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How to create a marketing plan

By Intuit Australia

4 min read

We step you through the process of creating the perfect marketing plan.

A smart small business owner knows that everything is marketing. From the signature line on your emails to the way you answer the phone every interaction is an opportunity to tell people about your business.

Although some marketing methods are cheap if not free others are very expensive. Different things work for different businesses and the most expensive option isn’t always the most effective one. The key is to figure out what makes sense for your business and budget.

That’s where a marketing plan comes in.

Glenning says it’s important to understand this because “it flows over to some of the things you’re going to put in and some of the things you’re going to leave out of your elevator pitch. You want to be interesting enough so that the person you’re talking to will want to follow up for more information.”

Write a summary

Begin your marketing plan with a brief description of your business (your business plan can help with this). Describe your company’s size, products, services and annual revenues. Then outline any previous marketing efforts you’ve made and their results.

While a summary may feel unnecessary, it can help you zoom out and get a clear, fresh perspective on your business and its marketing needs.

Goals

A marketing plan guides your journey, which means you need to define a destination. Outline your marketing goals for the quarter, year or three or five-year period.

Make goals specific and measurable, such as “increase web traffic by 20 per cent”, “grow social media followers / fans by 25 per cent month-on-month” or “gain 20 new customers each month”.

Opportunities

Describe any strategic opportunities you see. These usually link to your goals. For example, if a competitor went out of business, you can set out to pick up displaced customers. Similarly, if you have developed new features to your product that benefit a certain type of customer, you can describe the opportunity to approach a new market segment using your innovation.

SWOT analysis

Summarise your market by inventorying its key factors Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Briefly list several items in each category. For example, possible strengths might read “lower price than competitors, effective distribution channel, well-trained staff, contract with major retail chain in the area”, while weaknesses might include “low product output, high staff turnover, increasing costs, poor brand awareness”.

Competition

Give a brief description of your competition, including their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you define your comparative advantages and examine areas for improvement. Some of your information may resemble the threats in your SWOT analysis. List as much concrete information as you can about your competitors, including sales volume, market share, product line, number of sales representatives and locations.

Also consider their marketing activities. Which channels do they advertise on? Do they exhibit at or attend any events? Are they sending out an e-newsletter or distributing flyers?

Market research

List any market research you have conducted. Such information may include surveys asking customers what they would pay for your product or the prices of similar products or services at local retailers. If you had professional market studies conducted, you may have data on your most successful target demographic.

You can also study your previous sales to look for trends and information. For instance, if you sell soap online, your sales records may reveal that 60 per cent of the purchasers of shower gel are women aged 26 to 32.

Target demographic

As specifically as possible, define your target demographic. Include gender, occupation, age and any other relevant factors. For example, if you open a high-fashion hair salon, your target might be single, professional women between ages 20 and 35, with incomes of more than $55,000 a year.

Think about the kind of lifestyle your target customer leads, where they live or work, what they do and how they might hear about your business. For instance, are your potential customers likely to be keen newspaper readers or do they spend lots of time on Facebook, or both? Do they drive to work (where they might listen to the radio) or use public transport (where they’ll see station billboards)?

Marketing budget

Before you can decide on your marketing plan of attack, you need to define how much you have to spend. If appropriate, break your marketing budget down by month or quarter. Be as detailed as possible about the availability of funds.

You may want to include contingencies based on sales and expected revenues. For example, if your revenues in Q2 exceed the $200,000 you expect, you would like to spend an additional $500 on marketing.

Marketing methods

At this point, you should know your target audience, as well as what marketing your competitors are doing and which channels they use. Based on these insights, create a chart of your desired marketing methods and associated costs.

Depending on your audience and how they interact with media, the channels might include social media, direct mail, telemarketing, brand ambassadors, samples, industry events, community events, flyers, emails, texts, soliciting referrals, contacting former clients, promotional events, networking and advertising.

Action plan

Once you have a complete list of marketing methods that apply to your business, create an action plan. This should list both the funds you’re assigning to marketing effort as well as a timeline what marketing will happen when and on which channel(s).

Include a list of measurable targets for each piece of marketing you undertake, so you can review the effectiveness of your plan and its components. A marketing plan will change based on this feedback and new marketing opportunities that might present themselves, so be prepared to update your marketing plan to use the most effective channels.

Information may be abridged and therefore incomplete. This document/information does not constitute, and should not be considered a substitute for, legal or financial advice. Each financial situation is different, the advice provided is intended to be general. Please contact your financial or legal advisors for information specific to your situation.

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