What is Marketing Plan? Why You Need one?

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Introduction

Marketing is one of the most important functions of a business that helps it grow, gain new customers, earn a profit, etc. It is also one of the biggest decisions that a company has to make in terms of expenses. Many businesses take a random guess and implement marketing activities that do not have a proper plan or direction.

Such marketing activities either give a one-time success or no effect at all, leaving the businesses confused about what to do next. That’s why a proper marketing plan is important to bring a clear vision of the purpose of marketing and achieve the goals of the organization.

Despite the importance of an effective marketing plan, statistics show that 50% of small and medium businesses do not have a marketing plan, 25% of business owners do not know how to grow the business and 55% of business owners spend less than 5% of the total revenue earned per year on marketing.

💡 According to Search Engine Journal, half of all SMBs surveyed don’t even have a properly established marketing plan!

These are some of the reasons why a business fails to propel as it should. In this article, we will look into all aspects of a marketing plan including the types of marketing plans, the contents of a marketing plan, some of the common challenges, tools, etc.

Before we dive into the topic, let’s first get a clear look at what a marketing plan is.

Marketing Plan: What Is It?

If we look into the textbook definition of a marketing plan, it is essentially an operational document that has an outline of the marketing and advertising strategies of a company in order to reach its target audience, generate leads and make sales.

Simply put, a marketing plan consists of all the steps that a business needs to take in order to achieve its marketing goals.

Why Do You Need A Marketing Plan?

Businesses need to spend a lot of time, effort, and money to create a marketing plan. But why do they need to create such a marketing plan in the first place?

Creating a marketing plan has a lot of benefits. The following are some of the few benefits that a business can enjoy with an effective marketing plan:

  • It gives you a well-defined marketing goal (SMART goal) that is aligned with the goals of the business
  • It helps you understand your business better through SWOT analysis
  • It helps you understand your industry and your position in the market
  • It helps educate all the members of the business team to know what are the strategies that the business is going to execute
  • It helps the team members know their roles and responsibilities in the marketing strategies
  • It helps you plan ahead and make clearer decisions
  • It helps the business grow with appropriate marketing strategies
  • It helps to create a detailed budget for marketing and assign appropriate finances needed for the various marketing activities
  • It helps to identify the target audience

Types of marketing plans

Each company and business is different from another one. It is insane for someone to use one type of marketing plan for all types of businesses. Hence several marketing plans have been developed to meet the different needs and specific goals of a business.

The following are some of the different types of marketing plans.

Long Term Marketing Plan

This is a long-term marketing plan that a business uses to design strategies for a longer period of time. It includes strategies for up to 10 years and can include activities such as public relations, social media marketing, paid search engine optimization, etc.

For example, a business may list out all the strategies it can implement to create brand awareness using any of the previously mentioned strategies.

Short Term Marketing Plan

This is a marketing plan that is designed for a shorter period of time. It can be for anywhere between a month and a year and is usually used for the purpose of increasing sales or promoting certain products.

For example, a business that is launching a new product may try to boost sales by giving a discount for the product for a short period of time.

Paid Marketing Plan

This marketing plan includes all the paid promotion activities.

For example, a social media influencer may be paid to review and promote a product, a product or service may be advertised by PPC, etc.

Social Media Marketing Plan

This is a marketing plan that is designed specifically for social media platforms. The plan includes details such as the types of channels to be used, the content that will be shared, the tactics to be used, etc.

Content Marketing Plan

Good content is necessary for an effective marketing strategy. The content marketing plan helps to create quality content for your business by deciding on the type of content to be used, what sort of message or emotions the target audience needs to feel through the content, how frequent the customers need to see the content, etc

American Express uses a blog and a website called Open Forum that helps small businesses get advice for their business. This content strategy has helped the credit card business gain more than 10,000 small business sign-ups for its directories by 2010.

New Product Launch Marketing Plan

This is a marketing plan that has been developed specifically for a new product that is going to be launched by the business.

What Elements Should The Marketing Plan Contain?

In order to create an effective marketing plan, you need to first know the elements that are present in it. The following are some of the components of a marketing plan:

Marketing Objectives Of The Business

The marketing objective of a business must be something that can be measured and achieved. The goal should be clear, precise, and concise to be attainable within a specified period. The objective can have metrics such as the target market share, the target number of customers to be attained, usage rate, sales volumes, etc.

