Creating your Marketing Plan: How to Get Started

It can be intimidating to start creating your marketing plan.

There are A LOT of options available and many tactics to consider: website, email marketing, blogs, videos, social media, video, photos, SEO, content marketing, direct mail, trade shows, events, advertising, directory listings, printed material, brochures…the list is seemingly endless.

Where to start?

Step away from the marketing tactics and shiny objects.

Go back to your business plan. If you don’t have a business plan, then it’s a great time to create one that includes marketing.  One key component of any plan is a deep analysis of your current situation.  Many businesses use a SWOT Analysis. This stands for strengths, weaknesses (both internal, company factors), and opportunities and threats (both external, environmental factors).

Another way of assessing your current situation is by using the 4C’s, as described below.


Marketing Plan Start with 4Cs to 4Ps

4 C’s: Company, Competitors, Collaborators, Customer

The 4C’s help answer the following questions:

Company:  What are our core competencies? What is our value proposition? What are our internal strengths? What makes us different from all the other options available?

Collaborators:  Who benefits when we succeed?  Who shares are interests? Who can help us?  Think of industry organizations, trade groups, or people who call on a similar customer.  Who attends the same trade shows as your company?

Competitors:  Who else are our customers considering?  Who are the direct or indirect competitors? What are our competitors’ strengths?

Customer: Who can we help? Who values our product or service?  What customer segments should we target? Are we trying to acquire new customers or retain existing customers?

Target New Customers or Existing Customers?

In general, it costs five times more to acquire new customers compared to retaining existing customers.  Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) are spending on customer retention over customer acquisition by a ratio of 2 to 1, according to a Gartner 2017 – 2018 CMO Spend Survey.

Based on answers to these questions, come up with a strategy to define a target customer.  The customer focus is so critical in any company.  The more you understand and can articulate your target customer, the more targeted your marketing tactics and promotion can be.  If you have multiple customer segments, evaluate each segment in terms of profitability, each of reach, and competitive presence.

QUOTE: Everything starts and ends with the customer - Lou Gerstner

4P’s: Product, Place, Price Promotion

Based on your strategy, you can develop tactics to best reach your target market.  This involves defining the 4 P’s, or the overall marketing mix that will implement your strategy.

Product: What are we offering as a product or service? What is our product strategy?

Price: What pricing model is appropriate for the distribution channel (place)? What promotional prices or sales will occur throughout the year?

Place: Where are we selling the product or service?  In store? Online?

Promotion: What tactics will help drive sales? When will each activity be planned? What tactic should be used at what stage of the buying process?  Consider sales promotion, advertising, social media, email marketing, direct mail, trade shows, events, blogging and more throughout the year.  A planning calendar can provide a guide.

Consider the Customer Journey

How well do you understand your customer’s journey from awareness to purchase and post-purchase?

Think about how many times you have to reach a customer to produce the desired action.  Consider a viewing an ad, social media post, visiting your website, clicking on a button, providing an email address, visiting your store and all of the other possible actions that can occur.

Though this may vary by industry, it may take anywhere from five to seven touches for any action.

Therefore, it is essential that any marketing effort be consistent and integrated across communication channels. A one and done approach will not produce desired results.

Many Customer Touchpoints

Customer Journey with touchpoints
Source: Marketing Automation Image Wikipedia Commons

It takes time for a customer to research any given product or service.  Many of us have to know a company before we decide if we like and trust them enough in order to want to buy from them.

60% of the decision is made before the prospect identifies him or herself.

– CEB B2B Study, 2011

Many prospects are looking at your website, social media pages, online reviews, or blog posts before you talk to them or see them in your store.  This makes all of your initial touchpoints in the buying process even more important!

What kind of first impression are you making with customers?  Are you easy to find through search?

Consider investing time into your brand and overall look and feel to help foster a positive first contact with your customer. Then, take the time to go deeper, and review how customers interact with your company. Read more customer journey questions for additional inspiration.  Surveys, focus groups and daily conversations can provide key insights on the customer experience.  Use those insights to make improvements to your processes, products or services.

Being Customer Focused Pays Off

Companies that focused on the customer experience realized a 43% performance gain compared to companies that did not (Source: Forester Customer Research, Customer Experience Index).

To effectively reach your target customer, you need to have the right message on the right platform at the right time.  How do you figure out the right marketing mix?  You have to test out marketing tactics and track your results over time to determine what works.

Characteristics of Strong Marketing Tactics

  • Targeted to where your customers are
  • Relevant
  • Consistent (not one-and-done)
  • Integrated across platforms
  • Authentic

Invest Time in Marketing Planning

Although it may seem like a big undertaking, time spent creating a marketing plan will pay-off in the long run. With a plan and marketing calendar in place, your company can shift from reactive marketing and missed opportunities to pro-active strategies and planned activities.

If you need more marketing horsepower to improve your planning, let’s talk soon.


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