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A successful business often relies on a marketing strategy plan to effectively promote its products and services as well as gain and retain customers. Without a good marketing strategy, even the best services or products may go unrecognized and a company can ultimately lose revenue and clients. In this article, learn what a marketing strategy plan is, why it’s important, and how to create a strategy that is effective for your business.

What Is a Marketing Strategy Plan?

A marketing plan is a strategy companies develop to implement and keep track of marketing tactics they use over a set period of time. For example, a business may want to track how well several marketing tactics perform over the course of three months. The marketing plan for this would include the development and implementation of different strategies as well as methods for tracking their performance once put into practice. Successful organizations rely on marketing plans to turn their business goals into sales through well-thought-out and actionable marketing strategies.

Image via Flickr  by IAM Marketing

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What’s the Difference Between a Marketing Strategy and a Marketing Plan?

While these two phrases are very similar, they have different meanings in the business world. A marketing strategy is a strategy a company develops to promote and accomplish a singular goal. For example, a company may develop a new section of its website’s blog as a marketing strategy to inform its customers of a new product the business is launching. The marketing strategy would include all details of how the company will market a product or service including the content, channels, and campaigns the blog will use.

A marketing plan, on the other hand, is the overarching plan all the marketing strategies fall under. Companies typically create marketing plans for each marketing operation on a large scale. For example, if a company is introducing a new service, it may create a marketing plan that includes all marketing strategies the business will use to promote the service. Marketing strategies may include social media posts, email blasts, or a video series. The plan outlines the goals of each strategy as well as how each strategy’s success will be measured.

Why Are Marketing Strategies and Marketing Plans Important?

Marketing plans and the strategies within them are important because they give a company a detailed plan of action for marketing their products and services. Without successful marketing plans, even the best companies can go unnoticed by potential consumers. Additionally, marketing plans and strategies have the following benefits:

  • Provides a common understanding as to how a marketing tactic will be implemented and measured
  • Establishes clear goals and details about how to accomplish those goals
  • Allows for comparison between past and present marketing strategies and the opportunity to improve upon strategies that were not successful
  • Ensures all stakeholders are on the same page and understand what is expected of them
  • Helps to position a company in the marketplace
  • Can increase overall awareness of a business’s brand

When Should a Company Use a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan should be part of nearly every company’s operations. In fact, without effective marketing, many organizations would fail to stay in business for long. However, there are certain times when a marketing plan is especially important to implement, including when a company is:

  • Launching a new product or service that customers have not been exposed to
  • Transitioning to a new industry or area of focus
  • Merging with another company
  • Partnering with a person of influence or another organization to offer new products or services
  • Brand new in the marketplace and in need of customers to buy their products or services
  • Looking to increase its brand awareness
  • Trying to increase their customer base and increase customer acquisition
  • Aiming to improve overall customer retention

In short, anytime an organization is introducing something new, looking to increase business, or trying to improve overall awareness of their company, a marketing plan and marketing strategies should be implemented.

What Are the Elements of a Strategic Marketing Plan?

A successful marketing plan is made up of several essential components. These include:

The Current Position of the Business

Understanding where your company currently stands within the industry and market can help you better create an effective marketing plan. One way to determine your company’s position is to perform a SWOT analysis. This analysis is made up of the following components:

  • Strengths: Consider your company’s strengths that can contribute to your overall goal in terms of your marketing plan. You can evaluate your business’s strengths by looking at what your company does well, how it sets itself apart in the industry, where it is most profitable and any expertise or knowledge your company contributes to the market.
  • Weaknesses: This component of the SWOT analysis involves taking into account any weaknesses your business possesses that may hamper a marketing plan. Consider where your company can improve, areas of your business that are not profitable and where your company uses the most resources or lacks resources.
  • Opportunities: Consider any new opportunities that can increase the success of your marketing plan. Things to think about include your current business goals, ways you can strengthen relationships with current customers, tactics you can use to reach new audiences and available technology that can amplify your marketing efforts.
  • Threats: This factor of the SWOT analysis analyzes any areas that represent a threat to your marketing efforts. Consider potential obstacles, competitors, the state of the economy and current industry trends when determining potential threats to your organization’s positioning.

The Company’s Objectives and Goals

Creating a successful marketing plan is impossible without first determining your company’s objectives and goals. For example, if your goal is to market a product you plan to launch and reach a minimum of 500 people with your marketing strategies, your existing goal provides you with concrete objectives to build your marketing plan around. Your plan can then determine how you will market the product and the strategies you will use in order to reach a minimum of 500 potential customers.

