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Marketing Tactics

The Complete Guide To Writing A Marketing Plan

How to perfect your business marketing strategy.

Casandra Visser

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The business landscape is fierce and if you aren’t clear on the direction of your business, who your customers are and how you’re going to reach them then you might as well get ready to fade into the background while your competitors reap the rewards.

Every business needs to know what sets them apart and how they’re going to let their customers know just how great they are so including a marketing strategy in your business plan is the best starting point for achieving success.

Before You Write Your Marketing Plan…

It’s a bit difficult to simply start creating your marketing strategy if you aren’t too sure about your offering, your market and your key differentiators, which is why market research is such an important step.

When you are done with your market research you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who are your potential clients?
  • Where do they reside?
  • What kind of people are your potential clients?
  • Will they be interested in and willing to buy the product or service you’re offering?
  • Are your prices attractive to your clients?
  • Are your products and/or services available at the right time and place?

Divide your research up into primary and secondary categories in order to explore all of your available options. Start with secondary market research, this involves looking at information that has already been published and can be used to get an idea of your industry, market trends, competitors and potential customers. Below are a few ideas on where to obtain secondary data:

  • The internet
  • Industry magazines and trade journals
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Television
  • White papers
  • Pooled data collected from interest groups

Turn to primary data sources if the secondary data didn’t quite give you all the information that you needed to develop your marketing strategy and plan. Primary data is collected from scratch and if you can’t afford to pay someone to do it then it’s simple enough to gather it on your own. You can collect primary data using the following methods:

  • Interviews (Web, telephonic or personal interviews)
  • Questionnaires and surveys
  • Observation.

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Developing Your Marketing Strategy

marketing-strategyNow that you have a better idea of the market you are targeting you can start writing your marketing plan. Marketing strategies are there to map out an action plan for your business. This plan is not only useful for keeping track of progress and strategic direction but it’s a part of your business plan that investors will be interested in too.

Aim to include the following elements in your marketing plan to reap the best benefits:

Executive Summary

If your marketing plan is going to form a part of your business plan then there is no need to create a second executive summary as it will be a repeat of information. If your marketing strategy is going to be a separate business tool then you can briefly describe your business and what sets you apart as well as touch on your vision and mission statement.

Situational Analysis

Start this section of your plan by explaining the current status of your business. Provide a few details on what you do, how you do it and how long you have been operating to date. Next you can provide answers to the following questions:

1. Who is your market?

This should be quite in-depth so it’s not uncommon to write up to two pages on your target market. Describe who your customers are, their demographics, needs and habits. Look at trends and growth in the market place to give investors an idea of where your business fits in and how you can cater to the needs of these clients.

2.  What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

Take a page to explain what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as where opportunities and threats lay in your specific industry. You can download a SWOT analysis template here.

3.  Who is your competition

Define who you are going up against by entering into your industry. What are your competitors offering your potential customers and what are they doing differently to you? Will they be a threat in the long run or won’t this be an issue for your company? Click here to view a competitor analysis example.

4.  What are your key differentiators?

How do you stand out from your competitors and what will you be doing to ensure that you continue to be a top name in your industry? Are there any issues that you need to address in order to be successful in the short and long term?

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Marketing Strategy

putting-together-a-marketing-contractWhen you develop your strategy, keep in mind that the main goal is to establish how you aim to increase brand awareness, create a relationship with customers and ultimately grow your business.

In order for a strategy to be effective it needs to be realistic, so this means taking your resources, time and budget into account. It also needs to be continuously implemented, tested and changed if required. Your strategy needs to contain the following information:

1.  Marketing goals

List your objectives and what you want to achieve in the next month, year or 5 years. Your objectives can include anything from providing your customers with top-notch service to the increased profitability that you would like to achieve in the next 6 months.

2.  Positioning

What is your current position in the market and what do you need to do improve it? You might be competing against two top brands and you want your business to be one of those brands. How will you do it?

