Article written by Heideli Loubser
“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” ~ Thomas Edison
This means that you can actually create a solid marketing plan for success in your business in 2023. Yes, things can happen, but planning implies that you’re going to hope and commit to working towards the best possible outcome and roll with the punches. That’s grit — the ability to persevere, be resourceful, and take opportunities with both hands wherever you can find and create them.
This post will give you an overview of what a marketing plan is, why it’s important, what to include in one, and tips on making it as actionable as possible.
The importance of your marketing plan
- A marketing plan for 2023 isn’t just about having one so that you can check a box and have a fancy file labelled “marketing”. It’s one of the core keys to your business success if you set it up strategically, systematically, and implement it consistently.
- Having a marketing plan gives you something to work with — it’s like being able to see where you’re driving. When you know where you’re trying to go and have a few options you’ve considered to get there, there’s clarity and focus. You’re not like a learner driver standing at the intersection, wondering which mirror to check first after turning your indicator lights on.
- Avoid unnecessary crises. Life has been chaotic for the past three years with many businesses encountering new challenges they had not planned for. This meant that many entrepreneurs and business owners had to change their plans. That’s fine, but how can you pivot or swerve out of the way of an oncoming disaster if you had no plan to begin with?
- A marketing plan gives you something to fall back on when you lose focus and, let’s face it, we all have those days.
- When you’ve implemented the plan for a few months, you accumulate data that will show you which parts of the plan worked well and which parts didn’t. Then you can tweak and optimize accordingly. Data-driven decision-making in marketing is the key to surviving and thriving in business now.
- Marketing costs money, so it makes sense to spend it carefully. A strategic marketing plan gets you more bang for your buck than flying by the seat of your pants and hoping for the best.
How to write a marketing plan
Writing an effective marketing plan is all about getting yourself in the right headspace before you start crunching numbers, data, platforms, budgets, and other decisions. Prepare yourself for a good session by doing the following:
- Set half a day aside in your schedule where you will not be disturbed.
- Find your favourite space to work, and make a nice cup of tea or coffee.
- Breathe. Yes, breathe. Inhale through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breath out through your mouth for 6 counts, hold for 4. Repeat this 3 times until you feel clear, calm, and ready to focus.
- Consider what your business is going to achieve in the next three years and dream a bit.
- Now you are ready to start. With that positive vision in mind, open the marketing canvas and fill it in. Basically, it’s a template that makes it easy for you to incorporate all the key elements and information that you need in your marketing strategy. This includes topics like an overview of your business’s current marketing status, your target audience and the context behind their buying motivation, marketing channels you’re using, timelines, etc.
Marketing planning process
After doing the above, you will have a clearer idea of which part of your target audience is most responsive, where you need to create more brand awareness, and so forth. Now it’s time to unpack your marketing planning process and reverse engineer your goals.
First, look at all the numbers you have in these areas:
- Your marketing budget and what you can allocate to the methods you’ve chosen, such as Google Ads (using Google bidding software such as Adbot can be a huge help as it can manage your monthly ad spend), boosted posts, social media ads, campaigns, launches, tools, etc.
- Your website traffic — what is most popular and why?
- Your social media traffic and engagement — what’s working?
- Your email open- and conversion rates — what are people responding to?
- Other resources you have available that you’ve not maximised, such as tools, staff training, hiring interns to help with social media marketing, etc.
Now, reset those numbers for the next year or quarter. Use that information to create smaller action plans for each marketing method and platform you plan to use, i.e. website content, email sequences, blog posts, videos, social media posts, mobile marketing messages, app marketing, push messages, etc.
Highlight the main priorities
For instance, what will your SEO marketing plan be? Will you focus on only organic growth or organic and paid methods together? You can also approach it from a content marketing perspective and tweak everything from there to every channel and platform. How much fresh content do you need to create per quarter, and how much do you already have that you can repurpose or simply update?
What will your social media marketing plan be in terms of platforms, content for each, and frequency of posting? Will you use a combine-all scheduling tool, or will you bootstrap as much as possible and focus on consistency more than the frequency of posting?
The same questions apply to your website content and your email marketing — what key messages (from your main marketing plan) need to be a running thread throughout your website and emails to your customers?
Next, write a list of everyone’s names on your team and start delegating the tasks. Who must do what, how often, by when, where, how, etc. For instance, the person responsible for social media marketing must know which platforms, account details, how many posts, what kind of posts, when they must be posted, relevant graphics and keywords to include, and when to set up paid social media ads, etc. Remember to set a date for reviewing progress on how it’s going and to address any hiccups along the way.
Strategic marketing plan
The point of a plan is that you are unpacking, step by step. This explains to your whole team what you are trying to achieve, and how they can help you get there.
Turn your strategic marketing plan into a brief summary (containing the most relevant tasks and responsibilities) that you can hand out to your team because no one is going to want to refer to a 30-page document on a normal busy Monday. The summary, your strategy, is the part that focuses on the action once your team has seen the bigger picture in your overall plan.
To make it even easier, divide your year plan into quarters so that if anything major changes in that time, you can tweak the plans for the next quarter where needed without having to overhaul the entire thing.
Include your marketing plan steps, for example:
- Create and publish pre-launch content marketing material for a new product or service by a set date.
- Launch new product or service and publish related content such as demo videos, reels, SEO-optimized blog posts, email sequences, social media posts, etc.
- Do webinars, live streams, workshops, or other suitable events to boost awareness.
- Run press releases, paid ads, and/or boosted posts.
- Evaluate responses across all channels every few weeks after the launch to gauge responses and analyse the cost per lead/sale.
- Evaluating growth in your brand awareness, engagement on social platforms, your website and your newsletters, total sales, profits, etc. is valuable because you get an overall view of progress.
Marketing plans with different goals and strategies
Remember that planning for growth in brand awareness and building out your email list is not the same as planning for a 30% increase in sales. Of course, you can (and should) plan for both, but your strategy and budget will make a difference depending on whether your business is still in the start-up phase or has been going for a few years. A new business needs far more effort for awareness to generate sufficient sales and a client database before they can shift more spending towards sales.
This is another reason that dividing your marketing plan for 2023 into quarters is helpful because you can focus on growing awareness in one quarter, then build on that by growing sales using the data gathered from the first quarter. A steady, data-based approach is also financially less risky than spending your entire budget on ads from the start.
A marketing plan is for progress
Remember, the point of the plan is not perfection. You likely won’t be able to tick every single box you’ve set, but ticking some is better than none. The aim is progress — forward momentum. If you set sensible, strategic, measurable goals, you will have data to work with after consistent implementation and that is the gold you’re looking for. Use it, allocate your budget based on the data that tells you how achievable your goals are, and thrive.