For many of us, 2020 has been a year to forget. We’ve seen our businesses interrupted, our channels to market change and our plans alter in line with the circumstances we’ve faced. However, 2021 is a new year and we have to plan for our success and for most businesses having a coherent marketing plan is critical.

Your marketing plan outlines the strategy for your business and depending on its’ needs, your plan will change over time.

Here are my top 10 tips to get you started on a strategic marketing plan or to revise an existing one:

  1. Have the end in mind – Your marketing plan will fail if you don’t know what you want to achieve. Before you create a marketing plan, you must know what results you want to deliver. You need to understand the goals and objectives for your business – where do you see yourself in 3, 6, 12-months time? Think about your long-term goals and consider how you can break them down into specific objectives. Then build a plan that lists the steps you will take to get there.
  2. Be a SWOT – A SWOT analysis is a great tool that measures the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that the business faces. Your strengths and weaknesses are internal to your company and look at the inner workings of the business. Your opportunities and threats look at the external environment and considers the social, legal, economic, political, technical and competitors elements that affect your business. By analysing your situation, you can target and tailor your marketing strategies, while overcoming challenges that may or may not be within your control.
  3. Know your Audience and your Messages – Every piece of your marketing activity should have your customer in mind and that’s why it’s essential to understand your target audience or audiences. The more detailed and personal you can make your profiles, the more successful you will be in targeting them. Your messaging to them is an essential part of your marketing strategy and your brand. Most messaging is based on two things – the benefit of gain over the fear of loss. What problems does your product or service solve for your audience, what questions might they ask? What objections do you need to overcome? What value can you add for them? How can you prove your expertise? By answering these questions, you can help define the messaging across all of your online and offline collateral.
  4. Show your Value – Every business is guided by its values. These should be written down and clearly communicated both internally (to your team) and externally to your customers. Creating a mission statement outlines these values and ensures that the people who interact with your business are aware of them. Be real, your audience won’t be fooled, their brand experience should match what you say it is. This statement and how it is carried out can make or break your clients’ trust.
  5. Create your Route. A successful marketing strategy contains a clear road map of tactics. These should include the right mix for your audiences and provide multiple opportunities for them to see, hear and interact with your brand. Your goals, target audience, and industry factor into this decision. This is where knowing your audience comes into play – if you know where they hang out, what they read, watch etc you can make sure you are front of mind. Once you’ve selected your tactics, you need to write them in your marketing plan and outline how they’ll help you reach your goals.
  6. Set a Date – Any good plan needs a timeline. Based on the goals and objectives you’ve set for your business, you need a timeline that outlines when each element will occur and be completed. Add in contingency time, to ensure that you don’t have to rush any of the elements and to allow for any unforeseen circumstances.
  7. Keep hold of the Purse Strings – It’s important to set a budget for your marketing activity and stick with it! Your budget will inform which tactics you can afford and at what frequency. Paid advertising on social media and search engines for example, allows you to choose the amount you can afford to pay, making them accessible to even the smallest of budgets. Always allow a slush fund in case an unmissable marketing opportunity presents itself.
  8. Pick your Team – We can’t all be experts at everything. Once you know the strategy and tactics you want to implement, you can assign tasks to your team or to an agency or group of freelancers. It’s essential if you’re outsourcing to understand the experience of the people you’re working with and their knowledge of your sector. They will help you to carry out your plan and ensure your ultimate success.
  9. Measure and review – Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing strategies will inform your current plan and your future efforts. Your website, social media, and other marketing materials are key sources of statistics and information that can support this. To help you track this, there are numerous free online analytics tools available. Just be sure to only track data relevant to your business so these measurements are effective.
  10. Keep it current – As your business evolves, your marketing goals will change. It’s essential to review your plan regularly, you should revisit it at least every 3-6 months and make the necessary adjustments. When writing plan think about where you want to be and not just where you are. How much do you want to expand your business? In addition, keep up-to-date with industry news and trends so that you can keep ahead of the competition.

Establishing a strategic marketing plan keeps you focused on your business goals and saves you both time and money. Reviewing it regularly will ensure that it meets the needs of your business and is a useful tool. Here’s to a successful 2021 for all of us!