How you market your business can be as important as the work you do on-site. Preparing yourself for marketing success takes time, but it’s well worth the investment. Understanding your customers, competitors, and what growth looks like for your business will give you a clear idea of what’s ahead. This is why a marketing plan is so important for a growing business. An annual marketing plan will help you create a path to move your business forward.
- The key parts of a marketing plan
- Things to keep in mind when writing your marketing plan
- How to execute your marketing plan
Before you get started
Before starting on your marketing plan, you have to understand where your business stands. Even if you’re just starting out or have 15 years of experience, a SWOT analysis of your business will help you understand your position. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. A SWOT analysis provides you with an overview of your business’ potential and opportunities for growth. For a deeper explanation of a SWOT analysis click here.
Marketing plan essentials
Every marketing plan has essential elements that make it a useful document. Every plan will have a summary of your company’s goals, current position in the market, tactics, key measurements, and an overview of your target market and customers. Here are the important parts of a marketing plan you might want to include.
1. Executive summary
An executive summary gives you and your employees an overview of what your goals are for that year. The summary should not be more than a few paragraphs, and it should explain the contents of your plan at a high level. Although business-oriented, you can also include fun stories about your company, background on your brand, and your vision for the future.
2. Marketing goals
Your marketing goals should be specific. Avoid goals like “grow our Twitter followers” or “get more clients.” You should find what your baseline is for growth and then figure out what percent change you would like to see. Then your goal goes from “get more clients” to “increase the client base by 15%.”
Before writing down all your goals in your marketing plan, consider using the SMART goals process to see if they’re attainable. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely.
- Specific: Define your goal. [15% growth in clients]
- Measurable: How will you measure your progress? [Year over year differences by month in spreadsheets]
- Achievable: Is this goal attainable? How so? [If I spend more time in my week generating leads and following up with them, I can achieve this goal.]
- Realistic: Is it something that you can accomplish? [I believe I have enough time to dedicate to this task despite all the other stuff I’ve got going on.]
- Timely: Clearly set a deadline for yourself. [I’ll check in quarterly to see how we’re progressing]
Personas are profiles of the ideal customers for your products and services. Putting these personas together can take a lot of research and surveying of people in your target market. If you don’t have the time or the access to lots of people to ask about when they plan on replacing their roof or getting a new HVAC system, you can do some research online about trends in your industry. Your personas should include as much information about your ideal customers as possible, including:
- Age, education, and income demographics
- Pain points
4. Competitor research
You’re more than likely not the only company of your kind in your area. Although your attention to detail and customer service may set you apart, how do you really know you’re providing the best value in your area? Competitor research helps you learn as much as you can about your competitors. You can complete a SWOT analysis on the companies in your area, but you may not have time for that. What is important for you to understand and put into your marketing plan is pricing differences (through their website), customer experiences (online ratings and reviews), and social media presence (reviewing their pages).
5. Measuring success
Your marketing should include how you plan on measuring your success as the year rolls on. First, you should understand your baseline. If you’re just starting out, that should be easy. If you’ve been in business for years and need a place to start, use last year’s performance as a starting point. As you decide how you’re going to measure success, how will you keep track? Many people opt for spreadsheets. However, as you grow, manual entry will become unmanageable. You may have to invest in performance tracking software.
6. Actionable tactics
Now that you have your goals, what you’re measuring, and how you’ll measure, you need to make sure that you have sound tactics on how you’ll get your results.
Goal: Grow clients base by 15%
Tactic 1: Increase investment in advertising on social media from $250 to $500.
Tactic 2: Increase time spent calling potential customers to 4 hours a week
Tactic 3: Invest in lawn signs for job sites
Do this for each goal you outline in your marketing plan. A good tactic is to go goal-by-goal and explain how you will achieve that goal through each of your marketing channels (social media, website, job site, sales, operations, etc.)
Some companies spend as they go, and that may work for some. But, for sustained growth, you need to budget across your entire business. Your marketing budget should include how much you’re willing to spend on online and digital and traditional advertising, collateral like signage or brochure, and marketing campaigns like direct mail.
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When you’re done putting together the pieces of your marketing plan, compile it into one report that you can share easily with your team or any new hires. It is a best practice to constantly check in with how you’re performing against your marketing plan and then updating it every year.