For businesses looking to grow in 2019, a marketing plan is an essential element of success. However, a marketing plan is more than just a series of steps — the best plans are able to define what success means to an organization, both conceptually and practically, and offer clear guidelines for where improvement needs to happen. With this in mind, here are five essential components of an effective marketing plan:
If you don’t know where you’re headed, how are you ever going to get there? The most important part of any marketing plan, and the question that needs to be asked first, is what your business is trying to accomplish. For some organizations, this can be as simple as setting a desired sales goal or subscription count, where for others this may look more like “we want to be the number one choice for carpentry services in Greater Bangor.” Goals can be hard numbers or just ideas, as long as they’re realistically achievable (more on that later!) Ultimately, what’s important here is that the goal gives definition to the rest of the marketing plan — all other components of the plan will be centered on this single focal point.
Before you make any hard decisions, it’s important to set the scale of your marketing efforts through a budget. How much are you willing to spend to achieve the results you desire? Are your goals feasible within your financial constraints? This section of your marketing plan will serve as a simple reality check. If you are trying to reach a global audience on a shoestring budget — no matter how ambitious you are–you might need to redefine your goals. Even if you’re unsure of what your exact costs may look like it’s still good to have a general idea of how much you’re willing to spend in order to get results. Nailing the exact costs can happen at a later point when you’re ready to plan out the specific components of your marketing campaign, but having a budget in place will automatically make a lot of decisions for you as to the scope and scale of your projects.
After you’ve set your goals and your budget, the next step is to establish how it is that you’re going to measure the success of your marketing plan. What this means, exactly, will depend on your specific business goals, but in general you’re looking for any kind of metrics that directly communicate the success or failure of your plan. For example, if your marketing goal is to increase the digital subscription count of your magazine, you might be looking at raw subscription numbers and your subscriber three-month retention rate — both of which tell you whether or not you’re doing a good job acquiring and cultivating your subscriber base. Just remember, it’s important for your metrics to be both measurable and actionable. After all, you’re going to want to track your progress!
Now that you’ve established your goals and metrics and set a budget, you can get to the fun part — the process. What are the steps you’ll take to achieve your goals? What mediums will your campaign be conducted through? Needless to say, the specific process will depend on what your specific marketing objectives are, but one important characteristic to remember is that steps in your process should always relate back to your goals in a tangible way, and be measurable by the metrics you’ve chosen to represent them with. Every idea needs to be framed against your goals and justifiable, presenting a specific action plan for the way it fits into your overall strategy — because no matter how great an idea seems, if it doesn’t produce results then it’s not an effective use of your money or time.
Speaking of justifying actions by their results, one final component of any successful marketing plan is the follow-up. Unlike a document which you create once and forget, a marketing plan needs to be flexible and responsive to change — a living, breathing embodiment of your marketing strategy. As a result, it’s important to monitor how the elements of your marketing plan are playing out in real time through frequent monitoring and liberal use of any analytics tools available. Going back to the example of increasing digital subscriptions, if you had a goal of attaining thirty new subscribers through social media advertising but have not found success doing so, you need to quickly reach a decision point about what to do with that section of your marketing strategy. Do you cut the campaign short, revise your process, or reframe your goals? What’s important is that you’re decisive and never leave elements of your marketing strategy to chance. By staying on top of your analytics and monitoring your campaign periodically, you will be able to pivot faster and use your budget more effectively.
Need help writing your marketing plan? Pulse Marketing can help. Contact us today at (207) 947-9333 and schedule your free 30-minute consultation. We’d be happy to meet with you!
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