a specific number of leads per month.

Make Your Goals Time Sensitive

Every goal should have a target completion date. Coming up with a schedule of deadlines helps to prioritize tasks and goals over one another in a way that makes the best sense. Decide the frequency of the schedule as well. Will you come up with a timeline of goals each week, month, or quarter? Also, designate someone within your marketing team to analyze whether your team meets the goals or whether they need refining.

4. How to Define Your Target Audience

Before you can figure out how to accurately market your goals in line with your company and brand, you need to understand whom you’re trying to reach.

You can understand target audiences (sometimes called target markets) by considering factors such as demographics, location, interests, or unmet needs. If you’re a company that’s at the least somewhat established, you can review your customer base and determine any patterns you can identify. Patterns to start with could be age, gender, income, location, behavior, lifestyle, and values. Based on the data you collect, you can create buyer personas as models for your marketing efforts.

5. How to Create and Manage Your Content

Once you have defined your target audience, you can begin to create the correct type of content. Producing content demonstrates your expertise and aids in brand visibility.

Content can come in many forms, including social media, blog posts, expert articles in publications, advertisements, SEO, and printed collateral. Each form has its specific benefits and reasons for use.

Social media plays a significant role in a company’s success, but it’s not something you can approach haphazardly. Irregular and inconsistent postings will not give you the results you want. You should include a social media posting schedule within your marketing plan.

As you create your content in any form, be sure to do your due diligence regarding proper SEO, search engine optimization. Strategic SEO techniques can take your company from showing up on the last page of Google’s search results to the first.

6. How to Incorporate SEO

SEO is something that can truly take your website to the next level. SEO is the umbrella term for a series of tools that brings your content to the top of the search engines when used correctly. It’s a way of informing search engines that your page contains what the user seeks.

The SEO powers that be say that “content is king” in terms of successful SEO. High-quality content on your site will generate more traffic and have users stay on the page for a significant amount of time. The more content you have, the greater your potential audience is, and the greater the odds are that web audiences follow links to your content.

In addition to the content, the way you format a website also plays a role in SEO strategy. It’s essential to incorporate strong headlines that draw in readers. Subheadings also provide many benefits in terms of SEO. For starters, having separate headers breaks up the content, increasing readability and creating a more engaging environment for users. Subheadings also are treated in a different way when coded on the back end of a site. They come up as more significant keywords that alert a search engine during its quest to find pages to direct web users. Headlines and subheadings tell search engines the essential keywords, phrases, and topics.

Keywords

Identifying keywords is imperative to successful SEO. When determining the most effective keyword research for your site, you should start by making a list of relevant topics based on your industry. Brainstorm on what you feel would be most important to your audience. You can think about this research in terms of what stories your audience would want to read or what news topics would appeal to them.

Once you have come up with a list of topics, start to generate keywords and key phrases for each subject. Think of this activity as a brain dump of all associated “subtopics” to the topics list you created. With this list of keywords or phrases, begin to research those terms or similar ones to determine whether the results are relevant to what your site will provide for readers. If you are getting results that do not make sense or align with your website, you should probably develop some new keywords.

After you feel you’re in a spot to start to refine your keywords, you should make sure they capture the following three main points:

  1. Relevance: Search engines rank content based on relevance to the user’s search and value. Your content will be ranked higher by search engines if it can provide more valuable information than other sites on the web.
  2. Authority: If you have sources within your website deemed authoritative, these sources will raise your ranking on the search engine results page. Therefore, it’s a good idea to link back to only reliable sources on your site. For example, someone’s personal blog about a health issue will not be considered authoritative over a medical encyclopedia page.
  3. Volume: Volume gets measured by monthly search volume or the number of times keywords get searched per month. You may end up ranking first on a search results page with specific keywords, but if only a handful of people search for these keywords, they don’t hold much weight in search value.

7. How to Finalize Your Process

Once you’ve outlined your marketing plan, decide where you want it to live. Will it be a digital document or a printed manual? Determine which method will work best for you and your employees. Then, decide who will have access to edit or update any part of the plan.

Another task to consider is how often you update your plan. Is it on an as-needed basis or after a periodic meeting when you have data to evaluate to determine your marketing plan’s effectiveness?

Your marketing plan identifies your brand and outlines what you want to achieve with your marketing efforts. Having this information at the tips of your fingers only provides you with a stronger foundation. Knowledge is power and having a plan is powerful.

Why Should You Have a Style Guide

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