Updated: Feb 23
If you have ever heard the words marketing plan and suddenly felt a bit nervous you’re not alone. You may even be thinking now, what is a marketing plan?
You might be interested in having a marketing strategy and understand that a plan is part of it. But maybe you are worried about the cost of having a professional write one for you?
It could be that you feel like you don't really know what should go into the plan?
Or maybe it is just the idea of planning your life for months at a time you don't like.
Marketing plans are something I write a lot of as a small business marketing consultant.
This blog is all about marketing plans, with the aim of helping you see how they can help you.
So to run through a few frequently asked questions.
Why is a marketing plan important?
A lot of people wonder about how a marketing plan can help them so here are 5 benefits of marketing planning.
1. Firstly, it helps you to get organised
A complaint I often hear is that small business life can leave you overwhelmed, particularly if you are new to it all. All you want to do is the thing that you love, that you went into business for, but there you are acting as the PR team, accountant and logistics expert.
In terms of how long to plan for, that is up to you. Some people choose to plan for a year. I usually start with a plan for 3 months worth of marketing activity that supports the plans my clients already have. Particularly at the moment with Covid 19, it is very hard to make really long term plans so this works well. What we really want to achieve for you with a plan is just helping take some of the daily load off your mind, and moving it somewhere that can help your business over the long term.
2. It will show you what you are doing that is working
Do you find you try lots of different marketing things? I’m sure you do some social media posts, maybe the odd advert in a local magazine. Possibly even some PR generated by the business activity you undertake. Without going into those activities with an idea of the level you are currently at you probably aren't that clear on what contributes to your overall result. By having a clear plan of your activity, that isolates all the different marketing into organised stages, you will start to see which things you can do more of, and which you could stop.
Often less is more when it comes to marketing.
3. A plan takes the strain on your off days
You are human, like everyone else. Perhaps you have a day where you are really tired.
Perhaps you find at times your enthusiasm just falls away. You know what, having a plan that you have already written and understand inside and out will keep you going when your energy is low.
This also keeps you consistent in your marketing efforts, which is a big part of succeeding overall. Often if you asked your customer which piece of marketing contributed to them booking you, or buying from you they wouldn't know, but I like to use the analogy of those seaside penny slot machines.
You drop in a penny, and see no result, but eventually a cascade of coppers will fall into your lap.
I’m not sure anyone really wants £1 worth of 1p and 2p coins but it's all about the motion leading to that eventual result. Keep putting effort into the marketing machine and eventually a client will appear. And a plan will support that sustained action.
4. It gives you a direction
Your marketing plan does not have to be something restrictive and oppressive. But it does give you a direction to go in. If you decide to work on new projects that are not in your plan that is fine. Maybe a new client suddenly needs all your time, so you decide to shelve your plans to write a book. That’s ok, the book idea is still in your plan for when you do have time.
I am a big believer in making the most of our good fortune in life. You can make the goals you set in your marketing plan as flexible or fixed as you like. And if you go off the path, at least you will know where you were aiming for when you come back to it again.
5. It gives you accountability
Just knowing you have a plan and goals increases your chance of success. Have you ever noticed how when you write things down it makes you more likely to do them?
It is the same with a marketing plan. If you have identified the people you want to target with your business, and thought about the ways that make most sense to do that, why would you suddenly stop taking the steps to hit the goals you have set?
Generally once people start using a marketing plan they continue to do so, planning new activity each quarter, with an overall idea of how the whole year should pan out.
With all that said, you may still not be sold on the idea. And that’s ok too.
What happens if you don't have a marketing plan?
Nothing will happen. You can live without a marketing plan. Lots of people never have one. But they may always have that nagging feeling that perhaps their business would achieve more financially if they were more organised. Or maybe they just don't think about it at all. My point simply is, although it is the best practise for a business to have one, it won't stop you trading without one.
Now we have thought about why you might want a marketing plan, and why it will help you let's turn to the actual plan itself
How do you write a simple marketing plan?
Before you do anything the best way to prepare to write a marketing plan is to think about who you are targeting with your business.
Many professionals call this part of your planning thinking about your ideal customer.
