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Creating a marketing plan can be the difference between growing your business fast and letting it wither away in an attempt at success.
It might sound a bit tedious to plan out your strategy in advance, but it can help you better understand how to make your customers happy, ultimately leading to bigger profits and more growth.
A marketing plan is just as important as a business plan, so we wouldn’t advise skipping this crucial step as you develop your brand.
If you’re just starting out, we’re sorry to say that there’s no such thing as a standard marketing plan template, but there are several vital ingredients involved in creating a successful marketing strategy.
We’ll explore seven of these elements that we find the most critical and delve into why we picked each of them in more detail.
But first, let’s talk about what a marketing plan even is and why it is important.
Marketing Plans 101
In simple terms, a marketing plan is a roadmap to creating and implementing your marketing strategy.
If you have a website, you probably know that the custom web design company you hired to build it made a rough outline first. That’s because, just like marketing, web development has grown in complexity over the last couple of decades.
Therefore, marketing plans have also become more complex, as you’re expected to focus on an increasing number of avenues to address your customers.
There are several questions you should try to address in your marketing plan:
- What is your business going to offer its customers?
- What is your target demographic?
- Why would your customers buy your product and not that of the competition?
- How can you use marketing messages to reach prospects?
- Which marketing channels work best with your business model?
- What are your marketing goals, both short-term and long-term?
- What indicators will you use to measure your strategy’s success?
These questions will help you create a marketing plan that can outline your strategy’s structure, helping you achieve your goals. Once your marketing plan is written, you can revise it as often as you need to, responding to new challenges and exploring new mediums.
A marketing plan should never remain static. Instead, it should grow and evolve with your company.
Why Is a Marketing Plan Important?
Marketing is a complex subject. There are many ways you might choose to approach your prospects, and failing to develop a proper strategy can lead to mixed results.
Let’s say you decided to market your business on social media, and you picked a social media platform on a whim. Let’s also say that that social network is Instagram.
You’ve heard that Instagram can be an excellent platform for reaching customers that belong to your demographic, so you open an Instagram Business account and start collecting followers. But, in a few months, you realize that none of your Instagram followers are getting converted into customers.
Why is this happening? If you had created a marketing plan, you might have some idea, but without an original strategy, there’s nothing to revisit to check where it all went wrong. To make things worse, you’re back at square one — you need a marketing plan.
A good marketing plan is also critical for your bottom line. You can look at the liquid capital you have available and decide how much money you can afford to funnel into your marketing efforts. In time, you’ll be able to track how much money you’ve been spending on marketing and calculate your ROI for each marketing strategy and channel.
Critical Elements of a Marketing Plan
If you’re serious about building a business, it is time to learn what elements your marketing plan needs and how to execute each of those elements with success. Let’s get started!
1. Listing Your Goals
Even though you won’t usually list your goals at the beginning of your marketing plan, they’re the best place to start because they can be used to steer all the other parts of the plan accordingly. It’s simple — if you don’t know what your goals are, you can’t really find success no matter what you’re doing.
Goals will help you drive your company forward and light the way to your destination, both in terms of marketing and business in general.
Your marketing plan goals should obviously relate to marketing. So, what should you include?
An excellent place to start is setting a return of investment goal. Track the revenue-to-cost ratio of your marketing efforts and try to keep it at least 5:1. If you can go as high as 10:1, you’ll be beating most of your competition.
Next, think about brand awareness. Blogging, email marketing, social media marketing, and other channels should help make your audience more aware of your brand. It might be difficult to track this using a specific metric, so you could create goals for each social network.
2. Doing the Research
Research is certainly not the most exciting part of starting a business, but it is crucial if you want the best results. Having as much knowledge as possible about your competitors and your industry as a whole could provide a critical edge.
Aside from the competition, you should focus on internal obstacles, as well as your target demographics. These are all data points you can use to guide your marketing strategy.
Remember to remain objective in your research and fill your marketing plan with facts, no matter how much you might not enjoy them. It is better to know what obstacles await you and what opportunities you can take advantage of instead of just winging it.
3. Describing Your Product/Service
You should carefully describe your products or services in your marketing plan, thinking of ways to make them appealing to your prospects. Think of this as a trial run for when the time comes to start writing actual marketing copy.
What is it that makes your product unique and separates it from the rest? How can you leverage its benefits to attract more customers?
Let’s say that you specialize in installing solar panels. You’re likely hoping to attract eco-conscious homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint and the cost of their electric bills.
