It’s time to start planning your budget and marketing for the upcoming year. This is a good time to reach out to your business coach, consultant, or Hot Dog Marketing to discuss your marketing strategy. If you’re writing your own marketing plan this year, this blog post is a basic outline to get you started. You don’t need an MBA to make a plan for your business, but you do need to be thoughtful about each aspect of the outline.
If you’ve never written a marketing plan before, don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to be a business superstar to figure it out. However, it is incredibly wise to have some sort of plan. The worst plan is no plan at all. Consider how high-performance athletes approach a game. They assess the competitor, the environment, their own strengths, weaknesses, and goals, and then make a plan of action. They don’t simply jump in headfirst! While business and sports aren’t perfect analogies, I’m sure you want your business to perform at a high level, therefore, having a solid marketing strategy is essential.
How to Write a Marketing Plan
You should revisit this every year. New competitors or new key players may have emerged in the past 12 months that you haven’t heard about yet. Conduct research to find them on social media channels, search engines, community forums, and news outlets. Compare the strengths and weaknesses of these top players with your company. Additionally, identify how they are positioning themselves in the market, how they’re reaching their audience, and who their target demographic is. Then, develop an idea of how to capitalize on your competitive advantage in the upcoming year.
Questions to ask when examining competitors:
- What are their strengths and weaknesses?
- What is their unique differentiator?
- What unfair advantages do they have?
- What are they better at than your company (and vice versa)?
- What is their brand identity like?
- What is their online customer experience like?
- Who is their audience?
- Who is talking about them?
- Who are their strategic partners?
- Where do they advertise or market themselves?
- How do they reach their audience?
- How do they position themselves in the market?
- How does their audience feel about them?
- How can you do something similar?
Here’s a post on a competitor analysis we performed at Hot Dog Marketing against our own competitors!
Establish Marketing Objectives
Your business plan states the objectives that you’re trying to achieve. Whenever you develop a new marketing plan, it’s beneficial to make sure your goals are still aligned with where you and your company are. Your business goals should inform your marketing goals, and those marketing goals should inform your marketing plan. For instance, if your goal is to gain 10 new enterprise clients next quarter, how does a highway billboard ad help that? Additionally, make sure your objectives, both long- and short-term, are specific and measurable.
Examples of good marketing objectives:
- Improve customer loyalty (by generating X% of repeat business in the upcoming year)
- Gain at least 30 additional clients in X segment this year
- Reduce marketing costs/waste by $X in the first quarter
- Sell 100 products per week
Examples of bad marketing objectives:
- Gain 1,000 followers on social media next quarter
- Start a podcast
- Say ‘yes’ to every sponsorship opportunity
- Get better
Target Audience Analysis
Target audience is another aspect included in your marketing plan that you need to revisit. You may have discovered new targets, decided to widen your reach, or realized the audience persona is shifting. You need to include information regarding the lifestyle and demographics of your audience(s). This should give you a clear idea of how to appeal to them. What’s the best way to analyze your target audience? Conduct surveys! There are actually many ways to conduct surveys, whether that is to your audience, someone else’s audience, or the general public.
Examples of how to conduct audience surveys:
- Simple online surveys sent out through email or SMS
- Qualitative phone interviews with customers or network
- In-store in-person questionnaires
- Livestreaming an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session in an online community forum
- Polling your followers on social media
- Run A/B digital ads testing your assumptions
Conducting surveys can be time-consuming though. If you’re trying to identify a new target audience or gauge interest in a new product you’re considering developing, use open-source intelligence gathering. Use search engines and social media to conduct searches for whatever it is you’re testing. Are there many results or few? Does this mean there is a market gap or no market demand? Performing assumption testing like this will help cull your ideas.
There are several strategies you can choose to implement depending on your goals and target audience. Competitors can even exist in the same space with different strategies that focus on different segments of the audience. For instance, some people will gravitate toward the scrappy startup with a personality behind their brand while others may be more cost-conscious and simply want the least expensive option. Identifying your strategy and writing it down will help guide your decisions for the rest of the marketing year. Strategy selection is a great topic to discuss with a consultant if you haven’t so far. Consultants are able to provide a strategic, holistic outside perspective that is incredibly helpful when making important business decisions.
Some strategies to choose from:
- Differentiation – why and how you’re different than the competition or the customer’s current solution
- Cost Leadership – you have the lowest price around
- Niche Focus – appeal to a small subset of a larger audience
Marketing Mix (The 4 Ps)
For those not familiar with the four Ps, we won’t go into a lot of detail here but they are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. You’ll want to re-establish the first three Ps before diving into the fourth P: Promotion.
What to reconsider in your marketing mix:
- What is your brand identity?
- What are the services you do and don’t offer?
- What is the packaging like (also, what is the unboxing experience like)?
- What is the retail price compared to competitors?
- Is there a discount price that aligns with marketing efforts?
- Is this the right market?
- Are you reaching customers through the right channels?
- Is distribution easy and efficient?
Promotion (The 4th P)
The list of ideas is endless here. Consider your budget, human resources, and strategy when deciding what items you’d like to include in your upcoming year’s marketing plan.
Here’s a shortlist of programs or ideas to consider for the promotion piece of your marketing mix:
- Social Media Profile
- Social Media Advertising
- Loyalty Programs
- Public/Media Relations
- Outdoor Advertising
- Print Advertising
- Digital Advertising
- Email Marketing
- Personal Selling
- Trade Shows and Events
Make sure to include a timeline for your promotions to set a solid metric for completion. Talk with your marketing agency now to start planning your new projects. Items that include graphic design and printing require longer lead times, so plan them well in advance. Additionally, if your company typically experiences fluxes in revenue around particular holidays, plan some actions to either mitigate or capitalize on those times in the calendar.
Go out there and make great plans and execute on them!
Does this sound overwhelming to you?
Don’t underestimate how important and beneficial it can be to get help through the marketing planning process. Your consultant, coach, or Hot Dog Marketing can help you see hidden facets of your business you may not have ever considered. Good luck, and if you need any help, Hot Dog Marketing is ready to guide you in the right direction with a free consultation.
Interested in more marketing planning resources? Check out our Quarterly Marketing Checklist here.
I’m a mom, a small business owner, and I’m a marketing professional with over a decade helping businesses with their branding and online presence. When I’m not spending time with my family or on my business, I love cooking (and eating) and snuggling with my dogs while I binge on TV shows. My favorite authors are Malcolm Gladwell and Steve Martin. My favorite movies are L.A. Story, Little Mermaid, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Trainspotting.