Creating a well-thought-out marketing plan does not have to be as intimidating as it sounds. In fact, an arbitrary plan can be useful in helping your startup get off the ground and into a positive direction. A plan like this can help you to define your goals, weaknesses, opportunities, and benchmarks for success in the months and years to come.

For the beginner entrepreneur, strategizing both your marketing goals can help a small business reduce risks, save money, and make better decisions. Check out my previous article, “Making it in Miami: Balancing the Art and Science of Marketing,” for example case studies on how being intentional about how you use data and create content can help small businesses succeed. 

In this post, I break down the five essential parts to include when developing your marketing plan. Whether it be a rough outline with a few bullet points or a detailed presentation for you to share with your directors, here are a few components every plan should include to ensure your efforts are worthwhile and not gone with the wind.

1. What’s the sitch?

A situational analysis provides you the opportunity to reflect on just what the name suggests – the situation. Surprisingly, many businesses skip this step altogether, leading to failed ventures for reasons like opening a brick and mortar store in a community with the wrong demographic or taking out a loan larger than what can be paid back because there was no forecast of competitive advantage. These are questions you should make note of:

1. Strengths: What skill, offering, or expertise can you provide in your industry that can’t be easily copied or can improve your position in the market? (ex. low-production costs, advanced technology, high morale among staff)

2. Weaknesses: Where may your organization fall short? And be honest with yourself! (ex. insufficient planning, inconsistent customer service, lack of resources)

3. Opportunities: In which ways can your business grow and become more profitable? (ex. new markets to enter, consumer trends)

4. Threats: What obstacles may set you back? (ex. labor shortage, permitting, long-start up administrative process)

2. Who cares?

No, really, who does? Defining your target audience is critical to understanding your own intentions and how to communicate with the people who matter most to you. You’ll want to know these people inside out so that you don’t end up reaching out to those who provide little to no value when there is a stronger, more effective market to tap into. Consider building a customer profile or persona that includes your general, desired target market’s:

– Age

– Gender

– Profession

– Income

– Location

– Interests

– Values

– Motivations

– Frustrations

– Needs that you can fulfill

3. What’s the point?

Now, it’s time to define your objectives. A clearly set marketing goal must be SMART. Check out my previous article on KPIs, or key performance indicators, to help guide you in setting these objectives. In short, a SMART goal must be:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable

R – Relevant

T – Timely

4. What are your four P’s?

Not to be confused with the five P’s – prior planning prevents poor performance – although also true. The four P’s of marketing is a simplified framework that can help guide your organizational marketing strategy. These four aspects to the marketing mix include:

1. Product: Brand, services, and packaging

2. Price: Offer price, price compared to competition, also dependent upon product and other marketing costs

3. Place: Location where the product or service can be purchased including your distribution channels

4. Promotion: advertising, PR, and other communications used to push product to buyers.

5. How will you know it works?

You’ve gotten this far – don’t stop here. Ensure that you have a game plan to measure your success… and ultimately prove to yourself that you deserve that vacation. Test and analyze the success of your strategy by:

– Surveying customers

– Creating a benchmark for success (ex. desired number of sales and leads)

– Other campaign analytics like unsubscribes, open rates, and engagement rates

That’s it!

With this simple guide, you’ll be on your way to developing a real plan for your business goals. This plan, no matter how rough around the edges, can help take a lot of the guesswork out of marketing for your business and ensure that you’re doing a job well done!

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