how to create a simple marketing plan (no fancy template required)

One of the things we are told to do as business owners is to create a Marketing Plan, but how do you actually go out and do this?

Generally, when you think of a marketing plan it is this boring document. This outline of industry terminology and dry numbers. Just do a Google search for a Marketing Plan Template and you will see what I mean.

By all means, these plans are necessary in some situations – like if you are seeking a bank loan, support from investors or for large corporations where you must seek board approval.

But for the everyday small business owner, it doesn’t need to be this way.

Yes, you need a plan.

But, no, it doesn’t have to conform to some boring template.

In this post I will be sharing how you can prepare for the year ahead by creating a Marketing Plan that makes sense to you.

It doesn’t have to be a 20 page document. It just needs to be something that you can refer back to through the year to make sure you are on track and taking well thought out steps to strive towards your business goals.

There are 3 main steps:

  1. Looking Back
  2. Looking Forward
  3. Inspired Action

step 1 : LOOKING BACK

In today’s post, we will focus on Reflecting on the year that was and what we can learn from our mistakes and our victories. It also involves having a look at the state of the market as a whole so you can discover opportunities.

Ready to get started? Pull out a pen & paper and let’s do this!

We will be looking at 4 main sections:

  1. Numbers
  2. Tactics
  3. Market
  4. Self

Numbers

Numbers don’t lie, so this is the most logical place to start.

There are a few key numbers you should be tracking on a regular basis, but some are more important than others for showing what is working and what isn’t.

Of course, the number one measure of success is your Sales, so this is the first thing to look at. You probably want to dive deeper and look at sales by product or product category.

Next, you want to have a look at some of your key marketing metrics. Here is where people sometimes get caught up in the “vanity metrics”, things like followers and subscribers, but what is more important than all of that is how well each of those are converting.

Here’s a quick summary:

Next, you want to go a little deeper into your website numbers and look at:

  • Where people are coming from
  • What they are looking at / interested in

You can pull all of this detail out from your Google Analytics. If you are unsure how, check out this post.

Now you have all those numbers written down or in a spreadsheet. There are two main things you want to look at to really apply this knowledge.

  1. What has been the change from the previous year? (if you have the data)
  2. Where are people dropping off in the process?
    For example, are you doing really well at attracting people but unable to get them to buy? This is something you want to note as you might want to focus more effort on conversion strategies that attraction strategies.

Tactics

Going a step above the numbers, you should also reflect on what marketing tactics are currently working for you and identify any current gaps.

When it comes to online marketing, there are 5 main pillars I refer to. I recommend you go through each of these and just note down anything that comes to mind on how well it has been going for you and ways in which you would like to improve.

  1. Website
  2. Email
  3. Content
  4. Social Media
  5. Reach / Promotions

Market

The market is an ever-changing place. Not only do we have to deal with things like trends and competition, but now we have new technologies available to us seemingly every 5 minutes.

In this section, I want you to answer a few key questions:

  1. What are the current trends in my industry?
  2. What opportunities could I capitilise on?
  3. What threats exist?
  4. Have any new competitors entered the market? And how do they differ from me?
  5. Have my audience’s needs changed? What has become more important to them?
  6. Are there any technological changes I need to adapt to?

Self

This part is very much neglected in traditional marketing plans, but as small business owners we ARE our business. Therefore, we need to do self-checks regularly to make sure we are operating on a sustainable basis.

Ask yourself:

  1. How much time am I spending on my marketing each week? Is it enough? Is it manageable?
  2. How much money am I investing?
  3. What parts of marketing my business do I enjoy?
  4. What parts would I prefer not to do?
  5. Is there anything I would do differently if given the chance?

While that is a lot to reflect on, it is well worth it for the clarity and inspiration it brings.

STEP 2 : LOOKING FORWARD

Now we look forward. What will your ideal year look like? What is your vision for the next 12 months and how does marketing fit into that?

We will be looking at 4 main areas:

  1. Goals
  2. Target Market
  3. Products
  4. Projects

Grab your notebook and let’s get started!

Goals

Goal setting is one of those things that some people seem to be amazing at and others get the hives just thinking of it. But the thing is, it is still an important thing for you to do.

Now I’m not going to tell you that you need to set a goal for all of the below things. Some you might not care about too much. But here is what I suggest:

  1. Sales Target (or Sales Targets by Category)
  2. Social Media Followers
  3. Email Subscribers
  4. Website Visitors per month

In addition, you can add in some general objectives such as “getting featured in the media” or “becoming a thought leader”.

There are no rules only the limits of your imagination!

