Your marketing plan should be central to how you get your business growing. It acts as a focus point for progress and as a regular report to ensure your company is on the right track. Making sure you get it right will take time, but will be the most important step you take towards growth each year.The best marketing plans will provide a solid foundation and outline for your business practices during the time ahead. It should work to guide you towards improved sales and customer numbers, fresher products and services, and new markets. The following guide will help you make sure that your next plan is up to the task.
1. Do Your Research
Before you can plan ahead you need a clear view of where you are now. You will struggle to make progress in a market you know little about. Your first step should be to research (market research blog) to commercial environment that you are in now.We have talked about SWOT analysis and how it can help your business improve. This is an excellent example of making a SWOT analysis work for you. Determine what strengths to build on and weaknesses to improve, as well as where your opportunities lie and where your threats will come from, and you can effectively plan your marketing to maximise the positives whilst eliminating the negatives.
2. Be Sure of Your Goals
Your company should have a mission statement that helps focus the ambitions and decisions and ensure your company’s best interests. You need to have this to hand before you set out your plan. This helps you keep your ambitions and strategy in line with the wider company vision. Your marketing will then strengthen your image in the eyes of customers and enforce the consistency that all good brands need.Combined with your market research, you will be able to narrow down the best targets to aim for with your marketing plan. You may need to correct poor practices from recent years or you may have found a new strength to make full advantage of to bring in new customers. By doing the research and by referring to your company’s overall goals and vision, you will soon have several points that your marketing should be heading towards.
3. Know What You Have To Work With
Once you have a long list of goals, you then need to make sure you determine your limits for the coming year. It is no good laying out your marketing plan for the year only to find you lack the budget or resources to manage it. Work out what you have to work in terms of finance and skills base before starting on your plan proper. It is also worth setting out an ideal time scale you want to keep to as you move ahead. Starting with a deadline for completing the plan itself, set guidelines on task stages and review points. Obviously, you can play about with these as you further your plan, but it is worth building your plan around regular steps through the year so you can adjust your plan based on performance and scale your objectives and success as you go through the year. Planning year by year is great practice, but don’t make yourself rigid to that schedule, otherwise an important change may be left too late.
4. Determine What You Want to Improve
Once you know your limits and your vision guidelines, you can go about putting your plan together. You should have ideas on how you can improve your business, now you need to narrow these down to particular goals that you want your company to attain in the year. For instance, an improvement in market share or establishing a particular and unique reputation. You are, essentially, setting a direction for your marketing tactics. Keep your SWOT in mind as it is the clearest indicator of what you should be focusing on. If your analysis shows a lot of threats or weaknesses that look set to hold you back then your plan should address overcoming these problems. On the other hand, if you have uncovered some new strength or opportunity then you’ll be setting up to take as much advantage of this as possible.
5. Plot a Course of Action
This is where you make your plans in earnest. You have your targets and your ambitions, now you need to set about figuring out what to do to attain these. Most effective tactics will involve looking at the following aspects of your business:
Products – both existing and possible innovations
Pricing, and where you are in comparison with competition
Market – the interests and demands that you need to consider to succeed
Distribution – how you can most effectively connect with and sell to customers
Promotional Activity – how to make your business product more appealing
Working with the budgets and skill sets determined earlier, set out your plan of action. Look at how the points above can affect your business to meet your goals and maintain what makes you unique in your market. You can then arrange necessary tasks within your schedule to most effectively push your business on to your established targets.Once you have worked through these steps, you will have the essentials for your marketing plan. Obviously, after this, you can include practical elements such as task delegation and ways of measuring success based on your particular goals. You’d also do well to include a summary to lead the plan both for you to ensure the plan is coherent and comprehensive and so other employees can quickly refer to the outline in the future. You will then have a solid plan on which to build your campaign for growth and success in the year ahead.