Can you ever think about the growth and sustainability of a business without marketing? You can’t.
Marketing is one of the most crucial lifelines of a business.
While you’re thinking of marketing, you must have a solid plan to execute the same.
Without a clearly defined plan document, you can’t successfully run your marketing campaign. As a result, you can’t reach your customer, and your business can fail. It is the reason that you should have an effective marketing plan while operating a business or working for it as a marketing professional.
The most important question is – how to write a marketing plan for your business? Simultaneously, the importance is more on how to write a digital marketing plan. Everything is digital, and you can’t ignore it.
Before proceeding further in guiding you in preparing the most effective plan for your digital marketing strategies, let me tell the basics of marketing, and obviously, of digital marketing. You might be well-learned in these fundamentals. But I’ve many readers who are just beginning. I’m taking care of both – advanced learners and beginners. You may skip the foundation section and jump to the central part if you wish.
What is Marketing?
In simple language, marketing is a part of management with a set of activities that help you in reaching your target customer and promoting your products or services. Marketing helps to gain more sales. Marketing activities boost sales, but those are not directly involved in sales. For example – you can get more customers at your stores through marketing, but making a sale will depend upon many factors. Those are, for instance, your product quality, pricing policy, and the ability of the sales personnel. promote
You may ask – what is digital marketing, and is it different from a total concept of marketing?
Digital marketing refers to the set of marketing activities through digital media and devices. Your website, search engines like Google, video channels like YouTube, social media like Facebook, and any other channel that you can connect with an internet connection are examples of digital media. The devices are desktop or laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, and similar types of gadgets.
Steps to Follow in Digital Marketing
Fundamentally, the processes involved in digital marketing aren’t different from the total concept of marketing. Whether it’s traditional marketing or a digital one, it involves the same or similar steps. It’s a little bit of a complex task. However, you can make it easier by knowing what you do require and what you are going to do for what effect. I’m simplifying the processes:
- Market research and analysis
- Business plan preparation
- Marketing research and analysis
- Strategic marketing plan preparation
- Pilot project or A/B testing of the strategy
- Periodical reviews and adjustments
While you’re stepping towards digital marketing activities, be sure that you have completed the first two out of the above nine steps and the reports/documents are available to you. Depending upon the size and complexity of the business, you may not require the complete paper; but, you should have at least the executive summaries of both with you. If your enterprise hasn’t completed the steps, suggest the management to fulfill the requirements so that you can successfully proceed further. If you’re the owner of the business, be serious about fulfilling the above two steps so that you can move towards success in your entrepreneurship.
Market Research Report
A market research report is a primary requirement before starting a business. There is hardly any successful business that hadn’t conducted any survey and research before its establishment. Assuming that you have a market research report, I suggest you carefully read the chapters that are directly or indirectly related to your marketing activities. Also, read the executive summary of the whole writing. If you don’t have a running business, e.g., your business is in the planning phase; you must conduct systematic research before establishing the same. You may wonder how can you conduct market research and what will be the composition therein. Do not worried; I’ll tell you everything.
Market research is a systematic process of knowing the market environment, potential customers, and competition. It will not only help you in estimating the feasibility of your business, growth, sustainability, budgetary, and requirement of resources but also in outlining your business and marketing plan.
Market research is a bit complex aspect. It requires a trained and experienced professional with an academic affinity to conduct the job. Hence, I suggest you hire a professional or a team to execute the same for you.
A business plan is a roadmap that guides you in achieving your goal. It’s a formally written document that highlights the managerial, marketing, financial, and operational aspects of your business. To achieve sure success, you definitely should have a business plan.
If you have a clearly defined business plan that consists of all essential aspects, you do not need to prepare a separate marketing plan. Instead, you should thoroughly go through the existing strategy and update the marketing aspects as required. But there might be possible that your business doesn’t have a pre-drafted business plan. The second possibility may be, although you possess a business plan, the marketing aspect therein isn’t adequate for a full-fledged marketing strategy, or that’s not adequately and systematically designed. The third possibility is that it may be outdated. In such cases, you have to prepare an effective marketing plan so that you can successfully execute your marketing campaign.
Now, let’s discuss the primary aspect, that is, how to write the most effective and complete strategic digital marketing plan for your business.
Before sitting to write the strategic marketing plan, make sure that you have a marketing research report, if you don’t possess the same, take time to conduct a thorough marketing research report.
How to Conduct Marketing Research
The term ‘marketing research’ can be confused with the term ‘market research’. Sadly enough, many marketing professionals use the market research report for marketing strategies and that’s the primary reason why they fail. Although both market research and marketing research reports share some common aspects, they can’t be interchangeably used. Marketing research is, in fact, an extension of market research that contains more details of each aspect. Furthermore, marketing research evaluates the company’s present stand in the market and strategically investigates the buying personas’ choices and competitors’ weaknesses and strengths.
In a single sentence, marketing research can be defined as the systematic investigation of the buying person, competitors, market segments, and demand gaps.
How to write a strategic marketing plan
Assuming that you have all the necessary arrangements as discussed above, I’m guiding you in preparing an effective marketing plan.
Be ensured that everything should be in a written format. Additionally, you should have adequate scopes for editing and rewriting. Instead of using pen and paper, it’s better to use a PC that has a word processing program like Word, a spreadsheet program like Excel, and a presentation program like PowerPoint.