Target Market

Whether you have your target market “nailed” or not, it is a worthwhile exercise to revisit your avatar at least once a year. In the first step, I asked if the needs or desires of your audience has changed at all. This is where that comes in.

In addition to this, you might have learnt more about who your ideal audience is simply by interacting with them more and more.

So it is helpful to rewrite that customer avatar – your description of your ideal customer, their interests, their desires, their passions and their needs.

All these things will really help you connect with them going forward.

Feeling stuck? This blog post might help.

OFFERS

If you are anything like me, you probably have a huge list of product or service ideas you want to create. Or existing offerings you want to improve.

Many people don’t think of your products as part of marketing, but they are one of four key foundations of the marketing mix (the other 3 being price, placement & promotions).

For this section, you should just list out in an “ideal world” what you would like to create.

This might even include some things that might not be achievable in the next 12 months but you might want to begin to take some steps towards it.

You might want to consider adding income streams such as “passive” income products (passive in quotation marks very intentionally!) or affiliate income or leveraged products.

Also, while we are talking products, this is a good time to think about your pricing. Would you like to increase your pricing? Or perhaps ensure you have something available at different price points?

Projects

The final thing to add to the vision list is all the marketing projects you want to focus on in the next 12 months. This is anything that is a “background” job and is important but often never seems urgent so they keep dropping down the list.

What do you have on that list that you would like to get done? Examples could be:

  • Branding or Rebrand
  • Upgrade your Website
  • Target Market Research
  • Create an Email Opt-in
  • Create a Sales Funnel
  • Automate your Social Media
  • Get momentum on your Facebook Business Page
  • Join Pinterest
  • Start a Blog
  • Start a YouTube Channel
  • Writing an Article for that Magazine
  • Appearing on a Podcast
  • Connecting with an Influencer

Look back to your notes from step 1, what did you mark against each of the 5 pillars of an online marketing strategy?

Do a big brain dump here! At the moment, it is all about dreaming so get inspired and write it all out.

Visioning and coming up with ideas is definitely my favourite part of this whole process. It’s one of the best motivators.

But unless we take action, it will remain a dream.  And that leads to ….

STEP 3 : INSPIRED ACTION

In this final step we will be putting together all that you have reflected on and all you have envisioned into an action plan. Because, after all, it’s all in the implementation.

This is going to be slightly different as I am going to guide you through a simple exercise.

action 1 : List it Out

Firstly, I want you to create a spreadsheet and label the following columns:

  • Task / Project
  • Priority
  • Time Estimate
  • Budget
  • Dates
  • Notes

Next, under task / project add all those ideas you listed out in “Looking Forward” and gaps you identified in “Looking Back”.

This will include product developments, marketing projects or process improvements.

Add to this list any promotional campaigns you would like to run. For example, holiday-based campaigns (Christmas, Mother’s Day), Seasonal Campaigns or Launches. Specify the dates that these will run in the “dates” column, making sure to include time for the preparation.

action 2 : Assess

Once you have all your items listed out, it is time to assess each task or project against each other. While you would probably like to complete everything it might not be that realistic.

You can do this by noting each of the below against each item on the list:

  1. A priority (e.g. 1, 2 or 3)
  2. Estimated time to complete – I recommend you always add on a big buffer here as everything seems to take longer than expected
  3. Budget Estimate – This is to do it “well”

Once those are entered you can now sort your spreadsheet by priority.

action 3 : Schedule

You have already marked down the dates for your campaigns, now it is time to allocate time for each of the other tasks. I like to do this just on a month by month basis.

Depending on the time involved in completing a project, some months you might only be able to focus on one thing, others you might be able to complete a few smaller ones.

Before you do this you should estimate the total time and budget you will have available each month.

Then go through the priorities and start allocating them a month or months.

So priority 1’s with low cost and/or low time involvement should come first. Then priority 1’s with a higher cost or time involvement (spaced out according to your availabilities).

And so on through the priorities, making sure you take into account your campaign dates.

In no time you will have a month by month marketing project schedule & budget for the year!

Note that there will probably be some tasks that just don’t seem achievable in the next 12 months and that is OK. Simply keep those at the bottom of the list with no date allocation in case you do get a chance at some stage.

As you go through you might also want to consider the time vs money question – are there some things you can outsource or automate to get things moving quicker?

 

So there you have it… a schedule and a budget for the year! All in one simple to refer to spreadsheet.

Then, once you have that each quarter or month you can get much more specific into all the individual tasks you need to tick off the list to get each project completed.

Much better than a boring old template right?

 

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