When they start out, many business owners ask the question, “Do I need a marketing plan?” This is especially common amongst small startup businesses that don’t have a huge marketing budget. They don’t think they’ll be spending much time or money marketing their business at first, so they don’t think they need to worry about creating a plan.
But, marketing is essential to a business’ success, especially when you first start out. Even if you don’t have much of a marketing budget, you should still be carrying out marketing activities. It can be difficult getting those crucial first customers through the door without it. There are plenty of free and low cost marketing activities you can do, including social media and email marketing.
Just as a business plan is essential to starting up your business, a marketing plan is essential to our marketing.
What is a marketing plan?
As the name suggests, a marketing plan is a document that lays out a plan for how you will market your business. It should cover everything you need to inform your marketing strategy. Your marketing plan should outline:
- who your target market is that you are selling to
- who your competitors are and what their strengths and weaknesses are
- the strengths and weaknesses of your own product or service
- other information about your product or service, such as price and features
All of this information should give you a good idea of how you can market what you are selling; where and how you can reach your target audience, and what message you want to communicate about your business and what it is selling. This should also be explained within the marketing plan.
Why do you need a marketing plan?
Your marketing plan, just like your business plan, will help you to focus on a goal or a destination. It gives you a clear vision of what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. It will also allow you to measure your progress and determine how successful your marketing activities have been. If you don’t know what you want your marketing campaigns to achieve, then you could waste a lot of time and money on activities that aren’t getting you anywhere.
Writing out your marketing plan could also help you to identify any potential pitfalls in your business and what it offers. If, when deciding who your target market is, you discover that there isn’t really a gap in the market for what you’re offering, then you may need to rethink your product or service, or find a way to gear it towards a specific demographic. If there are problems such as this, then it is much better to identify them at this early stage then once your business is already failing. At the same time, it also helps you identify the strengths of your business.
Essentially, your marketing plan helps you to stay on track. It gives you timelines to stick to and goals to work towards. One of the keys to successful marketing is consistency, and you are much more likely to remain consistent with your marketing if you have a plan to work by.
Putting it into action
Not only is it important to create a marketing plan, but also to actually use it and refer to it in your day-to-day marketing activities. So many business owners create a marketing plan and are so happy with the result that they put it in their desk drawer or on a shelf somewhere in the office to keep it safe, and then they forget all about it. They feel accomplished that they’ve completed the plan, but it was a futile effort because they don’t actually use it to guide their marketing.
Use your marketing plan to inform the marketing campaigns that you run. You should also review your plan on a regular basis to keep track of what is and what isn’t working. At the minimum, you should review your marketing plan once a year to evaluate and improve on your strategy.