Current and Potential Marketing Opportunities

All new marketing plans should take into account both the current and emerging marketing opportunities that are available to the company. This allows the marketing team to determine how to most effectively allocate resources as well as give the team a solid foundation to plan their marketing strategies.

Budget Plan

Marketing plans cannot go very far without a comprehensive and realistic budget. The process of creating a budget can be one of the most challenging aspects of marketing plans and require research and dedication to determining the most appropriate allocation of resources. Factors of your budget to consider include paid advertising, social media efforts, content creation, traditional advertising, and lead conversion.

Definition of the Target Audience

Another important element of a marketing plan is to clearly define the target market you want to reach with your marketing tactics. This can take extensive research and should consider your target audience’s preferences, needs and where they most commonly shop or spend their time. The more specific you are when defining your target audience, the more likely you are to reach them.

How to Create a Successful Marketing Plan

The following are comprehensive steps you can follow when creating a marketing plan for your business:

1. Set Goals for Your Marketing Plan

The first step in creating a successful marketing plan is to clearly define the goals and objectives you have for the plan. Your objectives may be the marketing goals you want to achieve in a fiscal year or how many new customers you want to bring on board in a given period of time. The goals you set for your marketing plan can relate to your business as a whole and act as a guide when creating and implementing your marketing plan.

2. Establish the Priorities for Your Marketing Plan

After determining the overall goals and objectives you have for your company’s marketing plan,  the next step is to establish clear priorities. A marketing plan can have several initiatives and strategies and it can be easy to lose sight of the overall goal with so many moving pieces. Defining the primary priorities of a marketing plan can help keep the marketing team focused and ensure that resources are used in the most profitable and efficient way.

3. Do Your Research and Identify Your Target Audience

Next, you and/or your marketing team should perform the necessary research to clearly define your target audience as well as the current market trends and needs. It can be difficult to create a successful marketing plan without a precise understanding of who you are targeting with your marketing tactics. Identify your buyer persona(s) and be as specific as possible. Include your ideal customer’s age, gender, likes and dislikes, relationship status, job, and other details.

You should also assess what is currently available in your industry and any areas that are lacking. For example, if you are considering launching a product but have found that there are multiple products available that are similar to your product, you may choose to reconsider introducing this product or change certain components to make it unique in the marketplace. Performing research ensures that you are prepared when introducing new products and services and that what you have to offer is truly needed within the current market.

4. Get to Know the Competition

In addition to your target audience, you should also become familiar with the current competition you have in your industry and in the market in general. Get to know the key players you’re up against and how they market their products or services. Research what has worked and hasn’t worked for them and use that data as a soundboard for your own marketing strategies. Additionally, use this information to determine how you will set your products or services apart from the competition. If you produce similar products and services, ensure that your marketing strategies establish you as the leader in the industry and set your company apart.

5. Put Together a Marketing Team

If you don’t already have a marketing department, put together a team of employees and other professionals who will work directly on your company’s marketing plan. Clearly outline each person’s role regarding the marketing plan as well as their responsibilities and what is expected of them on a daily basis.

Common duties a marketing team performs include:

  • Campaign management
  • Overseeing and promoting brand awareness
  • The creation of marketing materials
  • Monitoring social media and other online marketing initiatives
  • Conducting regular market research
  • Implementing agreed-upon marketing strategies
  • Tracking the success of marketing tactics and making changes where needed to improve effectiveness and reach

The following are marketing positions to consider filling to ensure your marketing team is equipped with all necessary expertise:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) specialist
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist
  • Marketing manager
  • Graphic designer
  • Developer
  • Account manager (if applicable)
  • Content writer
  • Analytics/data specialist
  • Social media manager

You may be able to combine two or more roles depending on your company’s needs and available resources.