Why do you need to do this? Because it is far easier to market a business that is specifically for a particular person.
To give you examples, if you are a parent and you have a small child. Seeing a business that offers classes that has an appropriate brand name, shows pictures of children's activities in its marketing, and uses fun bright colours, will all contribute to you feeling drawn to that business.
That business is signalling to the parent and child that they want them, they are a business built with them in mind. Consciously and subconsciously the business calls to the customer.
In our next example something very different is happening.
Imagine someone you love has died. You have never been through this before. You suddenly have a range of important tasks you must perform, including organising a funeral. You perform a Google search and see a company website with clear, organised information, photos that clearly show the options open to you for services. Contact information is clear and easy to use. You call the business and someone who sounds like they know what they are doing answers. They listen to you, they are warm and sympathetic, and they help you.
Both the children's business and the funeral directors have ideal customers in mind. They both have to do very different things to attract customers and they do.
A marketing plan starts with a clearly defined customer in mind. The more you put into the stage of thinking about your customer, the better everything will be for them once they find you.
Ask yourself questions like:
Is my ideal or target customer male or female?
What age group do they fall into?
Do they like to try new things first?
Is my customer nearby to me geographically or am I reaching people far and wide?
There will be specific questions based on your business, so think about these in detail before you take another step.
What to include in your marketing plan
Next in preparing your plan, here are a few of the variables to consider.
Date: January to March 2021 would be a good upcoming period to think about
Goals: You want to set marketing goals that relate to business goals, these will probably be around growth of your audience using marketing tools, or growth in sales.
Marketing Tools: An example relating to email marketing could be ‘ Grow customer mailing list to 1,000 names’ to support sales of our Valentines day offering. Aim to convert 10% of mailing list to the offer, which would be worth £X
Target customer Include which section of your customer group you are targeting for each of your activities. It might be that you do not have just one ideal customer but many so being specific will help guide your activity and knowledge of your result.
Measure of success Remember you always need to set a measure of success for all activity. It does not matter if you don’t reach it, but if you do, or you exceed it, that would feel pretty good, and obviously your business would reflect that in revenue as well.
There are lots of different marketing plan templates around that you could download and look at if you are interested.
How can I help you if you decide a marketing plan is for you?
So in this blog we have covered why marketing plans are important, the ways they can help and support your business, how to prepare to write a plan, and what to include when you do.
We have also acknowledged that not everyone even uses a marketing plan and if you don’t, it’s not going to stop you running a business.
If you decide you would like to create a plan, I have three options that I can personally offer to suit each budget.
1. This is brand new, I have just today published The DIY Marketing Plan a guide that you can download from my website here, for just £4.99 and that will give you everything you need to get started with creating your own plan. I say in the DIY Marketing Plan that if you would like me to review your plan once created, I can do that at an extra charge. This charge would depend on the time required to review your plan, but an hours work would be £30 I also suggest that you might benefit from reading my new book 100 Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners section one covers marketing planning in quite a lot of depth, that costs £6.99 also from my website or Amazon 2. If you feel like you already have a really good idea of your ideal customer and can supply me with all the information I need to write you a plan, I can create a bespoke marketing plan suitable for most small business owners for around 2-4 hours of my time, so you are looking at £120 for a professional marketing plan that will help and support your business for a period of time set by you. 3. If you would like to work with me on the best practise I can provide for your marketing plan, I would recommend I start with an audit of your brand, where you are right now and what could be useful to fix, a guided session on ideal customer conducted over video call, creation of your marketing plan, fine tuning session to ensure the plan meets your requirements, and any other ad hoc requirements your business may require. I would usually cost this at around £240 Some ideas of ad hoc services that I would provide as ad ons to the marketing plan include brain storming, content production, Pinterest training, and work on email marketing. Anything that relates to supporting the marketing plan.
I really hope my blog has answered your burning questions on marketing plans.
Thanks for reading
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Would you like more help with your marketing? My new book is out now
If you would like a book of 100 Marketing Tips written just for small business owners then do have a look here. I wrote this book to be easy to read cover to cover or to be kept as a reference to dip in and out of! About Me
Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in SE London.
Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.