It would be best to include these details in the description of the solar panels. Use examples of concrete benefits your prospects could enjoy if they choose to purchase panels from you and have you install them.
4. Defining the KPIs
The next thing we should talk about is your KPIs (key performance indicators) and how you will measure them.
If you’re going to have a marketing strategy, you’ll need KPIs. These are meant to measure your success in achieving the goals you set out to accomplish in the first step of this guide.
Hopefully, by this point, you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, so it’s time to translate those goals into metrics you can measure.
Let’s say your goal was to increase your Instagram followers by 30 percent in three months. That goal is a KPI in its own right. You’ll measure it by keeping track of your Instagram followers over the next three months.
To ensure the achievement of this goal, you’ll improve the quality of your Instagram content, get in touch with influencers, do paid promotions, etc.
This is an example of a very simple KPI, but each key performance indicator should have a way to be measured. These can include tracking email subscribers, bounce rates, website traffic, and so on.
5. Creating a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Considering it is one of the most straightforward marketing concepts, the USP is misunderstood surprisingly often. It is defined as the factor of consideration a seller presents as the most prominent reason one product or service is different from and better than another.
In other words, the USP is what makes your product special and separates it from the rest.
If you’ve followed this guide closely, you’ve already performed an extensive analysis of your competition. Now it’s time to go back to that spreadsheet and look for whatever your competitors’ products have in common, but yours does not.
What can you offer your prospects that your competition can’t? As long as it is appealing to your established buyer personas, that should be your USP.
6. Produce Content for Each Stage on the Buyer’s Journey
We’ve come to one of the most important elements of a marketing plan — content. The first step to creating content is, of course, planning it. It would be best to create an editorial calendar within your marketing plan describing where, when, and what you will post.
Think about what type of content you’ll post on each medium, and try to plan your content calendar at least a couple of months in advance. You should include the topic and preferably a rough outline of each piece of content and where it will be published.
Each piece should target customers in a different stage of the buying cycle.
In this stage, you’ll be looking to set yourself up as an authority within the niche and convince your prospects that you have the information they are looking for.
Your content targeted at this stage of the buyer’s journey should serve to educate rather than sell. Your target audience should think of you as a trusted friend who has their best interests at heart.
Listicles and how-to guides (much like this one) are excellent formats for this stage. In email newsletters, customers in the awareness stage should get educational messages and some light sales pitches.
Now that you have your prospects’ attention, you’ll want to push the throttle a bit when it comes to sales pitches. Your emails to these customers should focus on presenting specific benefits of your products and services.
In terms of long-form content, you might want to include information on your unique selling proposition, as well as links leading customers to where they can learn more and complete a purchase. Make sure your CTAs are compelling enough to get readers to take action.
When you acquire a new customer, make sure to send them a thank-you email, or think of another way to make them feel special that is more appropriate to your situation.
The content you present to your converted customers should underscore the quality of your products and the benefits they are gleaning from them.
Acquiring new customers is difficult enough, but retaining them is a whole new challenge. Make sure to keep the line of communication open with your existing customers to let them know about any updates they might be interested in, such as new product releases, location changes, etc.
7. Lay Out a Plan of Distribution
Finally, your marketing plan should include all the ways in which you plan to distribute your marketing messages. There are several options available in this regard, but they may not all fit with your structure and business plan. The channels you’ll have at your disposal are the following:
- Paid ads — Taking out paid advertisements in magazines, search engines, or social networking platforms can help drive sales. However, you’ll need to make sure that they fit your budget. If you’re tight on funds, consider a retargeting campaign. This way, you’ll be showing ads to people who are already familiar with your brand, which has been shown to benefit conversions.
- Social media — We already mentioned social media in the context of paid ads, but there’s another way you can use social media to promote your brand. You can publish original content as well as marketing messages and announcements about your products. Pretty much any social media platform can work well if used correctly, but we suggest starting with the big ones like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Email — Having an email list of qualified leads is always a good idea. These prospects, or former customers, might appreciate content that informs, entertains, and educates. Make sure to include persuasive CTAs in your emails, with links to your sales pages or contact information.
- Blogging — Writing a blog on your website can help you reach more people with your message, as well as provide a massive boost to your SEO efforts. Blog posts should mostly cover educational and informative content, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t end each post with a clear and compelling CTA that encourages the reader to buy your products.