6. Break Down Your Plan into Individual Marketing Tactics

Within a successful marketing plan, there are often several well-thought-out marketing strategies that address and promote the goals established for the plan. There are several different factors that go into establishing the individual marketing strategies you will use, including:

  • The type of content you will use: There are various forms of content you can use as part of your marketing strategies. Popular content marketing includes infographics, eBooks, blog posts, social media posts, and YouTube videos.
  • What channels you will use: There are also several types of channels you can utilize to get your marketing seen by your target audience. These channels include LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and others. You should do research into where your ideal buyer persona spends most of their time and target these channels.
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly goals: Each marketing strategy you create should be broken down into daily, weekly and monthly goals. For example, let’s say for one marketing tactic you plan on expanding your brand’s awareness. What will you do on a daily basis to accomplish this goal? What about on a weekly and monthly basis? How much content will you need to produce to reach this goal? How often will you post content? Each marketing strategy will have different goals and the better defined these goals are the more likely you are to reach them.
  • The KPIs you will use to measure progress: Each marketing strategy you create should include key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to track its success. For example, a KPI you may want to use to analyze a particular marketing strategy could be the organic traffic your website receives as a result of increased blog posts. It’s important to stay consistent in the KPIs you use for each marketing strategy to be able to accurately measure performance.

Additionally, each marketing strategy you create should contain the following elements:

  • A goal for your positioning in the marketplace: This should include specific factors that set you apart from your competition and how you will maximize these factors in the marketing strategy.
  • The external message you will send through marketing: This message is how you will portray your message to potential customers through the marketing strategy.
  • The key personas you will target with each strategy: You may choose to target different audiences in each marketing strategy you implement. For example, you may implement a marketing strategy on Instagram that targets individuals in their 20s.

7. Create a Timeline

Each marketing strategy within your marketing plan should have a clear timeline that your team will follow throughout the completion of the strategy. A timeline helps to keep the project on track and allows you to plan for each stage of the strategy.

8. Outline Your Budget

There are several expenses that go into running a successful marketing plan. Before you begin implementing your marketing strategies, you should define your budget for each. Expenses to consider include advertising, freelance contributors, salaries for your marketing team, and sponsorships that may be part of your marketing plan.

Tips for Creating an Effective Marketing Plan

The following are tips to consider when creating and implementing a new marketing plan for your business:

Get Clear About the Benefits Your Products or Services Can Provide

Implementing a successful marketing plan depends on your ability to communicate how your product or service can solve a potential customer’s problem or meet a need they have. The better you understand what your target audience needs and wants, the more effectively you can market your product or service to them. Your goal should be to create a marketing plan that clearly addresses their needs and/or problems as well as establishes your company as better than the competition.

Learn From Past Marketing Failures

Previous marketing plans that have failed are excellent resources to review when creating a new marketing plan. Thoroughly assess what went wrong in past marketing plans that did not work and use this information when developing your new plan. Talk to your marketing team and get their opinion on what went wrong in the past as well as how they feel you should best proceed to prevent a repeat of previous failed marketing attempts.

Identify Potential Challenges

In addition to assessing previous marketing failures, you should also identify any potential future challenges your new marketing plan may face. For example, if your current website is outdated, you may face the challenge of losing potential customers who discover your company online. Addressing this potential challenge ahead of time can prevent wasted resources and time. In the example mentioned above, you could take the time to update your website before implementing your new marketing plan to ensure online customers can easily navigate your website and make purchases or request information.

Personalize Your Marketing Strategies When Possible

With the marketing automation available today, keeping marketing strategies personalized can be difficult. However, the more personalized your marketing tactics are, the more successful they are likely to be. Examples of personalization include using the names of customers in email campaigns, making follow-up phone calls after a customer makes a purchase and having real customer service representatives available to help customers rather than an automated system.

Make Quality Content a Priority

Content marketing is an important component of any successful marketing plan and should be made a priority when creating new strategies. There are several different ways in which you can create quality marketing content, including by hiring freelance content writers as well as bringing a few experienced copywriters onboard your in-house marketing team.

While good content marketing can certainly be time-consuming and cost a good amount of money, there are not many strategies that are as beneficial as high-quality content. For this reason, it’s important to budget appropriately to ensure you have ample resources to support the development of good content for your marketing plan and strategies.

Consider Collaborations

Building marketing partnerships and participating in collaborations can help further your brand’s awareness and contribute to increased exposure. Consider collaborating with another company that compliments the products or services you plan to market. You can also enlist social media influencers to help promote your products or services. Collaborations can help you reach new audiences and spread awareness of your brand in ways that you may not be able to do on your own.

The more research and consideration you put into your marketing strategies, the more you will get from your marketing efforts and can ultimately increase your sales and online presence. Using these steps, you’ll be able to create a marketing plan that is as effective as possible and reaches the largest audience.

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