- What does an effective marketing plan look like?
- The importance of setting SMART goals and assessing the competition
- Elements of a successful marketing plan
- Social media marketing templates for businesses
Creating an integrated marketing plan is essential for attracting potential clients and converting them into customers in today’s digital age.
If you don’t annually review your company’s marketing strategy, you should, as it will help you identify whether you’re on track to achieving your business goals.
Without a comprehensive marketing plan, it’s nearly impossible to budget for projects, hiring and contracting work as you’re left without a guide for the direction of the firm’s campaigns, goals and growth.
A marketing plan bridges the gap between the business’s strategic direction and the delivery of results. Take time to craft a comprehensive, functional marketing plan that will lay the foundation for your year ahead and help you get measurable, quantifiable results.
However, your marketing plan will need variations dependent on the industry your business operates within.
If you’re struggling with how to go about structuring your high-level marketing plan, we’ve outlined some steps you should consider to help you get started and facilitate the process.
How can I create an effective marketing plan?
Before we dive into the elements of creating an effective marketing plan, marketers need to understand their company’s current situation.
Analyse the organisation’s internal and external environment
Before deciding on the direction to take your marketing efforts, you should conduct a situational analysis, which is an evaluation of your company’s internal and external conditions.
Assess your firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, which will help you devise a strategy to move forward from your current scenario towards your desired situation.
You should also ensure that you have a deep understanding of the current market – research your competitors and identify any gaps in their approach that you can take advantage of moving forward.
To set yourself apart from the competition, consider:
- What competitors may be doing better than you
- What they are missing
- What you could offer your target market to gain a competitive advantage
The SWOT analysis tool is a great way to identify strengths you can take advantage of and weaknesses you can take action against to help you figure out your customers’ needs.
Conduct a consumer analysis and create a customer profile
Once you better understand your company’s internal and external conditions, conduct thorough research on your target market.
Suppose your company has already identified its buyer’s personas, then you may need to refine your customer profiles. If you haven’t created a customer profile, you should make one as it will help you discern industry trends, consumer behaviour and devise strategies to reach them effectively.
When creating personas, you should consider:
Once you have organised this information, examine your current products and services, then analyse their ability to serve your customers needs and define new goals.
Set SMART goals
Setting specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART) goals will help you and your marketing team know what your company is working towards.
Well-defined marketing goals include a time frame for which you want to achieve it and are in sync with the aims of the business, whether that be to generate revenue, identify opportunities or create leads for another department in the company.
For example, say your business generated £1,000,000 in sales last year, and your CEO wants to grow business by 25%. You already know that £800,000 is on the books, and an additional £200,000 will come from other marketing activities; you’ve then identified a gap of £250,000 to close over the next 12 months.
First, write out your goals, making sure they are clear and concise, then devise tactics to help you achieve that goal.
You’ve conducted research on your market, target audience and defined your goals – now it’s time to figure out what tactics you’re going to employ to help you achieve those goals.
For example, suppose your goal is to increase your follower count on social media channels. In that case, you might want to host a giveaway on your account and make sure you’re actively using the platform – posting, commenting, liking and replying to direct messages.
Tactical marketing refers to activity that directly supports your overall marketing strategy. As your marketing plan should include establishing a budget, a tactical analysis should account for the financial limitations involved – bringing us onto the next point.
Set your budget
It’s important to set a budget before you begin implementing any of the ideas you’ve come up with in the steps above, as your budget might inhibit you from achieving ambitious goals.
Estimate your budget while noting your tactics and include a timeframe for which you plan to complete your goal.
Practical marketing plan: What should it include?
Whether you’re a B2C or B2B company, we’ve outlined the elements that every effective marketing plan includes.
An Executive Summary or Business Summary is an overview of your business and includes steps for which you intend to reach your target audience and generate conversions.
It should include:
- The name of your organisation
- Location of the headquarters
- Its mission statement
When creating a marketing plan, you should define your business initiatives, which refer to the various activities you will undertake to achieve your marketing goals.
Avoid including big-picture company initiatives – you want to ensure that this section of your marketing plan is specific and linked to your SMART goals.
Setting marketing initiatives will facilitate the tracking and measuring of your goals, keeping the team aligned with what matters most.
If you’ve already conducted market research, this aspect of your marketing plan should be relatively easy to assemble.
Essentially, the customer analysis aspect of your marketing plan refers to crafting a customer profile to help you identify the industry you’re selling to and your buyer’s persona.
