Marketing Basics For Beginners – How To Create A Marketing Plan
If you run any form of business or are thinking of starting one up, I’m sure that you’ve heard the term “marketing” – but have you wondered whether you really need to dig into the details of “what is marketing” and apply it to your business?
Marketing isn’t as complicated as it may seem. It’s really just all about determining how you will interact with potential customers and what your message to them will be – whether it’s a message through your colors and imagery, with words, with the price or design of your product, with your voice, or through any other means.
And yes! Unless you get really lucky, you need to think about how to market your business if you want to see it succeed.
In this post we’re going to walk through how to finalize a marketing plan for your business. If you are just starting your business or have never built a marketing plan for your business before, make sure you read about defining your purpose and goals, target market, and marketing strategy, before you read this post. Defining those items first will set you up to walk through establishing your actionable marketing plan below.
Note: I am assuming that most of my readers are either solo entrepreneurs or running a very small operation. This post is geared toward building a marketing plan for that scale of business. If you are larger, more established, and have a dedicated marketing team or department then this post is not for you. My goal here is to keep things simple to help you get your business promotion targeted and off of the ground. I won’t be covering all of the textbook marketing plan elements or detailed analysis items that may be beneficial to a more complex organization.
Also before we dive into establishing your marketing plan, we’re going to take a moment and do a little bit of analysis of the product or service your business is built around. It will help to position your thinking to pull your plan together. Both the analysis and the steps to building your marketing plan are outlined below.
Analysis For Your Marketing Plan
1. The 4Ps (Or Marketing Mix)
The 4Ps (or marketing mix) for your business refers to your business’s product, price, place, and promotion. Thinking through each of these items lays a helpful foundation for your marketing plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but make sure you have an understanding of the following details for each of these aspects of your business:
- Product – Basically, know what you are selling (product or service), what problem it is going to help your customers solve or what need it is going to meet for them, and what the major selling points of your product are.
- Price – Determine what you are going to charge for your product or service. There are a lot of different ways to approach this. This post from Sumo goes into some really helpful detail on different strategies and pricing models. Your product price may already be established for you if you’re in a MLM organization or if you’re earning income indirectly as a blogger or through affiliate programs, but if you are marketing your own product or service make sure that you think this element through.
- Place – How are your customers going to obtain your product? Are you delivering it in person? Are you shipping to customers? Is it an in-person service? Determining how your customers are going to receive your product or service can influence your price and your marketing strategies. (For instance, you probably don’t want to be blasting online promotion for your product all over the world if it’s something you need to hand deliver.)
- Promotion – You can dive into analyzing the promotion of your product or service in more detail in my post on developing your marketing strategy. Essentially, you need to know what outlets you plan to use to promote your product or service.
If you want to read a more in-depth explanation of the 4Ps and how to think through them for your product or service, I think this article does a good job of guiding readers through each item.
2. Competitor Research
No business is without at least SOME competitors and it is an extremely helpful thing to take a look at what some of your competitors are doing with their business. Look at and think through some of the below points for each of them:
- What is their price? Do I want to be higher or lower? Why?
- How are they promoting their product or service? Do I want to compete on the same platforms? (Maybe they are promoting where they are because it’s the best place to reach your target market! Or maybe not.)
- What selling points are they emphasizing for their product or service? (ie. “it’s high quality,” “it’s affordable,” “it’s easy to use,” etc.) Are there any different selling points to emphasize for my product?
Looking at your competitors isn’t to cause you to rethink your whole business or pound into your brain that you won’t be able to compete with them. Be careful not to let it do that to you. Try to keep a mindset of learning from your competitors and looking for holes in the needs their product meets that maybe yours can step in and fill! You can learn a lot about what works in your market by watching the moves of your competitors.
Ok. Now that we’ve looked at some items of analysis for your business, let’s dig into building your marketing plan.
Building Your Marketing Plan
Most resources will say that all of the above analysis as well as details on your mission and vision, target market, marketing strategy, and more are part of your marketing plan. It is more textbook correct to include all of these details and more in your official plan.
