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What is a marketing plan and what should you include in it?

Developing a marketing plan ensures that everything you do, every cent you spend, returns the greatest result. Here’s how.

For most professionals planning is a no-brainer. We have work plans, project plans, and annual plans – all for good reason.

Planning allows us to set goals in which to work towards, develop and monitor workflow, and stay within budget. It’s the key to achieving our desired outcomes.

Yet, when it comes to marketing, the planning is often thrown out the window.

Our marketing plan might comprise of posting to social media when we have the time, or running an ad if we’ve got a promotion happening. If there’s money in the bank, we might even splash out on newspaper advertising. That’s not a marketing plan.

The problem with marketing with no plan is that it wastes time and money – and is ultimately not very effective.

Investing in developing a marketing plan ensures that everything you do, every cent you spend, returns the greatest result. Here’s how.

What is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is the roadmap that charts your route to achieving your marketing goals.

It normally includes channels you’ll use, such as social media, paid advertising, and traditional platforms including print, radio, billboards and flyers. It also incorporates the messaging to be used with each asset, tasks that are required to be performed, as well as timelines.

A marketing plan is a comprehensive guide to developing and rolling out your marketing strategy.

What are the key elements of a marketing plan?

1. Do your research

When you approach developing a marketing plan, chances are you’ve been in business for a while.

Certainly, your business doesn’t exist within a vacuum. That’s why at the very start of any marketing plan there needs to be some research into where your company is at and how it’s sitting within the industry.

Research into your own position should include:

  • What products and services are selling and which are dwindling?
  • What are your customers are telling you about what they want?
  • What are your customers currently getting from you?
  • What do you want your customers to know about your brand and what you offer?

Research into the industry involves looking around at your competitors – especially the successful ones. What are they doing differently? What are their strong brand elements? What are their customers saying about why they choose them?

A great way to approach your research is a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is a review of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

A SWOT analysis should look at internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats that sit outside your organisation.

2. Define your target audience

Sure, on a broad level you want as many people as possible to become your customers, but by narrowing down your audience to those most ready or most likely to become customers, you can make sure your marketing plan gets the biggest bang for your buck.

Sometimes it can help to paint a picture of who your ideal customer is. For example, a hardware store might define its target audience as a homeowner who is interested in DIY. A brand that designs and manufactures luxury childrenswear might define its target audience as young, professional women.

Once you’ve decided on a target audience, you need to examine where they are. Activewear manufacturers, for example, focus their marketing activities on visual digital platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, whereas a gardening and landscaping business might opt for letterbox flyers or ads in local newspapers.

3. Set goals and objectives

It sounds like a no-brainer but it’s crucial to have clearly defined goals and objectives in your marketing plan.

Yes, increasing sales is probably one goal of your marketing plan, but what about the others? Growing brand awareness may be another objective and increasing your conversions might be another.

You might want to increase the understanding of what products you offer, and you might want to, for example, create greater awareness of your environmental sustainability efforts.

Attach numbers to your goals where possible, and you’ll have something more tangible to aim for and a more specific measure of success. How many dishwashers are you aiming to sell? How many ‘green’ social media influencers do you want to mention your brand in their posts?

4. Determine your budget

When you know how much you have to spend, you’ll be best able to determine the activity of your marketing plan.

If you have a big marketing budget, you might opt for some big-ticket items such as TV ads or billboards, but if your budget is smaller, you might need to explore which lower-cost items, like social media posts, will yield maximum returns.

It’s essential that you set your marketing budget upfront, so you can plan effectively, and also so you avoid a situation where you blow a big chunk of cash at the start of a campaign and then have nothing left for the marketing required to support it.

5. Review metrics and reporting

Importantly, and sadly often overlooked in many marketing plans, is the work that needs to be done at the completion of a marketing campaign.

Reviewing the results and analysing what worked and what didn’t, will help in the development of all future marketing campaigns.

Really dive as deeply as you can into your analysis. Sure, Google search ads may have resulted in more traffic than your Facebook ads but delve into the reporting and you’ll also be able to determine which headlines worked best, which images were the most effective, and whether the time and day of posting tells you something.

The importance of using a marketing plan

Very few of us have unlimited marketing budgets and the most tangible benefit of having a marketing plan is that it makes sure we get the most out of our spend. Yet the benefits of a marketing plan go much deeper.

A strategic marketing plan avoids confused messaging and a weak brand. An effective marketing plan ensures that customers receive consistent and strong information about who you are, what you offer and why people should choose you.

Creating a strong brand isn’t a one-hit proposition. You need to build on each message and each interaction to create brand perception. It’s detailed and can only be achieved by strategic planning.

Ready to get started on your marketing plan?

Assemblo is a full-service marketing agency based in Melbourne and can help brands and businesses develop marketing plans that achieve the most effective results possible.

To find out how we can help you create the right marketing mix, give us a call on (03) 9079 2555 or drop us a note via our contact form below.

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