Doing marketing without a plan, is a plan to fail.
Plain and simple.
Every day, we talk to business owner after business owner, to try to help them with their marketing.
And it’s normally the same conversation every single time.
“Hi, this is Sherman at LYFE Marketing, how can I help you today?”
“Sherman, I need sales, and I need it tomorrow. Can you do that for me or not?”
“Well, I don’t know if it quite works like that… Do you mind telling me a little bit more about your business and target market first?”
“Target market? What? I need you to figure that out and make me some money. Look, can you give me a return on my investment or not?”
I mean seriously, as marketers, as much as we wish we had a magic wand, we don’t.
And to be honest, you as the business owner should have a crystal clear picture of your market before you decide to launch your business.
Regardless, markets change, businesses change, and ultimately, your marketing plans will change.
So whether you have a marketing plan or not for your business, don’t worry. We’re going to show you how to build a marketing plan from SCRATCH.
We’re giving you the 10-steps to creating a marketing plan for your business.
Starting with the basics, what is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan outlines your marketing strategy and specific actions necessary to reach your marketing objectives.
Your marketing plan does not have to be a huge 100-page manual or super complicated.
It can be 1-page, 5-pages, in a PowerPoint, word document- it doesn’t matter. The format, design, and length of your marketing plan does not matter.
The only thing that matters is that you have a clear and actionable plan that allows you to grow your business.
So with that said, let’s go over the 10-steps to build a concrete marketing plan for your business.
Step #1: Define your Marketing Objectives
Before you lift a finger on a marketing campaign, you need to first determine your marketing objectives.
Specifically, where do you want to take this thing? Where do you see your business going in the future?
Use the SMART criteria to help you define your marketing objectives.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Your marketing objectives should be all of these things.
So for example, let’s say you own an eCommerce store that sells pet supplies. And let’s say last year, you did about $200,000 in revenue.
Your marketing objectives for the upcoming year may be to:
Increase your business revenue by 50%…which, in order to do that, you must increase your email list by 75%, and in order to increase your email list, you’ll need to increase your traffic by 200%.
And in order to increase your traffic, you’ll need to increase your online engagement on other channels by 500% and your overall awareness and impressions by 1000%.
Now let’s move on to the next step.
Step #2: Analyze Your Current Marketing Efforts
Once you know what your business objectives are, you need to assess your current marketing efforts.
Specifically, you need to find out what is working and what isn’t working?
The best way to determine this is by looking at data specific to your business.
If we look at that eCommerce store example again, we’d look at Google Analytics to determine which marketing campaigns and channels are driving the most revenue and traffic.
Then, we may choose to include prior high-performing marketing campaigns in our new marketing plan to drive more results.
Step #3: Analyze Your Competitor’s Marketing Efforts
The next thing you need to do is analyze your competitor’s marketing efforts.
This is important because if your largest competitors are doing something for a long period of time, chances are, it’s working for them.
For example, let’s say you own a pet accessory store as an example. If you search “dog accessories” on Google, you’ll encounter several ads around that topic.
Once you click an ad, you can take a look at your competitor’s landing page. And even better, you can throw their website inside of tools like SEMRush or SimilarWeb, which will show you everything that they are doing online to market their business on search engines.
You can also use Facebook’s Ad Library to view all of the social media advertisements they are running on Facebook and Instagram.
Bottom-line, you need to research all of your top competitors and document your findings. Document their pricing strategies, promotion channels, messaging, media, and so much more.
You don’t have to “copy” what they’re doing per-se, but knowing this information may inspire you and show you what you need to do to beat them.
Step #4 Define Your Market
Alright, now it’s time to roll-up your sleeves and do the real work. It’s time to define your market.
You can’t do MARKETing, without truly knowing your market.
Because marketing is all about communicating your VALUE to your target market, if you communicate this to the wrong group of people, you will fail.
It’s like trying to sell dog food to people who own cats.
You can have the best dog food in the world, but if you’re marketing to people who own cats, you will not be successful.
Furthermore, you don’t want to just stop at saying “I want to market to people who own dogs.” No, you need to be much more specific than this.
Your dog food might be for a specific type of dog, at a specific age, it may be best for a specific health type, and so on.
Furthermore, your dog food might be higher quality and higher-priced, which may mean you need to target a more affluent audience.
Either way, you need a crystal-clear picture of your market.
So here’s how to do that. Build a customer avatar.
Your customer avatar outlines the demographics, goals, value, and challenges of your target audience.
You should map this out for your business to make sure that you have a clear understanding of your market. That way, you can design your strategy to speak directly to them.
Step #5 Define Your Marketing Strategy
Once you understand your MARKET, you can start building your MARKETing strategy.
The 4 P’s of marketing are the fundamental building blocks of any marketing strategy. All 4 P’s must be in alignment in order to reach your marketing objectives.