3.  Marketing Mix

Now that you know what needs to be done you can explain in detail how you will achieve the goals that you set out above. This information is one of the most important parts of your marketing strategy and it’s important to note that your mix might change every now and then depending on trends and growth in your market. You need to list the following points in this section:

  • Product strategy – What will your exact offering be
  • Pricing strategy – How much will you be charging clients for your product or service and why?
  • Distribution strategy – How will you make your product or service available to your clients?
  • Promotional strategy – What will your marketing efforts be in order to create brand awareness and generate interest around your product or service?

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Marketing Budget

marketing-budgetThe best guideline for deciding how much to spend on your marketing is anything from 1%-10% of your annual sales. This is mainly dependant on the industry you are in as well as how established your business is. The catch is that sales are dependent on marketing and vice versa so it’s important to put enough time and effort into this area of your business.

Go into some detail on the amount of money you will be assigning to marketing, how often you will be engaging in marketing activities and how you will monitor the effects. Some of the financials that investors might want to see and that will be useful as a monitoring tool are:

  • Your break-even analysis
  • Sales forecasts
  • Expense forecasts.

There are many ways that you can also cut down on marketing costs and still get the most bang for your buck. Here are some ideas:

  • Aim to attend industry events where you can network with potential customers and partners
  • Make use of free online social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook
  • Decide whether it’s necessary to hire outside creative help for the project that you have in mind. A headshot for your newsletter and a photo for a magazine advert have two different requirements. Try and do as much as possible yourself, within reason of course
  • Your business cards can be an affordable and memorable marketing tool so don’t overlook this
  • If you want an online presence there are tons of free platforms that you can use to design a basic website

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Implementation and Control

gear-stickThis is the part where you give yourself timelines and deadlines. Define what needs to be done and by when so that you can monitor progress and make any necessary changes. Some of the areas that you can monitor are customer satisfaction, repeat business and the cost of acquiring new business.

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Marketing Plan Resources

If you feel that you want more information on developing marketing strategies and devising a plan here are some useful links:

Casandra Visser is a Digital Marketing & Content Strategist and writes for Entrepreneur Media SA.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. SpitBraaiSA

    Jun 3, 2014 at 20:27

    Awesome thank you! I’m going to re-write our swot analysis now 🙂

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Marketing Tactics

Gen Z Is Coming! Are You Ready?

How do you market your company to this generation?

Stuart Scanlon

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According to the CNBC, about 61 000 Gen Zers are on the verge of entering the workforce and consumer market in the US alone.

They are digital natives; they have grown up in a world of vines, txts (yes, we know) and internet. Their attention span is shorter than ever, they are more connected than any other generation, and they are brilliant multitaskers. Gen Z is a more tolerant generation but also more cautious; studies have found less risk-taking amongst this group and an increase in thoughtfulness and questioning authority.

So, on the one side of this coin, how do you market your company to this generation?

1. By being transparent

Be upfront about your business, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. They have lost faith in corporations. Thus, you must stop relying on and hiding behind small print. Yes, you need terms and conditions to protect your company, but when it looks like a miracle weight-loss advert of the 80s (“Eat anything you want just take this pill. Ts&Cs apply.”), you’ll lose customers.

Related: Investing in Young Entrepreneurs

Gen Z consumers want to see you are real; they don’t want models or celebrities but regular people who can assist them in a manner that speaks to them. And they will hold your business is socially accountable. Instead of producing millions of T-shirts at the cheapest possible price, they want local, equality and free-trade, and they want to know what businesses are doing for the environment and society.

Gen Z won’t accept your claims at your word; they want to see evidence in your company culture.

2. By offering options

A jewellery purchasing study has found that most Gen Zers don’t have a preferred shopping platform. What this means is your messaging, availability and culture need to be spread evenly across all contact points – sales, call centres, website and digital advertising. In fact, many Gen Z consumers rely on mixing their contact points.

