The first step in building a marketing plan is to identify your target market. You need to understand who your target audience is, what their needs and interests are, and how you can best reach them. Once you have identified your target market, you need to decide on the best marketing strategies to use to attract them. This could include things like social media campaigns, email campaigns, search engine optimization, and more. Additionally, you need to determine your budget and timeline for implementing the marketing strategies you have chosen. Finally, you need to set specific, measurable goals to ensure that your marketing plan is successful. If you are just starting out and have no idea how to build a marketing plan, use this as a starting point. Essentially, you need to strategize, build a budget, generate a plan (with campaigns), and identify ways to measure success and pivot if needed along the way.

Build a Marketing Strategy

Outline Your Unique Value Proposition

To start, write down your differentiators. A unique value proposition (UVP) is a concise statement that communicates the unique benefits or advantages of a product, service, or business to potential customers. It should clearly convey why someone should choose your offering over your competitors’.  

  • Highlight Key Benefits: List the key benefits that your offering provides to your customers. 
  • These benefits should directly address the needs, preferences, and pain points of your target audience.
  • Be Clear and Concise: Keep your UVP short, simple, and easy to understand. Avoid jargon or technical language that may confuse your audience. Use plain language that speaks directly to your customers.
  • Make It Memorable: Craft your UVP in a way that is memorable and easily recalls in the minds of your customers. Consider using a tagline, slogan, or a catchy phrase that sticks with your audience.

Research Your Competitors

Evaluate the competition. (Don’t dwell on them, just know them well enough to understand what makes them different). Competitors are great in the sense that they continue to generate an overall awareness of your category in the market. Note, it’s not realistics for your brand to “fit” the need for every business in the market. Determine what is unique about your company so that you can ultimately attract the “best-fit” customers. Keep your competition close; you never know when an opportunity could arise for an acquisition or partnership.

Define Your Target Audience(s)

Break out the segments of your audience and determine which ones are the best fit. This audience will be your primary focus and drivers of your campaign ideas. Identify the secondary audiences as well. Segments are a general category of users who would find value in your products or services. As part of your overall communication strategy, pinpoint the problem(s) you solve for each one of your segments. When it comes time to develop campaigns, you’ll be more equipped to craft meaningful messaging for each segment. When you create messaging that resonates — it will break through the noise and make you more “heard” in the hearts and minds of your audience.

Determine Your Annual Marketing Budget

Budget Method for Businesses at Least 5 Years Old

Review last year’s sales and allocate a % of what you expect sales to be for the upcoming year. This will give you a starting point to assess how much effort will be needed to reach the new goal. Then factor in variables that make the upcoming year different from the year prior. Will you be adding services? Changing prices? Moving into a new market? Adding expertise? These factors can increase your budget–like if you are trying to establish a brand presence in a new market.

Budget Method For New Businesses 

For new businesses, you have to factor in the fact that you need to at least make your name known. (That alone will not bring in sales.) Expect your investment ratio to sales to not be efficient in the early years until you establish a brand presence in the market. But a quick way to start to identify your budget is to multiply your expected monthly sales by 5%. Evaluate if this budget is enough or if you can reduce it. Research marketing investments by industry because  the percentages are different for each. For example, it’s common for manufacturing companies to use 1.5-2% while retail could be as high as 15% of estimated sales. 

Learn Your LTV (or CLTV)

The lifetime value of a customer is a metric that calculates the estimated total revenue a business can expect to generate from a customer over the duration of their relationship with the business. It is a crucial metric for understanding the long-term value of acquiring and retaining customers, and is often used to guide marketing and business strategies.Depending on the type of business, the lifetime value of a customer (LTV) varies. If your customers do repeat business, are on a subscription or retainer, then your LTV should influence your decision on determining how much to spend to acquire a new customer (CAC). Calculate price times the frequency of transactions you expect within one year. If you have a history of keeping customers longer than one year, you can factor that multiplier in as well.   

Evaluate Capacity for New Business

Another factor to consider when evaluating the lifetime value of a customer is the capacity for new business. Can your current operations handle an influx of new customers? Consider if your products, services, and customer support can accommodate the new customers you are targeting. If not, you may need to invest in additional resources such as staff or technology to make sure your customers remain happy and engaged. This will influence the amount you can realistically spend to acquire new customers.

Let’s say you get more than enough new business—having too much new business could become a problem if your company can’t handle it. You don’t want to run into an issue with not being able to deliver when the time comes. It can be damaging to your brand. False promises, under delivery and lack of great customer service can lead to bad reviews and deter others from buying in the future. Once the trust is broken, it’s hard to get back. Plan for ways to manage an influx of new customers — maybe through partnerships and/or subcontractors.

Build Your Marketing Plan

Brainstorm Campaign Ideas  

Use your UVP as a base for developing ideas for your upcoming campaigns. Schedule a brainstorming session with your team and your marketing company. Invite team members from various roles within your company. (You’d be surprised how often non-marketing and sales roles bring up great ideas.) Creative execution plays a big role in the success of your campaigns. Plan to generate enough ideas to update (or just freshen up) your messaging every 4-6 weeks. 

Create a Content Calendar

Create an editorial calendar to keep track of the campaigns and content you’ll be producing. Identify different types of content (blog posts, social media posts, email campaigns, etc.) and plan out the topics for each one. Make sure to give yourself enough time to create the content and design any visuals. Outline a timeline for when the content should be published. This will help to ensure that your campaigns and content stay consistent and relevant.

The best tool for calendars is a spreadsheet. Plan out your content for the year by week, include topic themes, shows, workshops, webinars, social media, PR and paid advertising campaigns. Each campaign should identify the cost for developing the content as well as the cost applied to the channel.

Measure Performance

Once your content and campaigns have been published, measure their performance. This will help you determine if the content resonates with your audience and if the channels used are effective. You can use analytics software such as Google Analytics to measure page views, time spent on page and other metrics. You may also want to measure the ROI of your campaigns to determine if they are generating revenue. By analyzing performance data, you can improve your content strategy and make adjustments if needed. With a solid plan in place, it will be easier to identify goals to measure. 

Key KPIs are typically sales, conversions, and leads. Soft conversions (video watches, downloads, page engagement) can and should be measured as well. Don’t let your marketing company get away with just sharing useless “vanity metrics”. Impressions and clicks that don’t tie to conversions are not going to help your bottom line. They are useful when looking at the bigger picture and calculating efficiency in digital campaigns, but they should never be the ONLy results shared. There are some great tools for building dashboards that are very user friendly. Check out PowerBi, Klipfolio, and Looker Studio.