Costly Digital Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2022
Indeed, running digital marketing campaigns is one of the best ways of increasing organic traffic to your website and sales. Here are the costly digital marketing mistakes that you should avoid at all costs.
Poor Logo Design
As the business grows, you may find it necessary to change the business logo to appeal to the target customers. While that’s possible, the new logo can compromise your reputation if you don’t properly plan for the process.
It is important to research widely and consult experts before changing the logo to avoid hurting your brand awareness efforts.
In 2014, Hershey decided to change the logo, and the impact was massive. Unfortunately, most customers felt that the logo wasn’t suitable for the business due to its look. The negative responses didn’t significantly impact sales since the company has a global customer base.
However, the impact would be massive if the company made the mistake during its initial stages.
Learn from their mistake by ensuring that you get feedback from people who are not in your company before implementing the changes. Be open to new ideas and involve all departments to ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
- Sending Controversial Tweets
Twitter is one of the large social media networking sites used by brands to communicate with customers. You stand to reap huge profits if marketing videos and tweets posted on this platform go viral.
However, if the tweet is controversial or offensive to some target audience, expect a backlash. Make sure that you consider what the customers are going through when writing tweets. For instance, if your target customers are in countries expected to vote in new leaders in the coming months, make sure that the tweets are non-political.
Concisely, you should avoid tweets that touch on politics, religion, personal beliefs, and other things that go against societal norms. Yes, it may seem like a good idea to post humorous tweets to engage with the customers, but you should be careful not to go overboard.
- Ignoring Customer Feedback
As digital marketers, we expect and yearn to get positive feedback from customers and audience. However, that’s not possible. At some point, you will get negative feedback about the product or service that you market.
Dissatisfied customers can easily ruin your reputation by posting a negative review with the surge in social media networks. People are naturally attracted to posts on social media that are different.
The negative reviews won’t go unnoticed and may wreak havoc on your business if you don’t respond to them professionally. The same applies to undesirable feedback posted on business directories such as Yelp.
Desist from being defensive when responding to the comments. Instead, it would be best if you strived to understand the main cause of the problem and provide an amicable solution. For example, if the product shipped was faulty, offer the customer another one for free.
Such a response shows other customers that you care and are not just interested in making profits. More importantly, you shouldn’t let the negative reviews remain unanswered for more than one day.
Also, you should not delete the comments – some of the customers anticipated you would do so and took a screenshot. They won’t hesitate to post the screenshots with a nasty caption to bury your head in the sand.
The right thing to do is respond to the negative reviews promptly and on the platform that the reviewer posted. Once the issue is resolved, request the reviewer update the comment, not delete it.
It’s not only positive feedback that is considered user-generated content. Negative reviews are also UGC and can positively or negatively impact your business – it all depends on how you respond to them.
- Promising Something That You Can’t Deliver
The fast-paced digital marketing industry sometimes leaves marketers with no option but to hype their products and services to stand out. Unfortunately, such actions only offer temporary results if you don’t keep your word.
Soon, more customers will get wind that the product does not do what you highlighted in the description, thereby ruining the good reputation you have worked so hard to create.
Check the product details and description to weed out anything off to protect your credibility in the market. You definitely don’t want to recall products from the market, so make sure that every product conforms to the stipulated quality standards before it’s shipped to customers.
Remember, the customers rely on the information you post on your website and the ads you distribute on platforms such as social media to make buying decisions. Please don’t make them feel like your brand tried to swindle them off their hard-earned money by promising something you know the product can’t deliver.
- Shifting the Blame to Customers
As a digital marketer, you will be dealing with different clients whose needs and expectations from your brand varies. It’s easy to think that a dissatisfied customer who took time out of their busy schedule to send you an email or call the support team is overreacting.
The good old mantra “the customer is always right” still applies in the modern world of ecommerce. Regardless of the magnitude of the problem, you need to let the customer know that their expectations are right.
However, that doesn’t mean that you should let people take advantage of your brand to get freebies and discounts in the name of diffusing the initial negative experience. Back to our tip on responding to negative online reviews, listen carefully to the complaint, and provide an amicable solution.
Concisely, you should be reasonable, professional, and calm as you try to solve the problem. Otherwise, the customer can compromise your credibility in just one click, and it may take months to regain new customers or reattract those who ditch your brand and opt for your competitors.
- Neglecting Mobile Users
60% of all online searches are done through a mobile device. When creating a digital marketing campaign, you shouldn’t assume that all the customers will view the ads or visit the website on their desktop.
