Can you ever think about the growth and sustainability of a business without marketing? Definitely, you can’t.
In fact, marketing is one of the most important 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. This 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 main part, if you wish.
What is Marketing?
Simply, 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 help you in gaining more sales. Marketing activities promote a sale, 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 depends upon your product quality, pricing policy and the ability of the sales personnel.
Obviously, 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. The media include your website, search engines like Google, video channels like YouTube, social media like Facebook and any other channel that you can be connected with an internet connection. The devices are desktop or laptop computers, smart phones, 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 digital one, it involves the same or similar steps. It’s little bit 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
- Fine tuning
- Periodical Reviews and Adjustments
While you’re stepping towards digital marketing activities, be sure that the first two out of the above nine steps have been completed and the reports/documents are available to you. Depending upon the size and complexity of the business, you mayn’t require the full documents, but you should have at least the executive summaries of the both with you. If your business 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 to fulfill the above two steps so that you can proceed towards success in your entrepreneurship.
Market Research Report
Market research report is the primary requirement before starting a business. In fact, 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 reading the chapters those are directly or indirectly related to your marketing activities along with the executive summary of the whole report. If you don’t have a running business, e.g., your business is in planning phase, you must conduct a systematic research before establishing the same. You may wonder, how can you conduct a market research and what will be the composition there in. Don’t be worried, I’ll tell you everything.
Market research is a systematic process of knowing the market environment, potential customers and competition. It doesn’t only help you in estimating the feasibility of your business, growth and sustainability, budgetary and resource requirement, this can also helps in outlining your business and marketing plan.
Market research is a bit complex aspect. It require trained and experienced professional with academic affinity to conduct the job. Hence, I suggest you to hire a professional or a team to conduct the same for you.
A business plan is a roadmap that guides you achieving your goal. It’s a formally written document that highlights the managerial, marketing, financial and operational aspects of your business. In order to achieve clear success, you definitely should have a business plan.
If you’ve a clearly defined business plan that consists of all essential aspects, you don’t need to prepare a separate marketing plan. Instead, you should thoroughly go through the existing plan 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 there in isn’t adequate for a full fledged marketing strategy or that’s not adequately and systematically designed. 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 main aspect, that is, how to write a most effective and fully strategic digital marketing plan for your business.
Before sitting to write the strategic marketing plan, I’m reminding you again, make it 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, a marketing research evaluates the company’s present stand in the market and strategically investigates into 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 a effective marketing plan.
Be ensured that everything should be in clearly 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 have 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 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 you 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 market
- Getting more leads at lowest cost etc.
While setting your goals, it’s highly advisable that you should follow the SMART method. It’s as follow:
- S – Specific: Be specific on what you need to achieve. Never mix many goals all together.
- 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 are clearly relevant to your business growth and ROI.
- T – Time-bound: You need to achieve a certain goal in a specific span of time. 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 entire market context. Quality, pricing modes, offers, competition, demand gaps, market environment and requirement 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 analytical report about the position of your product or services in the marketing. While including the same in the marketing plan document, you need to position the product/service in numerical scale. For example, seven in 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 in a geographical territory mightn’t be your buying personas. For example, a beauty product for 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 on the basis of your business goals, their demographic or socio-economic 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
In order to specify your competitors, you should have adequate research based data about them. On the basis of the data, you have you have to make numerous tables in your plan documents as follows:
- Detailed data of each competitors, 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 competitors on the basis of data
- Comparison of SWOT analysis in tabular form
Step 5: Finalizing the Platforms and Media of Marketing
On the basis of 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 on the basis of –
- Cost effectiveness
- Accessibility to both you and your buying personas
- Percentage of the buying persona assessing different platforms
- Popularity of the platform in the target market
- Ease in using and handling the platform
- Ability of the platform in successful delivery of the marketing campaign
- Ability of the platform in helping you getting the accurate statistics of the campaign
Step 6: Set the Budget
As budget is everything in a marketing strategy, you need special care while preparing the budgetary aspect of your plan. As a rough sum up, 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 – are two important aspects. The percentage of budget that should be allocated for marketing activities generally depends upon the size and age of the company. Bigger and older the company, the lesser marketing budget is required. Small and new businesses generally require higher budget for marketing and advertising activities. A rule of 5% of total annual revenue might be suitable for big and established businesses, but new enterprises need to spend more on marketing and that can goes up to 20% as the maximum.