Yet, without one, how can you really be sure your marketing efforts (and budget) are being properly directed?
The important thing to remember when it comes to getting your marketing plan down on paper, is that your plan needs to be firmly rooted in business reality and the stated business objectives.
As such, it needs to involve not only the marketing team but all senior business managers.
Ideally, you should incorporate information from every part of the business, your customers, and people in your target market to whom you are not yet selling.
Gather the information you need to assist with planning, and on which you are going to base your plans moving forward.
This will include detailed financial reports, product information, market analysis, staff and customer feedback, etc.
Based on this information, your marketing plan will begin by clearly stating your business’s current market position, including information such as history, profitability, share of the market, USPs, etc.
Having considered your company’s position, profitability, and share of the market, it’s now time to delve deeper into the market analysis to consider future threats and opportunities and how well placed you are to withstand or capitalise upon them (i.e. your strengths and weaknesses, and markets opportunities and threats).
You need to consider changes and trends not only in terms of your own company, and that of your customers, but also in terms of your competitors, the market in which you operate, and even beyond that: to the threat of new entrants and the opportunity of new markets.
Once you have stated what you uncovered during your SWOT analysis, it’s time to move on to outline your objectives against the backdrop of this analysis.
Your marketing objectives can be modest – but they must be concrete, time-bounded, measurable, and achievable.
Bear in mind that in 12 months, when you update this marketing plan, you’ll be measuring your business success against these objectives.
Once you have agreed and listed your marketing objectives, your marketing plan needs to detail exactly how you plan to achieve them.
This is the tactical portion of your marketing plan.
Each objective should outline several goals, then clearly outline the who, what, when, and how of implementation. The people responsible for delivering each of these goals should be involved with the tactical planning at this stage.
You’ll need to agree and detail the people, resources, marketing channels, activities, budget, and partners required to deliver each stage.
By the time you get to this level of detail in your marketing plan, you will need to use tools such as activity matrices to manage resources and clearly identify when things should happen.
Your marketing plan also needs to define how and when you are going to measure progress against your stated marketing objectives and the implementation of your tactical plans, consumption of resources and budgets, effectiveness of channels, etc.
Time allocated for monthly, quarterly, and annual reviews need to be outlined in your tactical plan, as well as measurement criteria, and techniques.
This measurement and feedback process will enable you to monitor your activities and adjust your plan, as necessary.
Your plan should be a living document, but should also always state the history and development of your campaigns and activity. Capture the details about performance, what worked, and what didn’t work, so that information can be fed back into future planning loops.
Marketing planning doesn’t have to be scary – not if you gather the information in advance, involve all the key stakeholders throughout the process, and ensure you monitor progress regularly.
Check the online marketing trends for 2017 and start right now preparing your marketing plan!