The methods we’ve used to plan and execute 100% of our multi-million dollar successes.
Here’s an alarming statistic all business owners should know: anywhere from 40%-60% of advertising spend is wasted promoting ineffective messaging to imprecise targets using nonoptimal language. A key part of effective and efficient marketing is iterating, testing, and adjusting your ads, marketing channels, and copy to target the right audience with the right message. Writing a business marketing plan will help you and your team make marketing decisions grounded in reaserchAdditionally, a business marketing plan will give you the insights needed to increase the likelihood of a purchase. You’ll gain the information, data, and perspective to understand and communicate your product values effectively and clearly to previous, current, and potential clients.
But before you take advice from a random person on the internet, here are a few words about me. Over the last decade, I’ve executed marketing strategies with budgets of $1,000 to over $10,000,000 for various products, services, and company sizes. The more exciting things I’ve marketed are luxury watches, trucking software, 40-ton overhead cranes, and literal kitchen sinks.
This marketing framework has been adjusted, updated, and edited based on marketing successes and failures throughout my career. It’s meant to be used as an evolving document for your marketing team and is meant to be adjusted for your unique business and industry.
How To: Write a Business Plan
What is a marketing plan, and why write one?
In simple terms, a marketing plan is an operational document outlining the relevant information needed to make effective advertising decisions. More abstractly, it is a filter for each of your marketing decisions keeping your team assigned and keeping your focus on your, target market, value propositions, channels, and messaging.
What Your Business Does
The first step in your business marketing plan will be to list your products/services along with the adjacent problem it solves.
Note: Outlining the problems your business solves requires a deep understanding of your target audience and their problems. You can return to this section and continue to fill in different pain points your business solves as you discover them in the next sections.
This section will lay out a clear understanding of your business idea, functions, and product offerings. Writing out the intricacies of your product/service will help maintain content consistencies, decrease confusion, and build a strong foundation.
It will also help identify your value propositions and help explain the main benefits that attract your customers.
Who it Does It For (Target Market)
The next question becomes who your business serves or who has the problem your business solves. The ultimate question is who will get the most value from your product/service?
Historically we’ve had the most success finding relevant information during customer interviews. Our interview framework can break down into 4 categories.
- The Problem: The specific problem the client is having that is relevant to your solution.
- The Decisions: What are the relevant questions a client would ask when comparing your solution or competitors?
- The Barriers: What are the reasons they would not go with your solution?
- The Success: The outcomes for the customer if your solution works.
Additionally, you can collect the relevant characteristics from the list below that can be used to add more depth to the individual decision-makers.
- Who are their customers and what are the company’s goals/mission?
- Decision makers’ job title, function, responsibilities, professional/business Goals
- Frequented websites, social media, and trusted influencers
- Company Size, Department(s) and headcount, Tools used
- What social media channels and influencers do they follow?
This information can be gathered from a variety of sources, including:
- Your CRM and other first-party data sources
- Job posting websites and indeed.com is great for getting job-related info
- Speaking to staff who directly interact with your customers the most like sales and customer service
- Interviewing your current/past customers.
- Talking to former employees
What are your competitors doing? (Competitor Analysis)
Since your business does not exist in a vacuum, it’s essential to understand your competitors, your market, and how your business offering stacks up against your competition.
Your competitors can be grouped into two categories: direct and indirect competitors. Direct competitors are companies with a similar offering, and indirect competitors are companies with different offerings but can still satisfy your target market’s needs.
For example, Spotify would categorize Apple Music and Youtube music as direct competitors. They would also view audiobook companies like Audible as an indirect competitor since there is only a finite amount of free time in a day. If they use it to listen to an ebook, they won’t be able to listen to music or a podcast on Spotify.
Once you identify your direct and indirect competitors, pinpoint the factors contributing to the company’s successes or failures. A good place to start is by analyzing each of your competitors by answering the following questions:
- What products/services do they offer?
- What ads are they running?