Apple Inc. was on the brink of bankruptcy when the company decided to create a brand image that all users of Apple were unique with their “Think Different” marketing campaign. It had a clearly defined goal to create a brand identity. This helped Apple make a step by step plan on how to achieve this goal

Current Business Marketing Positioning

Analyzing the current market position of the business is important to figure out how to position the business in the right place. Nike started to bring high-quality shoes at low costs to the American market. With the right brand positioning strategy, Nike was able to position itself as one of the top sports shoe brands in the world.

Market Research

The most important part of the marketing plan is market research. The market research gives insight into the current trends in the market, the needs of the customer, the industry sales volumes, etc. It also includes details such as the market size, structure of the industry, market share, market trends, competitor analysis, target market demographics, etc.

Outline Of The Business Target Market

Defining the target audience is important to creating appropriate marketing strategies. The outline consists of the demographics of the customer profile such as their gender, race, age, education, income level, etc. It also includes psychographic details, such as their interests, hobbies, etc.

The magazine “Seventeen” designed a customer persona in the 1950s based on the data they collected in a survey that they conducted in the mid-1940s. It helped them define their buyer persona as a girl by the name of Teena. Teena is a high school girl with a lot of insecurities. She doesn’t share these insecurities with her mother but rather shares her thoughts with her favorite magazine. This persona helped create the content and marketing for Seventeen in the 1950s.

Marketing Activities

The marketing plan must contain a list of all the marketing activities that the business needs to take to fulfill the marketing goals within the specified time.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to be Tracked

Key Performance Indicators are individual metrics that are used to track how effective the marketing strategy is. The KPIs help to establish short-term goals and help communicate the progress of the goal within the team. An example of a KPI for a website that sells products could be the “conversion rates”.

Competition

The market plan must contain details on who the competitors are, what products they are selling, what are their strategies, etc. It helps you analyze what competitive edge you have over the competitor and what strategies you can implement to gain more market share against heavy competition.

For example, some of the top brands in the mobile phone industry include Samsung, Apple, Nokia, Lenovo, etc. Each of these brands competes with each other to provide different value than their competitors to gain customer loyalty.

Marketing Strategies

The plan should contain details about all the marketing strategies that are to be implemented such as the advertising campaigns, marketing tools, and channels that are to be used, the type of content, and how frequent the content reaches the target audience, etc.

If both traditional and digital marketing is going to be used, the marketing plan must contain details of how the individual strategies are going to be executed.

Marketing Budget

Budgeting is very important to execute all the marketing activities properly. The marketing budget is the forecasted expense or budget for executing all of the marketing strategies in the marketing plan. The budget has to be allocated to the different strategies based on their needs and how effective they would be to meet the goals of the organization.

This can include the cost of promotional activities, the cost of marketing materials and advertising, and so on. The marketing budget decides the overall efficiency of the marketing strategy. An insufficient budget may not allow certain activities to be done effectively, and overbudgeting can lead to a waste of money in ineffective marketing strategies. So care must be taken to fix an appropriate budget that will gain profits.

Krispy Kreme does not spend much money on TV advertisements but rather focuses on spending money on training their employees on customer services since most of their marketing is done by word of mouth. Also, they spend more money on finding the right location for their stores and on good interiors with large windows that allows the customers to look at the doughnut-making process which serves as a marketing strategy on its own.

Roles And Responsibilities

All the activities in the marketing plan will be executed by a team of people. Hence all the roles must be clearly defined and the responsibilities must be assigned to the correct leader who will be in charge of the specific activity so that there will be no confusion in the future and all the activities can work out smoothly.

Monitoring And Performance Mechanism

You can figure out the effectiveness of a plan only if you know what to look for. A good marketing plan suggests ways to monitor and track the marketing performance and make changes on the go to achieve the fixed goal.

Some of the metrics used to analyze the performance can include the following:

Revenue Variance Analysis

This analysis helps to figure out if the revenue is increasing or decreasing and helps to find out the reason behind the deviation.

Market Share Analysis

This analysis helps to find out if the business has reached its desired market share in the industry.

Expense Analysis

It is an important metric to measure since it helps to figure out the ratio of expense to sales.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT analysis is important to know the internal strength and weaknesses of a business and the external opportunities and threats.

Strengths

These are the advantages that a business has in comparison with its competitors. It can include skills, expertise, and efficiencies that other businesses do not have.

Weaknesses

These are business activities that cause a disadvantage to the business and block its growth.

Some examples include lack of capital, machinery, manpower, etc.