That being said, they want immediate action. If they see something they want online, they will go to the shop just to have the item right now. More than immediacy, they also want custom-made or made-to-order products and services. They shy away from traditional made-to-stock methods, which creates plenty of room in the production industry.

3. By being forward thinking

We have to always remember what was mind-blowing inventions to other generations are the norm for Gen Zers. They hold brands and businesses to high expectations, and instead of being loyal to brands, expect brands to be loyal to them. As Gen Z is more focused on individuality, they are also proving to be a generation with a high entrepreneurial output. All this shows that they don’t want the norm; they don’t crave what’s new today, they want tomorrow, sustainability and innovation, and they want it now.

On the other side of the coin, how do you attract this generation to work at your company? In much the same way.

1. By being transparent

As much as you are hiring them based on what they bring to the table, so too are they looking at what you can afford them. But, they don’t just want to hear you tell them about the benefits, they want to see it – and they are not after just money. Gen Zers want to be financially secure, but also one that is fulfilling; one where they find purpose in their jobs and company.

2. By offering options

Gen Z employees don’t want to work eight to five, they don’t want to be chained to a desk, and they don’t want to be micro-managed. Give them flexibility on how they want to conduct their work and how they can communicate with their colleagues. Create an understanding workspace for their needs and help them improve their skills – for instance, it’s been reported that a stumbling block for Gen Zers is communication. Growing up with emojis and text messages make face-to-face conversations, business calls and writing emails difficult for them.

Gen Z employees want to work hard and grow their skills. Even though they’re growing up in a super-paced society, they want to climb the corporate ranks at the given speed. What they crave, with urgency, is gaining value from their jobs.

Related: The Z Generation

3. By being forward thinking

They are lateral thinkers, and their creativity is not just outside the box but has broken the box completely. Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy, and they will challenge the systems and procedures you have in place if these are not providing the needed speed and data required. Thus, they crave to work in an environment where they can push boundaries and ultimately help the company move forward. Hiring from the Gen Z pool can provide you with innovative insights into your business that can grow it towards tomorrow’s giants.

The only way to be sure you are future-proofing your business is by guaranteeing it caters for future customers and employees, by relying on forward-thinking enterprise resource planning software, for instance. Epicor ERP software ensures that their clients stay agile and innovative through trusting top minds to build and develop intelligent systems that open doors for Gen Zers. It’s Epicor’s innate tech-savviness that allows them to visualise the landscape of tomorrow and develop the software to support it today.

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Marketing Tactics

4 Steps To Writing Content That Converts

Hook them, engage them and tell them what you want them to do.

Syed Balkhi

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Is your content persuasive enough to convert your visitors into leads?

Some pieces of content you create will drive conversions, while others will be lost in the archives. As a marketer, you always want to write content that is persuasive enough to turn your visitors into leads and thereafter, into paying customers.

Writing persuasive content is not magic. Let’s take a look at some ways to write content that converts.

1. Craft an enticing title

The title of your content is the most important factor that influences engagement. A whopping 8 out of 10 people may not even read your content if the title isn’t captivating enough.

Using Headline Analyzer by Coschedule is the best way to create a magnetic headline that attracts your audience. Just enter your headline and the tool will report back with a score and a grade along with some suggestions to improve.

For analysis, the tool looks at the following factors:

  • The headline type: It capitalises on the type of headline that converts, including lists, how to’s and questions.
  • Word balance: It helps you to curate an enticing title by checking to see if it has the right word balance.
  • Character length: It also looks whether your title is scannable and easy to digest.

Related: How Content Marketing Adds Real Value To Your Customers’ Lives

2. Fulfill your title’s promise

Getting clicks on your title is just half of the equation. Ensuring that your content fulfills the promise of your title is another equally, maybe even more, important part of driving conversion. If your content can’t keep the promise your headline makes, your visitors will likely abandon your site without further engagement.

When crafting each line of your content, keep in mind that the purpose is to get your visitors to read the next sentence, then the sentence after that and all the way down to the end of your article.

