8 steps to create an effective marketing plan
Marketing plan is an essential part of any marketing team, and might affect dramatically the company’s success.
It’s hard to find a lot of businesses that are delivering quality results without a marketing plan in place.
What is a marketing plan?
“Focus on the right message for the right people at the right time.” – Russell Glass
It’s pretty much it.
According to Wikipedia – A marketing plan is a comprehensive document or blueprint that outlines a business advertising and marketing efforts for the coming year. It describes business activities involved in accomplishing specific marketing objectives within a set time frame.
In my words, A marketing plan is – constant documentation of how a business plans to reach its growth goals for short and long term through marketing channels.
Why do you need a marketing plan?
The key reason to why you need a marketing plan is – Top marketers document their marketing strategy.
Need more reasons?
In this article I will show you a practical guide that will guide you how to create a marketing plan using these 8 steps.
- RESEARCH – WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR
The essence of a valuable marketing plan is consisted of the following questions that we will have to answer:
Who am I speaking to? (target audience – customer persona)
What are they looking for? (target audience – interests)
What is my message? (content strategy – valuable content to your target audience)
Where am I delivering my message? (Distribution – social media, search engines etc)
When should I deliver my message? (Content schedule – when should you distribute your content)
What outcome do I want? (Goals – registration, brand awareness, conversion..)
Once you know the answers to all these questions, you would be on your sure way to craft a quality marketing plan.
Let’s get going
- WHERE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR INFORMATION? Competitive analysis
You want to start with the good old start man – research. By research I mean competitive analysis and I mean a thorough competitive analysis. Why?
Because majority of the information we need is presented in your competitors activity.
You should find 5-10 competitors in your niche and start mapping their performance.
You want to track the following aspects:
-Top performing contents
-Top performing keywords
-Social media pages
There are many free online tools that will help you with that. You can get all the mentioned information by following this piece about (competitive analysis tools – link to the article) that will show you where and how you can get all this information.
The more information you can collect the better. You need to keep asking yourself the following questions:
- Which contents are working best for my competitors?
- Where do they get their backlinks from?
- What keywords work best for them?
- In which social media platforms are they most active?
- Do they use paid ads? To what extent?
You want to sum it all up in one list that goes like that:
Leave those tables for later.
These tables will be the foundation of our marketing plan, and our starting point for keywords, backlinks, social media, content strategy and content schedule.
- WHO SHOULD WE INTERACT WITH? Defining Target Audience
Now our next step would be creating a customer persona. I suggest you follow the guidelines how to create customer profiles.
We already know what our target audience is looking for by reviewing our competitors key performing keywords.
Additionally we know in which social media platforms they engage with brands like yours.
We also know what contents they enjoy to consume the most.
So we know all that, and we should find the following information:
– Age range
– Pain points
Based on the followings we can create a user persona, it should be in that direction:
Work: SMB’s & Startups
Location: USA, focussing on South Florida
Pain points: Online Marketing, growth hacking, scaling up, UI, UX.
Interests: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Technology, Marketing, Design and IT.
This is a very basic version of user persona. We can create a high level definition of all those aspects of our target audience in your marketing plan.
I can recommend the following structure
This is a great structure to start from.
Explaining the customer persona in high level. We can also find here the foundations to our content strategy.
Time to move forward to the next phase – setting up goals for our marketing plan.
- WHY SHOULD WE INTERACT WITH YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE – Goals
It’s important not to set up unreasonable goals to avoid hurting the company’s moral.
You can’t assume you will crash your competitors in few months, or even become as successful as they are. Not in a short period of time.
You have to consider your budget and your abilities when setting goals. Again, you want reasonable goals that you can obtain in the upcoming year.
Few more recommendations before you are setting up your goals:
-Set up goals you can track
-Set up goals that will directly affect your business performance in terms of ROI and sales.
-Set up goals that will be relevant like the following examples:
- Followers numbers
- Engagement rates
- Registrations from each channel
- Conversion from each channel
To sum it all up, your goals have to be clear and trackable:
Why do we interact with our target audience?
We want to turn this traffic into leads. This audience is representing potential clients
of the company.
You can interact and engage with your target audience for multiple reasons and
purposes (choose yours):
- Online reputation
- Community building
- Lead generation
- Events registration
In our case this is a good layout for our goals.
Please take a look at those goals, and try to understand where I want you to go.
You don’t want to set goals that does not make you profitable.
Your goals always have to support your business model. No real reason in promoting goals that don’t make your business profitable.
So track results that matters to your business and start planning how to get there.
In our example we are tracking 3 main goals – (1) registration on the website for a free quote; (2) filling up a marketing consultation questionnaire; (3) Number of organic visitors to the website.
As you can see in the table, all the goals are defined in Google Analytics and are easily trackable.
- HOW SHOULD WE INTERACT WITH THE TARGET AUDIENCE? Content Strategy
You already know what works for your competitors. We start from there and add
some stuff that are unique to your business.
For your content strategy you will have to go back to the competitive analysis again. You want to focus on answering the following questions:
|Which contents works best for my competitors?||Where my competitors are getting most of their traffic from?||How does the competitors content schedule look like?||What keywords work best for your competitors?||Which publishers drive the most traffic to your competitors?|
You want to make it clear and simple – something in that direction:
- Which content works?
