“Planning is the prelude to action”, an old Chinese proverb that when given some thought you begin to realise it applies to every action you take.
Every action taken will likely have had some element of thought behind it.
“It’s hot and I’m thirsty, better get myself an Iced Frappuccino. I’ll visit the cafe around the corner and pick one up on my lunch break.”
Your problem was the thirst, your solution was the drink and the plan was the cafe on your lunch break.
And when it comes to business it’s no different, especially with Marketing.
Now, nobody really wants marketing. They want sales. Yet, to get sales you need leads. To get leads, you need marketing. And yet, to have effective lead generating marketing, you need a plan.
Ad-hoc marketing without a plan doesn’t allow you to build momentum with the audience. It just assumes they will engage with one hit. Your efforts will appear as reactive, knee jerk and assumptive, leading you to be forever chasing your tail and firefighting. However, with a plan, you’ll have an organised process to follow. You’ll have thought about when activities and jobs need to be completed by within your schedule and you’ll know exactly where your resources and efforts should be focused on to get the most return.
What makes a good, effective marketing plan?
HubSpot quotes it as;
“a strategic roadmap that businesses use to organise, execute, and track their marketing strategy over a given time period.”
For us, it’s the most important tool you can leverage to grow your business.
“A clear defined strategy informed by facts and figures to implement tactics that will drive business growth.”
Too often businesses take a blunt swing at the market and squander marketing spend. Your plan will require research and an audit of your business, competitors, market and buyers to ensure your strategy is razor-sharp and based on fact, rather than blunt and based on assumption.
A marketing plan is important to every business. Without one you are simply running around blindly. Your plan is the armoury you’ll leverage to grow your business.
However it is not a static document that once finished, is done. Instead it will continually change and evolve as you roll it out. You’ll end up collecting more data from the tactics you implement, competitor performance as well as market conditions that will steer your plan into new waters…
So, the next thing we need to know is…
Step 1: Where to begin with a marketing plan? An internal audit.
Start off with an internal audit of your business. What’s previously worked and what has not, what are your goals and challenges, what KPIs would you monitor and aim for?
We always begin by detailing what success looks like for you in 12 months time. From there we can work backwards to ensure the tactics and strategy used will achieve the goals in mind.
You’ll also need to review where your business currently stands within the market. For example;
- What are your conversion rates from lead to sale?
- Where do your leads come from?
- Where does your digital traffic come from?
- What are the conversion rates of web visitors to lead?
- What does your digital presence look like, your SEO rankings, your exposure in the digital world?
Two reasons for this. Firstly, it provides you with the information required to measure the success of the marketing plan, for example, clearly see how your traffic has improved from SEO rankings.
Secondly, we then know how many leads we need to generate sales, and how many web visitors we need to generate those leads.
We then move on to the external audit of your business. The market perception, competition research, identifying your target audience and identifying key market trends.
Step 2: Market Research. An external audit.
We need to understand the market with stats and facts. So it’s time to put the headphones in and start crunching those numbers!
You’ll need to look at your business, your competitors, market conditions and your target market. Review your website, your SEO and your social media as well as any previous marketing you’ve used.
Use tools such as Google Analytics to see where you’re currently getting traffic from. Have you used any digital ads before? Collate the data from those sites, e.g. Google AdWords. Sent some emails before? Pull that data together, let’s see the open and click rates, do they meet the benchmark of typical performance of a 10-15% open rate and 1-2% click through rate?
You’ll want to see how you’re ranking for SEO on Google, so using tools such as SEMRush will help to give you an idea of your positioning as well as your competitors. Test some Google searches of what you think your ideal customer would use.
What’s your social following, and what’s your competitors? How do you rank against each other? How often do you all post, and what kind of content? What’s the typical engagement looking like?
Where does your target audience hangout online, is it LinkedIn or Twitter, perhaps they’re not digitally savvy? Do they follow similar influencers or are they apart of niche groups? Use social listening tools to spot trends (this is also useful for the tactics later on).
All this data will then need to be analysed, it seems like a lot of work but the results will give you a clear indication of how your business is currently performing.
Step 3: Branding, Positioning and Proposition.
Define your audience. This ties in with the above as we now know where they hang out, what as well as who they follow and their behaviour online enabling us to create a detailed persona.
However, you also need to look at what their position and job title looks like. What are their challenges and goals? Most importantly, how can your business help to address these challenges and achieve the goals? Persona’s, although feel laborious at times, are brilliant at helping you see exactly what your target audience looks like and how they behave.