However, personally, I find it more helpful to look at all of the other analysis and details as a lead-up to my actual marketing “plan.” However you want to look at it, all of the items are important – so make sure you have thought them all through. Because I break them apart in my own brain, I’ve broken them apart in my posts for you. Therefore, though I call it the marketing plan, below are basically the items that I think are important to consider in your “promotional plan of action” for your business.
This may or may not be an item that you need to consider for your business. If your marketing strategy is solely focused on using social media or being part of free community groups to sell your product or service through word-of-mouth, then this item doesn’t apply to you (unless you plan to implement some promoted social media posts). However, if your marketing strategy includes any form of printed promotional material (flyers, business cards, mailings, etc.) or paid advertising then you need to make sure that you map out your budget so you aren’t suddenly hit with more expenses than your business can support.
I recommend setting a promotional budget for each month and then listing out the details of what that budget will be used for each month. I recommend this because seasonality might affect when you want run certain promotions and/or you may have higher or lower profits from your business during certain months of the year and that may impact how much you want to spend in a corresponding month. Plotting out how much money you have to use each month and how you plan to use it can keep you from overspending and keep your spending on focused priorities so you don’t purchase on a whim.
2. Brand & Message
I’ll dive into branding in more detail in another post but, basically, it’s important to determine what you want your “image” and message in all of your promotion to your target market to be. You’ve already nailed down HOW you want to reach your customers in your marketing strategy, but you need to think through WHAT you want to say to them and how you want to be perceived.
Think back to your analysis of your product in the 4Ps above as well as your competitor analysis. What makes your product or service special? Or what problem does your product or service solve for your customer? What can your product or service do that your competitor can’t? Take all of these items into consideration and think through exactly how you want to be perceived by your target market.
I recommend writing these items down so you can refer back to it as you go about the daily grind of your business.
Once you know how you want to be perceived and what your selling points are, you can establish some of your branding. (You can create a logo, pick brand colors, choose types of imagery, and select the consistent voice that you want to use.) You will also then know exactly what you are trying to communicate each time that you post on social media, hang a flyer, or talk with someone locally, etc.
3. Promotional Schedule
To me building a promotional schedule is the culmination of your marketing analysis. This is your final “plan of action.”
Basically, what you want to do at this step is pull together your marketing strategy and your promotional budget to map out exactly what promotional things you are going to execute and when. Depending on your type of business, it may be helpful to pull out a one year calendar and write out all of the details on specific dates – especially if your marketing strategy includes distributing print materials that need to be designed and printed well ahead of your planned date to distribute them. A little bit of planning can go a long way to keeping your business on track with reaching potential customers.
Exactly what it looks like to put together a promotional schedule is going to be different for each and every business because it’s highly dependent on your marketing strategy. It may need to be precisely detailed on a calendar to be sure that all of the prep work gets done and your budget is not exceeded. However, it may also not need to be so precise.
For me and my blogs, I don’t have a day-by-day or even month-by-month calendar of my promotional plans. However, I do have a general (unwritten) promotional plan that I follow each month that includes posting regularly to social media.
Every business is different, but it’s important to have a plan of action to reach your potential customers – whether it’s vague or specific.
One brief note to finish off…
A plan is important, but don’t let yourself get so stuck on completing analysis and putting a plan in place that you don’t take action! Your business is definitely not going to grow without doing SOMETHING. Even if you don’t have all of your i’s dotted and t’s crossed, start getting your business out there! You will learn as you go and can always re-evaluate, re-brand, 0r re-focus. I look back in shame at what my first blog looked like when I initially started pushing it out to the world, but taking that step to start pushing it out there helped me to learn and develop it. Even if you think you have a perfect plan in place before you move your business forward, you will likely find yourself learning and changing it as you get a more involved feel for your market and see some business growth.
Let a plan guide your business, but don’t let it keep your business from starting or evolving.