Now carefully follow the steps:
- Step 1: Identify the marketing goals
- Step 2: Identify your unique sales point/position (USP)
- Step 3: Identify your buying personas
- Step 4: Identify your competitors
- Step 5: Finalize the platforms
- Step 6: Set budget
- Step 7: Consider the marketing mix
- Step 8: Run a test campaign
- Step 9: Fine-tune the strategy
Step 1: Identify Your Marketing Goal
Be crystal clear about what your targets to achieve through the particular marketing campaign. Never simplify it as getting more revenue. Although generating revenue is the prime concern of a business, while it’s about marketing, you might have many other goals to achieve. Those can be –
- Promoting a brand
- Creating awareness about a product or service
- Entering a new segment of the market
- Getting more leads at the lowest cost etc.
While setting your goals, you should follow the SMART method. It’s as follow:
- S – Specific: Be specific on what you need to achieve. Never mix many goals altogether.
- M – Measurable: Be ensured that you can quantitatively measure the effects of your campaign.
- A – Achievable: While specifying or settings your goals, evaluate whether you can achieve the same within your capacity, and allocated budget.
- R – Relevant: Set those goals to finally achieve those that are relevant to your business growth and ROI.
- T – Time-bound: You need to achieve a certain goal in a specific period. For example within six months or a year.
‘Practicability’ is the thumb rule while setting the goals. Your marketing research report will tell you whether your goals are practicable and SMART or not.
Step 2: Identify Your Unique Sales Position/Point (USP)
USB refers to the aspect of your products/services that why people will purchase and for what cost. It’s the position of your products/services in the entire market context. Quality, pricing modes, offers, competition, demand gaps, market environment, and requirements or pain-points of the potential customers, all together position a product or service in the market.
You should have adequate research-based data and an analytical report about the position of your product or services in marketing. While including the same in the marketing plan document, you need to position the product/service on a numerical scale. For example, seven on a ten-point scale. While identifying the position, you need to have access to the statistical data from all aspects.
Step 3: Identify Your Buying Personas
Your buying personas are your existing and potential customer to who you want to sell a product or service. Everyone in a community or a geographical territory mightn’t be your buying personas. For example, a beauty product for a woman can be sold out to females in a certain age group having specific economic and cultural status leaving in certain locations. While you’re going to identify your buying personas, you need to specify them based on your business goals, demographic or socioeconomic factors, and behavioral patterns. The steps you need to follow while identifying your buying personas are –
- Specify the locations where you can sell your products or where your buying personas are living.
- Specify the demographic features, such as,
- marital status
- Earning level
- Cultural affiliation, etc.
- Specify the behavioral patterns, such as,
- Cultural affinity
- Purchase habit
- Overall online activities
- Online purchase activities
- Interest in products/services/media etc.
Step 4: Identify Your Competitors
To specify your competitors, you should have adequate research-based data about them. Based on the data, you have to make numerous tables in your plan documents as follows:
- Detailed data of each competitor, such as,
- Year of establishment
- Type of the business (such as proprietorship, partnership, private limited company, etc.)
- Size of the business (such as number of employees or annual turnover)
- Market locations and size
- Production capacity
- Quality of the products/services (In the scale of approved standard)
- Pricing of the products/services
- Schemes, offers, etc.
- Customer satisfaction
- Ability to penetrate new market
- Marketing strategy and budget
- SWOT analysis of each competitor based on data
- Comparison of SWOT analysis in tabular form
Step 5: Finalizing the Platforms and Media of Marketing
Based on your goals, characteristics of your buying personas, and their activities on online platforms, SWOT of your competitors, and their marketing strategy, you are now able to select the suitable online platforms for your marketing campaign. While selecting the platforms, you need to categorize them based on –
- Accessibility to both you and your buying personas
- Percentage of the buying persona assessing different platforms
- The popularity of the platform in the target market
- Ease in using and handling the platform
- The ability of the platform in the successful delivery of the marketing campaign
- The ability of the platform in helping you getting accurate statistics of the campaign
Step 6: Set the Budget
As the budget is everything in a marketing strategy, you need special care while preparing the budgetary aspect of your plan. As a rough sum up, two important aspects are – how much total amount you require for the plan duration and how much budget should be allocated for the marketing campaigns during a specific duration. The percentage of the budget that should be allocated for marketing activities basically depends upon the size and age of the company. The bigger and older the company, the lesser the marketing budget is required. Small and new businesses generally need a higher budget for marketing and advertising activities. A rule of 5% of total annual revenue might be suitable for big and established businesses; however, new enterprises need to spend more on marketing that can go up to 20% as the maximum.
Step 7: Consider the Marketing Mix
Marketing Mix refers to a set of marketing tools that a brand uses to promote its products/services in a market segment. It generally centers around 4Ps – Price, Product, Promotion, and Place. Depending upon your market segment and target, you may include several other Ps like Packaging, Positioning, People, Politics, etc.
All the elements of the marketing mix have a significant impact on each other. Specifically, in a strategic marketing plan, they play crucial roles. Researches confirm that the success of a business mostly depends upon the marketing mix. It needs a lot of understanding, market research, and consultation.
While you are preparing your marketing plan, you should consider the marketing mix with the right strategies.
Step 8: Run a Test Campaign
In a strategic marketing plan, test campaigns or pilot projects play crucial roles. Such type of activities helps us to find out the flaws and weaknesses in your strategies. So you can rectify the shortcomings and error in advance. Therefore, never forget to run a few pilot projects before implementing your plan. Take a week or two to run short terms pilot projects.
Step 9: Fine-tune the Strategy
After the pilot project or test campaign, you will get enough opportunities to rectify your strategies and fine-tune your plan. Although it is the last step of preparing a strategic marketing plan, it is also highly crucial in the success of a business plan.
The thumb rule is – never implement any marketing strategy before properly fine-tuning the same.
With fine-tuning, you are now ready to go to the market. If you follow all the steps of preparing the strategic marketing plan, you will achieve success for sure.