Next, we need to understand your business position within the market. Create a positioning map, and rank yourself against your competitors as brands overall as well as products. Add in a point that also refers to the target markets expectations. Are you above or under priced in comparison? Where do you rank in quality? Be realistic. You’re not going to be perfect in every realm and that’s ok.
Then we need to work on your proposition, messaging and where necessary, the overall look and feel of your brand. We have to ensure you stand out in the market for all the right reasons, that your messaging and brand resonates with your target audience.
Does your current messaging clearly communicate your offering in the clearest way possible? Will your audience understand and resonate with it? With a realistic perspective on the above, we’ll be able to ensure the messaging achieves just that. Focusing on where you’re better than the competitors.
You’ll also need to review your brand. Is it dated and in need of a facelift? Is your website the lead generating machine you think it is? It might be time to mix things up and invest in your digital shop window – your website and branding.
Finally, we build out the marketing strategy that’s focused on your specific goals and based on the evidence found in the previous stages.
Here we’ll detail which marketing channels and tactics will be best to implement. No guesswork or assumption here, use the data and facts found in your research to influence your choices.
Step 4: Market Strategies.
Now we have our research, personas, a clear idea of where you’re better than competitors and a clear benchmark against customer expectations, we can build out the strategy.
Let’s plan out how we’re going to reach your goals.
Using the research from the previous steps we can now consider which tactics to implement.
- Is your audience quite active on social? If so, you’ll want to write up a social plan
- Have you got a database of email data? Great, let’s leverage that
- How’s your SEO ranking? Not that great? Right, well let’s write out a content plan broken down into categories of topics, draft some title ideas and then plan out a rough timeline to get these written
- Is your website in need of a facelift? Let’s get some designs ready
- Do you need a database and marketing system all in one place? Might be time to look at HubSpot
- Are there some big accounts you need to get in with? ABM (Account-based marketing) is something we should consider
There are many channels and tactics you can choose to use, yet only a few we’ve mentioned here. For example, you could find that there’s a lot of competition for SEO and it will take some time for your content plan to reach the first page on Google. In this instance it’d be worth running some Google PPC ads as a short-term fix.
Remember, you may not be able to do everything. Time, budget and skillsets are the usual restraints for this. So be sure that the tactics you choose are also the ones the data points to.
You’ve got your research, you’ve got your strategy but how much money should you be investing to get the best return?
Step 5: Marketing Budget.
Unsure what to budget? If you want to maintain your business, you should be investing around 5% of your revenue. However, if you want to grow your business you should be spending at least 10% of your revenue on marketing. If you’re spending more than that then you may want to rethink where that money is going, and what returns it’s generating. If you’re spending too little, then you may not reach your goals.
Gartner’s CMO survey has typically found that over the last six years businesses spend, on average, around 11% of revenue on marketing spend. Many businesses are also expecting that spend to increase throughout 2020, but not all. So if your competitors are not, then this could be a prime opportunity to take more market share, if they are then you also don’t want to fall behind. But remember, whichever decision you choose it must be relevant to your business position and goals.
Step 6: Goals, metrics and monitoring results.
We know what success looks like as we outlined this at the beginning, so this is our ultimate goal.
But we need to know if the work we’re putting in is pushing us in the right direction. So set some realistic, SMART objectives for short and mid-term reviews of the campaigns.
Set up weekly or monthly reports to keep an eye on performance as this will determine how successful you’ll be. If you’re generating leads and they’re closing, then great (although you’d want to understand what is driving this success so you can capitalise on it some more). But, if the leads aren’t coming in then we need to understand why. What’s not working? Is it the messaging, perhaps it’s the platform? Could it be we’re not offering enough to the audience for them to take action?
Goals and reports will help you learn from your successes as well as your failures. If you’re not learning from them, then you’re not going to improve.
Now you know what to include in your 2020 B2B / B2C Marketing Plan it’s time to start working on putting it together. Write out deadlines for when you’ll have each step completed by and stick by them. Realistically you won’t pull this altogether in one week alongside your day-to-day responsibilities. So be sure to plan out achievable deadlines, pull that research together, analyse the data, review your brand strategy and then from all of that put together your marketing strategy.
That being said, you do have a day-job. You may find your time is already stretched and if you’re not sure on how you’re going to put this all together that’s understandable. But if you recognise this, then you can address the problem. Look to a marketing agency (enter Catalyst, awarding winning agency), who can become your expert marketing team. By outsourcing your marketing and lead generation needs to a marketing agency you can rest easy knowing you have access to a team of widely-skilled marketers who will collectively strive to meet your business goals.