If you do, you will miss out on thousands of qualified leads who would have converted if the ads were visible on their smartphones or tablets.
Ensure that all elements of your digital marketing campaign are responsive to profit from the ever-increasing number of mobile users. The visuals should look great regardless of the device used by the customers. In addition, the checkout process should be streamlined to offer an impressive shopping experience to both desktop and mobile users.
A recent poll found that 50% of online customers don’t purchase products or seek service from companies that don’t have a mobile website. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on another website, though; instead, invest in a responsive website design.
Hire a reputable web design agency to make your website mobile-friendly without charging you an arm and a leg. Ensure that you inform the designers of your goals and objectives to help them create the most suitable web design template. Set milestones to help you monitor progress and get value for money.
- Not Segmenting Your Customers
Market research will help you to know the target customers. The findings will help you know which products or services you should offer to generate sales and get a firm footing in the competitive industry.
However, you need to go the extra mile and group the customers based on different factors such as income, profession, age, religion, and position in the sales funnel. Once you have segmented them, create custom digital marketing campaigns for each group.
For example, customers who recently abandoned carts should not be served the same ads you use to grasp the attention of new customers. Instead, you should create ads and content that inspires them to visit your website again to complete the purchase.
In a nutshell, segmenting your customers will help you get more ROI from your digital marketing campaigns. It will also save you time and money that you would have spent targeting people who are probably not interested in your brand.
The same case applies to email marketing. Gone are the days you would blast everyone on the mailing list with the same email. If you do so, rest assured that most of the recipients won’t bother to read the email. They may also opt to mark the email as spam.
Avoid such outcomes by personalising your emails and sending custom messages to each group. Regardless of the digital marketing strategy, you should personalise the marketing copy.
- Running Social Media Marketing Campaigns with No Clear Goals
Globally, there are more than 3.6 billion social media users, and it’s expected that by 2025, the number will rise to 4.41 billion.
Social media marketing will enable you to expand your customer base and generate more sales. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are the most powerful platforms for marketing, but you shouldn’t ignore other platforms such as Pinterest and Twitter. New platforms such as TikTok are also gaining ground fast and should be part of your campaign.
However, some brands run social media campaigns on the mentioned platforms with no clear goals. What do you want to achieve from the campaign? This is the number one question that you should ask yourself.
The goals should be measurable and realistic. Here are five examples of social media marketing goals.
- To increase website visits by 56% in the next three months
- To increase sales by 33% in two months
- To increase the number of mentions by 80%
- To increase newsletter subscriptions by 73%
- To increase engagement by 43%
Notice that each goal has a measurable percentage and timeframe. If you don’t achieve the goal set in that period, you should go back to the drawing board and develop better ways of communicating with your customers.
Otherwise, if you don’t have clear goals, you won’t succeed in catapulting your online business to the next level of success.
More importantly, you need to keep tabs on social media marketing trends. Take advantage of ethical trends and have the potential to increase your brand’s visibility online. Yes, not all trends are suitable for your brand. Be choosy, consult widely, and check the results achieved by businesses that embrace them to know if you should follow suit.
Here’s a video of how to set social media marketing goals (Step by Step)!
- Focussing Primarily on Generating Traffic
When you struggle to get sales, it’s normal to feel like you are putting enough effort to get more traffic to your website and social media pages. One mistake that digital marketers commonly make when faced with this problem is focusing all their resources and energies on increasing traffic.
Unknown to them is that not getting enough traffic may not cause low sales. More often than not, low sales result from a disconnect between the brand and the target customers. Reimagine your content marketing strategies to create content that resonates with your audience.
It’s also important to note that you will still not get sales if the people who visit your website are not interested in your brand. The website traffic is unqualified or doesn’t match your target audience.
Another reason for low sales is a poorly designed website. Google uses user experience as a ranking factor. A high bounce rate signals that your website does not appeal to visitors. As a result, its ranking will drop.
Therefore, take an in-depth look at every facet of your digital marketing campaign to pinpoint the root cause of the problem. Don’t just focus on getting more people to visit your website. There are plenty of free and premium website audit tools that you can use to gauge the health of your website and digital marketing campaigns.
Use the reports they generate to make the right decisions and monitor performance after implementing changes on the website.
For example, if you run multiple marketing campaigns on Facebook and Instagram, evaluate the engagement levels on each platform to know which form of content appeals to the customers. Also, identify platforms that a majority of the customers frequent and focus more on them.