- What marketing tactics & strategies are they using?
- Who is their target market?
- How are they mitigating buyer’s risk?
- do they have a free trial? Return poloicy, reviews?
- What web technologies they are using?
- You can use a tool like builtwith.com to see what someone has under the hood of their site.
- What is their unique selling proposition?
Feel free to add and modify these questions based on the unique information you require to get the best possible understanding of your competitors’ businesses. You can even go as far as to include what marketing copy/creative have and haven’t tried and what’s working.
Once you’ve completed your analysis, you can create a SWOT table outlining your company’s and competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This would help you organize and easily compare the qualitative information you have gathered.
Budgeting & Measuring Success
Defining a budget and outlining success for your marketing operations will help you and your team focus time and money on what matters most—additionally creating safeguards against marketing overspending. I suggest outlining your revenue goals and calculating your budget based on your current (or estimated) costs. but the key marketing metrics to start with are.
What you pay/want to pay for each Qualified Marketing Lead (MQL) or Cost/MQL
What you pay/want to pay for each Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) or cost/SQL
What your customer acquisition cost (CAC) is, not including sales costs.
You can set up separate goals for separate marketing channels based on the “quality” of the leads from that channel.
Beyond monetary goals, you can include other key performance indicators, like increasing the number of newsletter signups, webinar attendees, and social media followers. However, each micro goal must have a clear value and connection to your macro goal.
Putting It All Together
Now that you’ve done your research, you need to analyze, infer, and summarize your findings to a cohesive and clear document. This should be a simple, shareable document where you can convey your marketing plan, findings, and analysis to your staff, team, or yourself later.
To effectively communicate a business value to a customer, we need everyone on the team to have a CLEAR understanding of what the business does, who it does it for, and why they do it.
The first part of the plan should be a 3-4 sentence summary of what your business does, your target market, and your mission statement (your “why”). Followed by a more detailed analysis and a summary of your business, the analysis should walk a reader through the overall landscape of the industry, competitors, your company, its unique value proposition or key differentiators from the rest of your competitors.
The next section should be a detailed summary of your target audience, who they are, what problem they are looking to solve, where they congregate, and any other details that factor into their buyer’s journey. I also like to include the raw data in the audience section for my staff or me to easily review as we get feedback from our advertising.
Personas are documents that focus your creative and copy on a number of distinct customer segments. Using the above characteristics and research, identify 1-3 distinct segments that represent your visitors as a type of persona by including any common characteristic within that segment. If you’re a B2B company, you may have minimum customer requirements; this can be outlined here as well.
You can also use a persona template to help you create an effective persona document.
You vs The Competition
Outline what differentiates you from your competition and summarize the information gathered in your SWOT analysis. You can add the complete SWOT analysis of your business and your closest direct and indirect competitors for easy reference. This can be shared with the business development team to update and upgrade your product offerings to be more appealing and relevant to your competition.
Marketing Channel Selection
Selecting the right marketing channels and their priority is based on understanding your target market’s online and offline habits and overlaying that with business considerations like budget and capabilities.
The business marketing plan aims to clearly describe your product/service, target market, and competitor’s product and offering and attach budgets and key performance indicators to the separate marketing goals in the plan. Successfully outlining an accurate marketing plan allows you to make marketing decisions grounded in research and oriented toward one goal.
Use it to guide you when deciding on things like:
- What your marketing messaging should look like for each persona.
- What marketing channels will you choose (Facebook/Insta, Pinterest, Search, Lawn signs)
- Who & What does your target market/personas trust (influencers, websites, blogs, media outlets)
- What are your most valuable features for each persona, and how best to communicate them to them?
P.S. Your Marketing plan is an “Evergreen Document” that you review quarterly or at a set interval.
With each new set of customers, you can readjust to find the optimal messaging and targeting or grow more confident in your selected offering.
I highly (like super duper badly) advise you to begin with a plan before making any marketing decisions!