Welcome to 2014. It’s the start of a brand new year and now is the time to start planning your marketing activity for the year ahead.
We realise it’s not always easy to discipline yourself to put time aside for planning. Small business owners often have to juggle multiple roles, and planning can feel like it’s just one more thing to add to the bottom of a long of list of priorities – and before you know it you’re already halfway through the year. However, we firmly believe that putting some time aside now to plan your small business marketing strategy for the year ahead is well and truly worth the time and effort you put in.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at each of the elements that make up a successful marketing plan in more detail. First though we’ll look at why creating a marketing plan is so important for SME’s.
Why a usable marketing plan is so important for small businesses
Spending time planning your year ahead will actually help you focus on the areas that will help drive your business forward. By the end of the process you should have a relevant, useful working document that you can refer to time and time again over the course of the year. A good marketing plan will:
- give your business direction through creating clear goals and objectives
- help you to better understand your customers, online environment and competitors
- help you put your resources and budget in the right places
- provide a marketing strategy and plan of action for the year ahead
- give you benchmarks by which to measure your performance.
How to write a marketing plan
How formal and structured you maker your marketing plan is up to you. It will depend on your business and the time and resources you have available. However at the very least you should consider and each of the areas we’ve outlined below as they’ll help you formulate your strategy and marketing activity for the coming year.
There are plenty of useful marketing planning models – marketers all have their own particular favourites. In this post we’ll be using SOSTAC as it is a simple, useable framework to structure your plan around. The SOSTAC model was created by Paul Smith in the 1990’s and is still one of the most widely used and popular models for marketing planning.
SOSTAC marketing planning model:
Situation Analysis – where are we now? This is where you review your current environment to give you a better idea of where your business currently stands – what the current opportunities and threats are. Situation analysis involves undertaking some marketplace, customer and competitor analysis enabling you to gain a better insight into your current situation and help you focus on where you want to be.
Objectives – where do we want to be? Setting clearly defined goals and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives will enable you to focus your marketing strategy to support your overall business strategy and business objectives. For example, if growing your online sales by x% is one of your business objectives this year then a key marketing objectives is likely to focusing on increasing traffic to your website.
Strategy – how do we get there? Your marketing strategy essentially defines how you will achieve the marketing objectives you have set out. For example how you will position yourself in the market place and differentiate yourself from your competitors, and how you will segment and target your market.
Tactics – exactly how do we get there? Tactics are simply the tools you use to achieve your objectives and support your marketing strategy. Tactics are essentially based around the 7ps of the marketing mix (product, promotion, price, place, people, process and physical)
Actions – What is our plan? Actions are the specific details of the tactics you have decided upon – essentially who, when and how you intend to implement them. This often involves putting together of schedule of actions, budgets, timeframes and responsibilities.
Control – measuring success? Control is how you intend to monitor the performance and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing, using measurements like web analytics, customer feedback, sales, conversion rates and so on.
We’ll be looking at each of these elements in more depth over the coming few weeks so by the end of the process you should be able to create a useful marketing plan that supports your overall business objectives and gives direction to your marketing activity over the coming year.Marketing Plan Book image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment
Online objectives – drive traffic, generate new customers, retain existing customers,