Aside from providing value, you’ll also want to evoke a desire for what you’re offering.

3. Make it scannable

Most of your website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on your website, meaning people quickly skim through the content instead of reading word for word.

If your content is hard to scan, meaning it contains long sentences and paragraphs, it’s likely that your visitors won’t stick around. Chances are, they’ll go to your competitors to find content that’s easier to consume.

To create content that is easily scannable, you can follow the actionable tips below:

  • Short paragraphs: Write short paragraphs, preferably 3-4 sentences at most. Breaking down your content into short paragraphs makes it more digestible for your readers.
  • Use attractive subheaders: Readers should be able to bounce around to seek out the pieces of your content that interest them. By using attractive subheaders, you can pique the curiosity of your readers and keep them engaged.
  • Use bullet points: Using a bulleted list is the easiest way to ensure that your content doesn’t strain your visitors’ eye to read through it. Since bulleted lists stand out from the rest of your page, they make the entire piece easier to skim through.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs Content Marketing

4. Add a call to action at the end

The best way to convert your visitors into leads is to add a call to action, such as an email subscription form, at the end of every article you publish.

Some tips to speed up the growth of your email list are:

  • Offer a post-specific resource: Create a post-specific resource, and offer it for download in exchange for the email address of your visitors. When the resource is post-specific, readers are more likely to engage with the campaign, in turn boosting conversions.
  • Creating a premium library: To increase both perceived and actual value, you can create a premium library consisting of ebooks and other valuable course materials. You can then persuade your visitors to subscribe to your list by adding a signup box at the end of each article.
  • Content gating: Content gating is a popular strategy to boost conversions on your site. For instance, you can grow your list by blocking a small section of your content for subscribers only, which encourage your readers to sign up for your list.

The best way to create content that converts is to use emotion in your copy and evoke a desire for what you’re offering. By following the above tips, you can write content that converts your visitors into leads, and soon thereafter, into paying customers.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Marketing Tactics

5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble

If you don’t want your cash flow to turn into a drip, you’ll want to take a look at these mistakes you might be guilty of.

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I am often confused by the decisions normally very smart entrepreneurs make when it comes to marketing and sales, and growing their companies. It’s as though logic flies out the window and emotions rule the day when we start talking about sales and marketing.

Of course, I’m not suggesting entrepreneurs need to be perfect – in fact, I personally made one of these mistakes last year. My issue is with the entrepreneur who doesn’t realise when they are screwing up and continues to let their mistakes hurt their business’s long-term ability to grow.

I recently read a study that looked at businesses’ cash flow. It found that only 12 percent of businesses never have a cash flow issue. That means 12 percent of businesses can consistently pay their bills, pay themselves, and have profits left over. Of the others, 47 percent of businesses say that cash flow is sometimes a problem, and 41 percent of businesses surveyed said cash flow was a consistent problem.

To be fair, this study didn’t publish any additional info about the business owners – for example, did all of these businesses have less than $1 million in annual revenue? If so, I would assume those businesses would have greater cash flow issues than a group of businesses at $1million-plus in revenue. For this discussion, let’s assume this is accurate (based on my experience of working with small businesses, it is pretty close). How do you fix a cash flow issue for any business?

Related: Daniella Shapiro Of Oolala Collection Club’s Smart Strategies For Marketing Your Online Business

The interesting thing is that in the vast majority of cases, your marketing is linked to cash flow issues. The mistakes many entrepreneurs are making with marketing, sales and business growth are the same five mistakes that are causing their cash flow issue.

1. Not making customer retention a priority in your marketing strategy

I’m going to start with the one that is most near and dear to my heart: customer retention. You don’t have to use a newsletter to grow and maintain retention (although that is a good idea). But, you do have to do something, and that something needs its own budget. Retention is not a portion of the marketing budget. Without customers, your business is worth just about zero.

The reason so many businesses struggle to grow is they invest nothing in retention. These normally smart entrepreneurs have deluded themselves into thinking that their product and services are so amazing and life-changing that people will continue to buy over and over again without prompting.