Videos, Marketing tutorials, How to guides, infographics, company culture.
- Where is the traffic coming from?
(i) Google; (ii) Facebook; (iii) Instagram; (iv) Twitter; (v) Paid ads
- What is the content schedule?
(i) 1 blog post Marketing tutorial and How to guides (1200-2600 words) per week; (ii) 3 Facebook posts per week; (iii) 2 Instagram posts per week; (iv) 5 tweets per week; (v) 2 videos per month; (vi) 1 infographic per month.
- What keywords work best?
(i) online marketing; (ii) pr firm; (iii) social media marketing; (iv) content marketing agency; (v) storytelling.
- Where to distribute your content?
Here you will need to have a list of blogs, forums, and influencers that you discovered your competitors are getting their traffic from.
We want to be more specific here, and to apply the best contents in the best possible placement to attract your target audience.
Meaning, which content goes where?
Live videos – Instagram, Facebook & Twitter
How to videos – YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
Marketing tutorials blog posts – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing
How to guides blog posts – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing
Infographics – Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing
Company culture – Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
We will take all this information in the content schedule chapter and turn it into an easy to follow table.
- WHERE SHOULD WE INTERACT WITH OUR TARGET AUDIENCE? SEO
Where will we interact with our target audience?
We have defined our target audience, and know our customers are spending most of
their time in the following platforms (in a descending order):
(1) LinkedIn; (2) Facebook; (3) Google; (4) YouTube; (5) Twitter; (6) Instagram; (7)
Pinterest; (8) Bing.
In this phase we will discuss search engines, IE- Google and Bing.
Our first course of action in terms of where should we interact with our audience will
be on the search engine level. It’s time for our plan to address SEO on the strategic
Disclaimer – this is not where you will learn everything you need to do in terms of SEO.
You are more than welcome to try these great pieces on SEO and how to improve
your rankings with these steps.
Do you remember our competitive analysis from earlier right?
We will need to get back there and take the followings:
Now we can move over to our plan:
- Keywords we want to include in our contents
We already know the best performing keywords in our industry from our competitors. A good start for us would be to implement these keywords in our website and content. With time it is recommended to implement additional longtail keywords in every new piece of content we are publishing.
- Onsite SEO
It’s quite the obvious stuff, and you will find this and more on this piece (set up your website perfectly with actionable onsite SEO tutorial).
Here we should include guidelines for Meta titles, images tags, meta descriptions and more.
We know which keywords work the best for our competitors. We also know how their titles and meta descriptions look like from our review.
We want to get to that level
Title tags – need to include brand name, and the top 1-2 keywords that will attract potential customers.
Meta descriptions – after seeing what works for your competitors you want your pages description to be on that level to begin with.
- Backlinking opportunities
We want to generate quality backlinks to our website and our contents. This way improve our ranking and attract more organic traffic.
It’s well known that backlinks are one of the key ranking parameters used by Google. You want to target quality and trustworthy backlinks to improve your SEO rating.
My rule of thumb is to target pages that are over 40 according to Moz Domain Authority tool.
We know where our competitors are getting their backlinks from, so we will try and do the same.
Meaning – creating competitive contents and creating relationships with similar publications your competitors are promoting themselves through.
In addition it’s also very beneficial to guest blog in other industry related websites, this way you can generate quality backlinks and gain authority for your website. Check out this great list of websites accepting guest blogging in multiple industries.
This will ensure that you will be able to compete. Our content strategy will guide us to create the right content to form collaborations with those websites and get quality backlinks.
- WHERE SHOULD WE INTERACT WITH OUR TARGET AUDIENCE? SOCIAL MEDIA
We already know which social media platforms work the best for our competitors. That’s why we are going to start with targeting the top 3-5 social platforms.
Because your customers are there…
In our case we will go to the following social media platforms (in a descending order):
(1) LinkedIn; (2) Facebook; (3) Instagram; (4) Twitter; (5) Pinterest.
How will we interact with our target audience?
Now remember we were looking at our competitors to discover which kind of contents work the best for them. In our case it’s (in a descending order as well):
(1) Live videos; (2) How to videos; (3) Marketing tutorials; (4) How to guides; (5) infographics; (6) company culture.
We should plan which content published in each social media platform:
- WHEN SHOULD WE DELIVER OUR MESSAGE? CONTENT SCHEDULE
This is more for you than it is to get the best performance of a specific timing to post.
When you create a content schedule you basically create a work plan for your business to follow. In addition, you create a standard of posting on the relevant social media platforms.
That’s good because it improves engagement and brand awareness.
It puts you in a place where you understand and prepare for the long way ahead.
When will we interact with our target audience?
- Facebook – 3 posts per week
- Twitter – 5 tweets per week
- Instagram – 3 posts per week
- Blog – 1 blog post (1,200-1,800 words) per week (distribution with LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook & SEO)
- Live Videos – 1 live video per month (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
- Promotional Videos – 1 video per month (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube)
- Infographics – 1 infographic per month (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest)
As soon as you have these answers you have all the information you need. All your chapters are ready. You just need to make it happen.
Good luck 🙂
February 11, 2018