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The Simple (and Smart) Way to Write a Marketing Plan

A 2019 survey revealed that 77% of companies follow some kind of content marketing strategy. But how do you strike a smart balance between defining a strategy and taking action?

If the vast majority of companies are structuring their content marketing, writing a marketing plan is clearly a good idea. But how complex does this exercise really need to be?

The worst kind of marketing plan is one which stops you from doing any actual marketing! If fear of ‘doing this wrong’ is paralysing you from actually getting content out there, then it’s time to bring some clarity and common sense back into the mix.

What’s in the document?

The first thing to clarify is that a marketing strategy doesn’t need to be a 30 page document full of definitions, market analyses and financial projections (yawn!). Nor is it a complicated, multi-page spreadsheet with detailed campaign breakdowns.

Whether you’re following a downloaded marketing plan template or coming up with your own strategy from scratch, if you’ve lost motivation to complete the task, it’s probably best to just clear the desk, grab a fresh piece of paper and put down the following five headings:

  • Who is our audience?
  • Where and when can we best reach them?
  • What content are they interested in?
  • What unique value do we offer them?
  • What is our price in the marketplace?

Right there is your skeleton of a marketing plan!

Filling it in might leave you with plenty of gaps but you will at least be in a position to start creating some real marketing campaigns. Besides, if you’re not able to fully answer these questions from the work you’ve already done, chances are you need to take some action to bring in more data anyway.

The great news is that the 21st Century marketplace is just swimming in data and running marketing campaigns is the best way to access it.

For now, let’s get back to the plan.

Knowing your audience

If you want some help understanding your audience to a level where you can actually create content they will read or view, generating marketing personas is a great way to start.

We have written plenty of articles on this process but the overall goal is to use the data you already have about your audience to create a set of generic portraits – almost like characters in a novel. This data can come from multiple sources, including customers you already have, your competitors’ customers and respondents to marketing surveys.

This will enable you to immediately do three things. First, you will be able to segment your overall market into several distinct niche markets.

Second, you will be able to create more targeted content because you are addressing a person rather than an abstract market.

Third, you will have an idea of where your customers go to consume content. Do they create fashion-related Pinterest boards? Are they part of an online gaming community? Do they watch YouTube videos or post snaps on Snapchat? Do they read newspapers or buy car magazines?

This is a great place to start when creating a content plan and deciding where to put your marketing spend.

Having filled in questions 1 to 3 on your new marketing plan, let’s look at number 4.

What is the point of you?

This is often known as your ‘value proposition’ but you can simplify it as your ‘why’. What is unique about your product or service and why should your customers care? What problem can you solve for them and why are you more qualified to do this than anyone else?

If you’re tempted to put down ‘excellent customer service’, I wouldn’t. Customer service is the glue that binds a customer to a brand not the beacon that attracts them in the first place.

It can help to reignite the passion of why you chose to go into business in the first place. That is the story your customers want to hear through your content. That is what will help them to trust that you are like them.

Putting your plan into action

So far, we have focused on the high level picture but as business owners ourselves, we understand that there are decisions to be made on product pricing, profit margins and marketing budget.

The exercises on developing marketing personas can help with this. If you know your target audience values quality and is happy to spend more to get the experience they demand, you can afford to enter the marketplace with a higher entry price. If your buyer is always on the lookout for a bargain and has minimal disposable income, a low entry price and bulk sales might be a better model for you.

From a marketing perspective, you can also be more strategic with spend. If your product or service is popular with the golfing set, you might want to set aside a chunk of budget for ad space in golfing magazines. Or pay for a billboard outside an exclusive golf course.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, including social media advertising, is almost always a great way to test your marketing messages as it costs very little to dip your toe in and you can fine-tune your targeting. You can also start collecting more data to bring your existing marketing personas into sharper view and perhaps develop new ones.

By sticking to a simple marketing blueprint, you can balance the need to be strategic with the need to actually get your product or service in front of the people you want to benefit from it.

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