Opportunities

These include opportunities that businesses can take to grow further in their industry. This includes entry into new markets, adopting digital marketing strategies, or following new trends.

Threats

These are external factors that pose a disadvantage to the business. This can be a new law, competitors, natural disasters, etc.

Example of a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis helps businesses design a marketing plan that makes use of the strengths and opportunities available to combat its weaknesses and threats.

An example SWOT analysis for Coca Cola can include the following:

Strength: powerful brand recognition and 43% share in the soft drink market

Weakness: difficult to keep up with the health industry and can’t replace sugar

Opportunities: very few competitors

Threats: other brands are creating healthier drinks

What’s The Difference Between A Marketing Strategy And A Marketing Plan?

A marketing strategy is often confused with a marketing plan, but both these terms indicate different things.

A marketing plan is a whole document that consists of different marketing strategies that the company can use to achieve its marketing goals. The plan will outline all of the marketing activities of the company on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.

The marketing strategy on the other hand outlines the overall value proposition. It includes the steps the business will have to take to achieve a particular mission or goal. It can include marketing campaigns, content, channels, and software required to keep track and achieve the goal.

For example, a company may want to launch a new product and wants its target audience to buy it. The marketing plan will involve several strategies to achieve this goal. The specific strategies can include posting reels on Instagram, creating a video series on YouTube, posting a weekly blog on WordPress, etc.

The effectiveness of the marketing strategies can be analyzed using different software and the strategies can be adjusted if they do not produce the desired results. The contents that do not work can be removed and more focus can be given to content that produces the desired result.

What Are Some Common Challenges Faced While Creating A Marketing Plan?

Like any other part of running a business, creating a marketing plan has its own set of challenges such as the following:

Identifying And Defining Your Target Audience

As a business owner, you need to be aware of who your target customers are. While you might have a vague idea of who they might be, while creating your marketing plan, you need to define your target audience with as many specific details as possible. This can prove to be quite challenging since you need to do a lot of research and create different sets of user personas for all the different types of customers.

Apple was previously focused only on consumer marketing. When it wanted to focus its products on business professionals, the new ad of Apple included an iPad 2 user looking into the device to check the stock options, investment portfolios, etc creating a new persona of a typical business professional.

Determining The Marketing Budget

Marketing involves a lot of money. Depending on the size of your business and the type of marketing strategies to be implemented, the marketing budget can vary. The most important part of figuring out the marketing budget for a marketing plan is to make sure that the budget is feasible for the company and also that it is appropriate for the type of marketing strategy used.

An overly budgeted marketing strategy that does not yield the desired results is a waste of time and money. It is also difficult to determine the exact money required to execute the marketing plan effectively.

Setting The Right Goals

A marketing plan should have the right goals that are realistic and achievable. Having an unrealistic goal is like setting up for failure even before the beginning.

Many people post a single content on social media platforms and expect to gain followers and engagement overnight. In reality, gaining followers and engagement through social media marketing requires consistency in publishing, creating unified content, and a lot of patience.

5 Tools To Create Better Marketing Plans

The following are some tools that you can use to create a better marketing plan for your business based on proper research and evidence:

Trello

Trello can be used to plan your content marketing strategy by mapping out all the stages of content marketing on a single-view dashboard. The team can work together to keep each other updated on the progress of the work in this software.

Evernote

Creating a marketing plan requires a lot of input and brainstorming ideas from all the members of your team. Evernote helps to collaborate all the notes in one place and save it so all of them can refer to them later and give their input on them.

Agorapulse

Agorapulse helps you schedule your content for social media platforms so that you don’t have to do it manually each time.

CoSchedule

CoSchedule is great for personalizing email marketing. You can enter details of your ideal buyer persona and the software will provide you with a customized email template to use for your email marketing strategy.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs helps you research to get valuable traffic from search engines. It helps you find details for a keyword you want to rank for and also creates great content that will gain a better ranking in the search engine.

Conclusion

A marketing plan is a foundation that businesses use to build up their marketing activities and strategies. A clearly defined marketing plan helps to save a lot of time and money and create effective means to grow a business by reaching the right target audience at the right time with the right products and services.

Without a proper marketing plan, a business may not even be able to thrive to the maximum potential that it should, and hence every business needs to design a precise marketing plan that is unique to the needs and goals of the business.

If your business is crunched on time or needs an expert set of hands to launch high-performing marketing ads at low costs, download Zocket today.

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