For startups, solo-preneurs and small businesses, creating a marketing plan can be overwhelming- and it easily slips to the bottom of the planning list. Yet most of your success is going to rest on your marketing, and trying to surge ahead without a fixed plan is an easy way to waste money, reduce ROI and see no return for your diligent but wasted efforts. Fortunately, the Zebra 360 Digital Marketing team are here to help you get to grips with the basics of a solid marketing plan that will make marketing simpler, easier and more effective for your business- right now.

Do I really need a marketing plan?

Yes, you really do! Procrastination may feel good, but it’s time to get down to the important things in business. Still not feeling it? Try these compelling points, and you’ll soon see why it’s time to start developing your marketing plan yesterday already.

1.   It’s concrete

Measurable goals have become a cliche for a reason. Vague ‘goals’ like ‘sell more’ aren’t even goals. They’re dreams. Dreams that will never see reality if you don’t nail down some tangible targets to get there.

2.   It makes you smarter

Thinking about your customers, product and marketing makes you a smarter business person. It lets you refine what you’re doing, and focus on the right things.

3.   It’s motivating

Goals drive smart movement, and smart movement feels good. We derive pleasure from meeting goals, and our brains are hard-wired to do it.

4.   Plans keep you on track

Marketing is not the place to be a ‘free spirit’. We only have so many hours in a day, and the important things need to get done. With a plan, gone is the nebulous hoping you’re getting it right- you know what to do and how important it is at every turn.

5.   Plans keep people on the same page

Chances are you aren’t alone out there. A solid marketing plan makes sure everyone on the team is working to the same goal, the same way. Consistency is key to growth, and a plan helps keep everyone there.

6.   You’ll spend less, better

Budgets are finite. You need to spend them smartly. Knowing your marketing priorities means you can spend on hard data, not a whim, and see the return too. You’ll also have measurable benchmarks to judge efforts against, and know if they’re worth pushing.

7.   You’ll always be proactive

Reactivity in business sucks. That’s how trends escape you and opportunities pass. Avoid the small business reactivity trap, and use your plan to stay ahead of the game

8.   Keep it real

Marketing is what will finance your business going forward. It’s what’s going to make your goals a reality. Without a plan, you may be able to tell yourself you’re working towards those objectives, but chances are you’re losing the plot. With a solid plan at hand, you can make sure you’re running coordinated and staying on track.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Each and every one of these reasons to have a marketing plan matter. There’s two huge reasons still to consider, though, and they’re most important of all. Firstly, marketing will make you money. If you’re not spending as little as possible on making as much as possible, you’re defeating yourself. Your plan is key to making that scenario happen smoothly and without wastage. Lastly, customer service is key to a sustained, thriving business…and with a good marketing plan, you’ll have all the data and insight into your consumers you need to keep them happy and coming back time and again.

So, how do I create my plan?

Creating a marketing plan may be essential, but we’re sure it can seem overwhelming. It isn’t as formidable as you may believe, however. Let’s take a closer look.

1.   Get SMART and compelling

Firstly, we can’t make the plan without an idea of what it’s meant to do. That doesn’t mean nebulous stuff like ‘bring in profit’. It’s time to set a proper goal. Specific profits? Boosted customers? You need concrete ‘big’ goals that match up with the SMART guidelines (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-constrained). Knowing this ‘destination’ will drive all your following efforts, so spend time on it.

Now, it’s on to the research and data. Get the facts and cold statistics. Who is your market? How big? Where are they? What do they like? Get to know your target demographic thoroughly, and outside the scope of your product, too. How do they make money? What worries and interests them? When are they online? How do they play? This will help you speak to them more authentically.

While you’re at it, get some competitor data going too, so you know your benchmarks and what they’re doing, too. But, try not to be too boring. This is an excellent opportunity to tell a compelling story that will speak to your clients. Shape a central message from this data that’s creative, engaging and will speak to your audience

2.   Taking the plan to the right places

Once you have this data, you can select your marketing channels to best entice them. This will look different for every business, but you want a well-rounded stable of relevant platforms to work on, without stretching yourself too thin in the process.

Content is, of course, the key to this strategy. Authentic content that aligns with your unique brand story is key. Content made ‘for its own sake’ will get you nowhere. Make sure instead that you’re building a connected marketing web which will add value back to your business.

Marketing is a little art, a little science… but one thing is clear. To thrive in a more modern marketing space, you need to focus on telling your story in a way that resonates with customers. Odd as it may be to think, if you’re only focusing on the ‘hard sell’ of your products or services, your marketing is fated to flop.

3.   Groundwork starts at home

Marketing will also require a budget, so it’s time to carve it out. Whether you go all-in with PPC ads and Facebook, or simply on crafting content, know what you can spend. If you aren’t marketing, your business is dead in the water, so it’s worth a little spend to reap the rewards.

Now it’s time to think of yourself a little. Where are your strengths here? You likely can’t do it all, so assemble a team whose strengths complement the plan- including the technical expertise and know-how. You don’t have to- and shouldn’t – try to do this all alone. When you have a solid team with different strengths, you’re ready to start moving your marketing forward in a sensible, directed way. Don’t forget to include employee voices in this team, either. They are the forward face of your business, and a key part of the marketing that will get you to your goals.

With a smart, clear marketing plan under your belt, you’ll be able to focus your advertising and marketing efforts in a way that will boost your ROI and ensure you meet your goals the best way possible. Keen to get started today? Why not bring Zebra 360 Digital Marketing Agency into your team, and let us leverage our years of experience in the marketing world to help you meet (and surpass) your goals today?