Those 4 P’s are Product, Pricing, Promotion, and Placement.
Now, we have another blog that goes over the 4 Ps in detail if you want to check that out.
But, in short, this is what you need to know for your marketing plan.
Starting with the most important element, your Product – you need to clearly define the value derived from your product, design of your product, packaging of your product, and your branding.
Ultimately, you need to make sure you are building something that people actually want to buy. And not just that, but you need to convey it in a way that makes people want to buy it.
Because remember, it is not the best business that wins. It is not the best product that wins. It is the one with the best marketing that wins.
And in order to do this, remember, your value proposition should be hyper-specific to your market.
Then, you need to think about Pricing – which refers to the retail price of your product or service. You need to make sure that your price does not exceed what the market is willing to pay for similar or alternative products that may allow them to extract the same value.
And there’s the 3rd P – Promotion.
Promotion refers to your advertising and sales strategy. It should detail the specific methods you will use to reach your target market.
And finally, the last P – Placement.
Placement refers to where your products or services are being sold. Whether it is sold online, or in a brick-and-mortar store, your customers should be able to find it. And more importantly, it should provide a pleasant experience in order for them to feel comfortable purchasing from your business.
So in your marketing plan, be sure to write-out the specifics of each component of your marketing mix, which consists of product, pricing, promotion, and placement.
This is ultimately how you set your marketing strategy on a high-level.
Step #6: Define Your Marketing Funnel
Once your strategy has been set, you need to define your marketing funnel to outline the steps someone will take in order to become a customer of your business.
A marketing funnel is simply the journey a customer takes in order to purchase your products or services.
The typical marketing funnel has 4 main stages – Awareness, engagement, conversion, and advocacy.
Now, the biggest thing you need to know is that you can’t expect to close a sale on the first date with your market.
You need to first introduce yourself to them, make them aware of your business, flatter and engage them, and if they “like” you, then they will be more willing to hear your sales pitch.
Now, you can start broad with your marketing funnel and then build more specific sales funnels to accomplish this directly.
The more you can design your marketing campaigns around a step-by-step marketing funnel, the more successful you will be at creating a system that cranks out more traffic, leads, and sales for your business.
Step #7 Define Your Marketing Channels
This step is closely related to the “Promotion” aspect of your marketing mix that we discussed earlier. It’s specifically related to how you will promote your business to your market. And by promote, we mean offer value.
Now, the key to defining your marketing channels is to pick specific marketing channels that your market uses.
So in order to do this, I recommend studying the demographics of various marketing channels.
You can easily do this by using a website like Statista. You can find out the age, ethnicity, and so much more of each specific marketing channel that you’re planning on using.
Here are some quick tips that we’d give you on this.
There are a few marketing channels that we can guarantee you that your audience uses.
And those channels are Google and Facebook. Both of these channels have billions of users, so we don’t see how your business would survive without having sound channels there.
Then, you can start analyzing very specific channels. So for example, LinkedIn is great for professionals and B2B audiences. Pinterest is great for eCommerce businesses, and for home decor and fashion companies. Instagram has a diverse audience and is great for displaying visual content.
The list goes on and on. But here’s one major piece of advice we have for you.
When it comes to the quantity of marketing channels, it is better to start with mastering a few channels rather than spreading yourself so wide that you do nothing very well.
So start by picking the channels that may provide you with the most opportunity, and do the very best you can on those channels to reach your market.
Step #8: Define your Marketing Messaging
Once you select your marketing channels, it is time to work on your messaging.
Nothing you say or do will work if your messaging is really bad.
And unfortunately, in today’s noisy environment, people are bombarded with so many advertisements on a daily basis that many people are completely numb to it.
And that’s why defining your messaging is so important here.
When it comes to messaging, we want to recommend a specific messaging framework that changed marketing for us.
AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
Any marketing message you put out from your company should first grab your audience’s attention, build interest, desire, and incite action.
For example, if we wanted to sell you a dog leash – we wouldn’t just say “Buy 1 Get 1 Free – Here’s the Best Dog Leash in the World!”
First of all, who cares?
Instead, we’d start by saying – “Are you walking your dog or is your dog walking you?” This is an attention-grabbing hook.
Then, we might say “What if we told you that there was a way for you to take control of your dog-walking experience with a powerful leash? A leash that empowered you as the leader of your dog household?”
A statement like this may build interest.
Then, to build desire, we might say “Find out why this leash was featured in Dog Magazine as one of the best leashes on the market today.”
And then most importantly, you want people to take action. So I might end by saying “Just click this link to learn more,” or “Buy 1 today and Get 1 Free.”
You must use effective messaging to lure your audience in to your marketing funnel. If you cannot do this effectively, then nothing will work.
