You work in marketing or you run a business. You’ve got a brand to build. A story to tell.
But who are you? What do you want? And who do you want to want what you’ve got?
You need a marketing plan that lays it out all nice and neat-like. An actual plan. Not a dart throw or “the next best thing.”
Without a proper marketing plan, you’ll waste time and money on ads or commercials or campaigns that lack focus. And without a clear-cut and consistent message that drives your purpose, you’re just grasping at straws.
In short, not having a marketing plan is bad business. So yeah, you need a marketing plan.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing it yourself or hiring someone, like us, to write it for you, here are 10 things to expect from your marketing plan.
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This’ll be the first part of your marketing plan, but it should be the last thing you actually write. Why? Because you need to have a plan in place before you can summarize it.
In the executive summary, explain everything your marketing plan includes in the simplest terms. Keep it short and to the point. It’s called an “executive” summary because it’s meant to summarize the entire document so busy executives can breeze through the high points right off the top.
Your executive summary doesn’t need to turn the world upside down. It just needs to be a clear and concise description of your mission, position, strategy, messaging, goals, targets, and metrics. Just like that. Easy peasy.
2. MISSION STATEMENT
Your mission statement is what your business does right now at this very moment. Pick three or four of your core values and work those into your mission statement. Use active verbs. It can be one long sentence or several separate statements. For example:
- Hire casual, fun-loving, creative thinkers
- Build mutually beneficial relationships with local businesses
- Deliver high-quality creative services to our community
3. POSITIONING STATEMENT
Here’s where you want to identify your place in the market and set yourself apart from your competition. Is your product fast and cheap? High-end? Exclusive? What do you offer that nobody else does?
Conduct a SWOT analysis for your business (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), and then define your positioning form there. Your positioning statement should help you reinforce or overcome those key points.
- The Quilted Squirrel is a small agency with big talent. Nimble enough for tight turnarounds but big enough for large-scale productions, TQS is built for effective marketing in Buffalo, New York.
4. MARKETING STRATEGY
Don’t confuse strategy with tactics.
Strategy comes first and then sets the framework for tactics.
Tactics are the things you do to execute your strategy.
Think of it this way: If your strategy is to make a million dollars, your tactics are the actions you put in place to make that million dollars. To use the TQS model as an example, some of our strategies might be:
- Position TQS as a nimble, high-end creative services agency
- Demonstrate our experience in integrated marketing communications
- Communicate the value of marketing planning and creative executions
Don’t confuse goals with strategies, either. Goals tend to be more numbers-focused (and campaign-specific). Strategies are more general, overarching efforts. Strategies ask, “What do we want people to think?”
While people often confuse marketing strategy with marketing goals or positioning, there are subtle nuances between them. But when you define them correctly, each one funnels cleanly to the next.
5. KEY MESSAGING
Are you ready to spice up your verbiage? No? Good, because now’s not the time. Instead, summarize the main points of your brand, product, or service. What basic information do you want people to know?
Similar to your executive summary, these messages will be straight and to the point so you—and your audience—know what you’re working with. It’ll also help your brand stay consistent. Mix in your differentiators where you can.
- TQS offers the most unique perspectives and valuable creative offerings
- TQS is a team of casual, fun-loving, creative thinkers
- TQS has the skills and experience to deliver the most effective marketing
- TQS delivers digital ads, builds websites, produces videos
6. GOALS & OBJECTIVES
Don’t have any specific goals in mind? No numbers to reach? No problem. Use your campaign to set benchmarks and then measure future campaigns against those numbers and data. Identify what you want your marketing initiative to achieve, whether it’s clicks or dollars or contacts. Then your tactics will bring ’em home.
- Develop a marketing plan: objectives, budgets, alignment with company goals
- Establish benchmarks and success measures to track marketing effectiveness
- Create a brand foundation: key positioning, messaging, and audiences
- Boost visibility and brand awareness with target audiences
- Build value and brand affinity with practical advice and humorous content
- Increase web traffic with a specific focus on web development
7. STRATEGIC TARGETS
Identify your base audience by industry. Who do you hope to serve? For example:
- Schools, colleges, and universities
- Construction and home improvement businesses
- Energy companies
- Small and startup businesses
8. AUDIENCE PERSONAS
What sort of people will invest in your product or services? This isn’t about stereotypes—it’s about demographics. Interestingly, these may overlap. Give each member of your target audience a name, age, occupation, interests, habits, and so on.
The objective here is to get into the heads and hearts of your target audience. This is arguably the most fun and creative part of the marketing plan process. For example, a higher ed marketing client might look like this:
- Denise Richards
- 44-year-old female
- Director of Admissions
- Holds an MBA
- Married to her husband, Steve
- Parent of two children (12 and 16)
- Drives a Prius
- Listens to NPR in the car
- Watches JEOPARDY! on DVR
- Enjoys crossword puzzles
Repeat for different clients and create different personas as necessary.
9. CREATIVE MESSAGING STRATEGY
It’s time to find your voice. What does that mean? We’ll have a full-on, in-depth conversation about that in our next blog. For now, use this opportunity to establish characteristics that shape the personality of your brand.
Pro tip: If part of your brand means being honest or trustworthy, don’t ever say that you are “honest” or “trustworthy” verbatim. Instead, tell your story in a way that demonstrates the ways in which you are both honest and trustworthy.
Are you blue-collar? Highbrow? Boisterous? Show us, but never tell us. And remember: Sometimes saying what you aren’t is just as effective as saying as what you are. For example:
- TQS does a lot of different things and a lot of things differently
- TQS is the biggest little agency in Buffalo
- TQS is not a mob of pretentious turtlenecks
10. MEASUREMENT & METRICS
Your statements and strategies are set. Your goals and objectives are in the books. Your targets are dialed in. But some key questions remain:
- How will you measure your marketing plan?
- How can you tell if it was a success?
- What will you do with the data?
- Is each tactic measurable? Does it matter if they’re not?
Earlier we said that a TQS goal was to “increase web traffic with a specific focus on web development.” If a tactic to accomplish that goal was to deploy an aggressive social media marketing plan, we would want to measure social data, such as clicks, impressions, conversions, and more.
Marketing is hard, even for professionals like us. But with the right people on your team, you can write a marketing plan that sets you up for all the fun stuff, like pinpointing tactics and producing creative.
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