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When I was in college, studying marketing and communications, it was a big joke. “WHAT are you getting a degree in? No, I mean really?” Everyone communicates, and marketing is just… selling stuff.
I opened the blog post this way so you’ll know that when you ask me what a marketing plan is and if you really need one, I understand. I understand that you’re new to the world of business – at least the level of business you’re in now, and that’s okay. If you’re building a small business, or you aren’t part of the marketing department of a large firm, this one’s for you.
In the Beginning…
I’m not sure how many of you watched Mad Men on Netflix, but that show more than any other series I’ve watched truly delved into the obscurity and dark hallways of the human psyche and advertising. The factual history of what ad agencies did back in those days had such vivid details, I was hooked in more way then one. From the (spoiler alert) brilliant ending with the epic Coca Cola Commercial, to the clothes they wore, cars they drove, and lives they led, it made me realize how far marketing and advertising has really developed.
It used to be that marketing and advertising agencies had the luxury of subliminal messaging. It was all fresh and new (relatively speaking), so there weren’t a lot of rules you had to work with or around. Now you have rules and regulations, but even with all the marketing evolution of radio to T.V. to Internet to social media, we’re still looking for that sensation – the luxury of an easy sell. The joy of a good marketing plan.
What we have today is better in many ways, though. Better, because the smaller businesses can now get into the game of advertising and marketing. It’s a game I love to play, and one I’ve done my best over the many years Level343 has been pushing out the Article Archive, to teach you.
Let’s get started with a marketing plan you can work with!
The Business Dictionary Definition of Marketing Is…
The Business Dictionary says marketing is “the management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer. It includes the coordination of four elements called the 4 P’s of marketing”:
- identification, selection and development of a product,
- determination of its price,
- selection of a distribution channel to reach the customer’s place, and
- development and implementation of a promotional strategy.
Now, chances are, if you’re wondering what a marketing strategy is you’ve already followed steps 1-3. You have your product or service, you know what it’s going to cost your customers, and you’ve decided on the Internet for the distribution channel. So, the next step is the promotional strategy – or the marketing plan.
What’s the Plan, Sam?
If this is your first time putting a marketing plan together, I strongly suggest mapping out a one-year plan. In my professional experience, starting out with a one-year plan gives you better focus and more control of the outcome. It doesn’t have to be a book, but you do need a few pages describing your goals, your assets, and the direction you need to take in order to achieve those goals.
I am going to sell XYZ product. My goals on the way to selling XYZ product are:
- Implement a marketing study to find out who my target audience is
- Create a website with my target audience in mind
- Start a social campaign to build a community of like-minded people who love XYZ-type products
- Offer a grand opening sale of XYZ product for the first month
- Make $10,000 in the first three months
To implement a marketing study I’m going to need to:
- research how to do that
- find someone to do that
To create a website I’m going to need to:
- research the different website platforms
- find a designer or design one myself
- find a coder or build one myself
- find a hosting solution
And so on…
Create Definitive Goals
If you’ll notice in the above list, the goals are definitive. They might even need to be more fine-tuned. Don’t worry about getting them in order at first, or making sure you spell right, or anything specific. Let your thoughts flow.
Once you feel like you’re done, go through the list and prioritize. What should be an immediate undertaking, and what can be ignored for the time being?
What people will matter when you’re creating your plan? When it comes down to implementation, who are you going to lean on? The people you choose will give invaluable input, so choose wisely!
Think of these first stages as the first stages of journalism. You’re telling yourself the Who, What, Why, Where, When and How of getting your product or service sold. These are all things you should include in your marketing plan.
Prepare To Stay the Course
With today’s fast-paced technology, you have to take into account that things are constantly changing – especially when you’re focusing on online marketing. The search market has changed so much in the past ten years, I wouldn’t know where to begin to outline it.
Rather than losing control and jumping on the next best thing, use your marketing plan. Identify your strategies, the tools and the path to implement them. It’s okay to deviate, but don’t be afraid to really ask yourself what you hope to get out of it – and what the risk is – before you do.
Here are a few things that can help you stick with it:
- Keeping a winning mindset. Commit to reaching your goals. There will be stumbling blocks; this is life, not a fairy tale. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up. When you hit a stumbling block, look at it as an opportunity to grow. Keep the “Can Do” attitude.
- Develop your team. Each person in your team will have their strengths and weaknesses. Use those to create a forward momentum going. When one team member or one part of the marketing plan stalls, take a deep breath and focus on another. Remember, the team you build will be instrumental in the success of your marketing plan – help them grow!
- Don’t forget the little details. Details are so important. It’s okay to have a “big picture” guy on the team. It’s not okay to have ALL “big picture” guys on the team. Someone needs to be extremely detail oriented. That someone will be dotting I’s and crossing t’s. They’ll be making sure that the web designer got paid, or that the social media content went out on time. They’re the micro-managers of world, and they serve a very important purpose – making sure it all happens like it’s supposed to.
Don’t Forget to Mark your Place!
Before you start, don’t forget to collect a set of benchmarks. For example, if you’ve already built a website and have analytics tracking, mark how much traffic and sales you’re currently getting. Setting benchmarks is important for two reasons:
- You can look at your efforts down the road and see what is and is not working. No matter what those benchmarks may be – how well your site is selling a specific item to how many are interacting with you on social – you need to keep track of the results.
- You can look at your efforts down the road, when you’re tired of pushing and you just want to stop (but you have four more months until the end of the year). You can see that your efforts have actually accomplished something, even if it’s not exactly what you’d hoped. Sometimes all it takes is just a little morale boost to get you to the end.
Read through our serious on Measuring Metrics Walkthrough | KPIs, Benchmarks and Analytics to get a good idea of how benchmarking is accomplished.
Marketing is Exciting!
Yes, marketing is exciting. I’ve never understood those who get bored with it. How can you get bored creating a footprint for a company? How can you be tired of it when you’re in the middle of launching a brand in the Middle East? –And when it’s your own company? It’s harder to QUIT messing with your campaign then it is to START.
There’s so much to do. There’s so much to create. There’s so much potential for growth! With the right team, and the right plan, marketing is a continuous road of inspiration.
What are you waiting for? Get started!