However, since you already know your product’s unique value proposition and your customer avatar, it should be easier for you to develop this.
Step #9 Define Your Marketing Budget
Alright, now your marketing plan is almost finished. But now you need to determine one very important thing – your marketing budget.
How much will you spend to reach your marketing objectives?
And it’s not about how much you WANT to spend. That’s actually irrelevant.
The question is how much do you HAVE to spend to actually reach your revenue goals.
How much do you HAVE to spend to generate enough awareness and engagement to move people down your funnel?
Now obviously, sometimes you’ll realize you don’t have enough money to spend to reach your marketing objectives.
Therefore, your only option would be to make your ambitious marketing goals more realistic considering your budget.
But how do you do know where to start with your marketing budget?
Well, according to the SBA, most businesses will spend 7-8% of their revenue on marketing. However, today, we’ve seen most businesses spend about 10% of their revenue on marketing, and if they are being aggressive, I’ve seen budgets upwards to 20-30% of their revenue.
Ultimately, you have to decide what percent of revenue you can allocate to reach your marketing goals. And that should be based on your marketing goals, and what you can reasonably afford at this time.
Step #10 Define Your Implementation Plan
A plan without action is meaningless. Therefore, the final and MOST IMPORTANT component of your marketing plan is determining how you will implement everything.
Will you try to do everything yourself? Will you hire employees? Will you hire an agency?
Regardless of what you decide, you need to make sure that you get the action items on your marketing plan done.
Here are each of your options.
Option #1: Doing everything yourself
When you’re just getting started, sometimes doing everything yourself is your only option – especially if you’re limited on funds.
If this is you, don’t worry – you can implement your marketing plan on your own. Our cofounders here at LYFE Marketing did it.
We literally threw $100 each into a business bank account, rolled up our sleeves, and did the dirty work.
Because we had no money, we cold called. We knocked on doors. We got rejected. We failed a lot. We won a little. And eventually, after about 4-5 years of scraping up our little earnings, we finally had made enough money to really start paying for marketing.
Now, you can do the same, but we have to be honest with you – it will be hard. By taking this route, you will waste more time and money because you don’t have someone experienced guiding you.
You can be successful, but you must be willing to invest into necessary education, knowledge, and guidance along the way, to make sure you’re making wise decisions. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of time spinning wheels in the wrong direction.
Now let’s talk about Option #2: Hiring Employees
In a perfect world, you’d hire a full-time employee who’s an expert in marketing that knows exactly what to do for your business.
But how much does this employee cost you? And more importantly, how do you, someone who is relatively inexperienced in marketing, know if this employee is really good or not?
As an agency provider, we can tell you – we’ve worked with a lot of my small business client’s marketing managers. And many times, we’ve found that they know very little about what they’re actually doing or talking about.
We’re not saying that all are bad, but we’ve seen our clients hire bad people and they never realized it because they weren’t marketing experts either.
So if you hire a full-time marketing manager to implement your marketing plan, make sure you hire a qualified candidate with a proven track record.
And the unfortunate part for most small businesses, is that these qualified candidates will require high salaries, benefit packages, and other incentives to motivate them to work for you.
And as a small business owner, this is the hard part. But nonetheless, this is an option for you.
And finally, there’s the 3rd Option: Hiring an Agency
Call us biased, but hiring an agency is the best option for many businesses.
Because agencies deal with many clients, they should already have proven track records that indicate that they are qualified to implement your business marketing plan.
And the best part is, you can hire them at the fraction of the cost of hiring a single full-time employee.
Not only that, but you have access to more experience at an agency than a single individual can provide.
For example, LYFE Marketing is stacked with advertising experts, graphic designers, copywriters, and so on.
And if you fall out of love with the individual you’re working with, you can simply work with a different account manager at the agency.
This is much better than relying on one person and then when you have to fire that person, your marketing plans are screwed. Or even worse, they quit.
So of course, we will recommend an agency for most small businesses if they can afford it.
As a small business owner, this is how we would look at this:
1. Do it myself if I can’t afford anything else.
2. Once I am making enough money, hire an agency.
3. Once I am making more than enough money, hire a full-time marketing team, which may happen when your business is above $5-10M/year in revenue.
Alright, so there is your marketing plan from A-Z! Now let’s recap so you can start building your plan and growing your business.
Today, we defined a marketing plan. A marketing plan simply outlines your marketing strategy and specific actions necessary to reach your marketing objectives.
And then we gave you the steps to build a concrete marketing plan. Those steps were to:
1. Define your marketing objectives
2. Analyze your current and previous marketing efforts
3. Analyze your competitor’s marketing efforts
4. Define your market
5. Define your marketing strategy
6. Define your marketing funnel
7. Define your marketing channels
8. Define your marketing messaging
9. Define your marketing budget
10. Define your implementation plan