So what lie do these same entrepreneurs tell themselves when they have 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? Tens of thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of dollars spent on marketing, and only 3.5 percent year-over-year revenue growth? If you’re a large retail chain, that isn’t bad, but for dentists, lawyers, financial advisors, or anyone in a service-based business, that is far from good.

Starting today, you must have a customer retention budget. Use the budget to increase retention, and from there, upsell the existing customers. The longer a customer is with you, the greater the chance for a referral. Their customer lifetime value goes up, too.

Done correctly, your retention campaign can increase sales and create more prospects. Regardless of how you use it, you must have a retention budget.

2. Getting bored with things that make you money

As entrepreneurs, we are prone to getting bored, and that even happens with our marketing. Regardless of how well it is working, we get bored with it and want to try something new. This is a toxic practice on many levels. I understand wanting to try something new, but you never cancel marketing that is working (even if it isn’t exactly crushing it) to try an unproven new thing. When people do this, they are basically saying, “I hate money.”

How many times have you tried a marketing program, only to have it not work out as promised or as quickly as promised? Do not cancel good marketing to chase unicorns. You can also call this tendency “shiny object syndrome.” It’s particularly severe when it comes to hip cutting-edge marketing tactics, like influencer marketing.

If you want to try something new, create a budget and try it. Don’t kill a pipeline of incoming cash to drill for a hopefully more profitable pipeline, because when it doesn’t work, you are screwed. If you can’t afford the new marketing without killing the old marketing that is working, then you shouldn’t be starting the new campaign until you figure out how to pay for it.

These are two huge mistakes that I see small-business owners make all the time that destroy your cash flow.

Related: Henrico Hanekom – Discover Your Inner Marketing Genius

3. Not investing enough money into marketing

I was chatting with a dentist from the greater New York area a while ago, who claimed to be getting patients with this one type of marketing for about $175 each. That is good in the greater New York area because of all the competition. However, just because you hit a home run doesn’t mean you can expect to hit a home run every time you’re up to bat. In that area, it costs $250–$450 to get a new patient in the door.

You will never grow if you’re not willing to invest a realistic amount per new customer. I’ve chatted with entrepreneurs who want to get 50 new customers per month, which should require a budget of at least $12,500, but currently, they only have a budget of $3,000 per month. I hate to break it to you, but you’re never going to hit your goal. If anything, the $12,500 per month you have devoted to marketing may not be enough, because as you scrape the low hanging fruit, you often find you need to increase the amount you’re willing to pay to get a new customer.

4. Feast or famine marketing

This is actually the mistake I made in 2016. We had so much going on in the first half of the year (the feast) that I didn’t plan well enough for July, which is typically a slower month for us (the famine). In July, I need to do more marketing and even spend more money on marketing to make up for all the business I lose when people go on vacation and forget about their campaigns. But, I was planning a vacation myself in July, and in turn, I actually ended up cutting marketing because I didn’t want to do the work that was needed.

Bad planning and a cut in the already planned marketing for July tanked the month. It was our worst month for new sales in nearly two years. You can’t allow a busy period to take your eye off the ball. If you have traditionally slow sales months, you must do more, spend more, and market more, in those months.

5. Cash flow issues demand more marketing, not less

This is the last of the bad ideas for today, but when you are having cash flow issues, shutting down the pipeline that is bringing in the cash you do get is just dumb.

Of course the argument I always get is that the marketing wasn’t working anyway. Well, if that was true, why didn’t you cancel it earlier? Typically, the entrepreneur doesn’t really know whether their marketing is working or not. All they know is they need money, so they cancel marketing to free up cash. That may help the problem this month, but it creates a new problem next month when no new customers show up.

When times are hard, you need to reinvest more in marketing, not less. You must figure out how to close more sales, not get fewer leads. There are lots of good ways to shore up your cash flow situation, but cutting off revenue-generating marketing is not one of them.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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