The dynamics of competition is constantly changing as the digital world evolves, meaning companies need to shift away from traditional competitive strategies when it comes to thinking about threats in the market. Soar Online can provide you with a free report that tells you how your competitors perform online in terms of Search Engine Visibility or through their online advertising campaigns. Just get in touch, and it will be in your inbox by the end of the day.
Conduct thorough research of your competitors and identify gaps in their strategy that you could take advantage of in your approach.
Consider aspects such as:
- Market share
An effective marketing plan should always include a SWOT analysis, an acronym for the framework used to analyse a firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
A SWOT analysis can help businesses cash in on their strengths through strategic planning, enabling marketers to evaluate internal and external factors that could make or break the success of achieving their goals.
A market strategy refers to a business’s overall strategy for reaching prospective customers and considers all of the information outlined in the above sections.
It should describe how your company plans to approach the market and contain the “seven Ps of marketing”:
- Physical Evidence
While the seven Ps of marketing are not essential, when it comes to creating a solid and strategic marketing plan, including these elements can translate into higher conversions and increased sales.
Set a budget
The budget element of your marketing plan should specify how much funds the company has allocated to the marketing department to pursue business initiatives and goals relative to the overarching strategy.
It should not contain product prices or other company expenses as these are unrelated to the marketing plan. Your budget could include:
- Advertising and other paid promotions
- Printed materials and displays
- Software and technology
- Costs to cover events that you’ll host or attend
List your marketing channels
Lastly, an effective marketing plan should include a list of your marketing channels, referring to the different tools and platforms you use to communicate with your target audience.
For example, suppose you publish content on social media networks. In that case, you should use the marketing channel section of your plan to detail the social networks you want to utilise, what products you want to market and how you’ll go about measuring your success on that platform.
The purpose of implementing a channel strategy is to show your superiors that using these platforms will generate the best exposure for the products, services and brand to potential customers.
Financial projections tend to forecast a three year period from when the project began, albeit they are flexible so if you want to set an estimate for the year, feel free to do so.
While your financial projection won’t be 100% accurate, it can help with executive planning. It will also help superiors identify whether a project is worth investing in and when to cut ties if it appears to be falling short of expectations.
Now that you know what to include in your plan, it’s time to source a marketing template and organise the abovementioned elements.
If you have a prominent social media presence, you might want to consider creating a separate social media marketing plan.
Social media marketing plan strategies
If your business is looking for a way to improve its social media presence, we’ve outlined some social media marketing templates that could help you reinvent your strategy and drive business value.
Social Media questions
If you’re struggling with what social media management platform to use, the social media question template produces a list of questions that will help you establish your needs.
Once you’ve figured out what social media tactics you want to utilise in your marketing plan, use this template to help you decide on the channels you wish to market across.
The number of “hashtag holidays” increases every year, and these holidays offer your brand a fantastic opportunity to engage with your audience and remain relevant.
For example, holidays like #WorldMentalHealthDay allows you to connect with existing and potential customers on a deeper level and raise awareness of important issues.
According to a recent study by Sprout Social, consumers want brands to bring awareness to important issues. So if you’re running out of content in your social media schedule, hashtag holidays offer a great way to remain active in the community.
Schedule Facebook Lives
On Facebook, you can schedule live video broadcasts ahead of time, which will help promote your online event to your audience and widen your reach.
Facebook Live templates help you organise when and what you want to cover during your live video broadcast.
Instagram Post Log
If you use Instagram regularly and want to boost your brand’s visibility and increase your follower count, consider using a post log. Post logs will allow you to organise your Instagram posts so that your marketing team knows what content will be going live on what day.
Social Media Audit Template
A social media audit template helps you understand what’s happening on each network, making it a handy tool for developing or improving an effective social media marketing plan.
While the word “audit” might seem intimidating, this template could help create a clear picture of your current social activity and provide insight into how you could improve your strategy to generate better results.
Paid Social Media Template
The paid social media template compiles all your projects into one editorial document, allowing for easy organisation of paid ads.
Social media gurus favour it as it enables them to track monthly and annual budgets easily.
Social Media Reporting Template
A social media reporting template allows marketers to manage and schedule content you plan to include in your marketing plan and track data on those posts to help you monitor your progress on that platform.
Although creating a social media report template can be time-consuming as you must define your audience needs, identify KPIs, contextualise your performance and schedule content for the sake of accountability and growth, it’s a highly effective tool.