What do the terms marketing strategy and marketing plan mean?

Before we get into the details you need to understand what these terms mean. A marketing strategy is what you intend to achieve with your marketing efforts and should reflect your company’s goals. Once you have confirmed your business goals the next step is to create a marketing plan. This is an action plan that is designed by your business team to promote and sell the products and services your business offers. Both a marketing strategy and marketing plan are key elements in growing a successful business.

How to develop your own Marketing Strategy and Marketing Plan

Identify your business goals

Your first step should be to spend time with your team to identify and develop your business goals. Avoid vague goals such as “increasing business”, as that is obvious and will not support any elements of a marketing plan. Focus on specific and clear objectives such as increasing awareness of products and reaching a new customer demographic.

If you are struggling for ideas try running a SWOT analysis to identify your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It’s best to perform this evaluation with a large team, or with as many people in your company as you can involve, as it avoids bias and reflects the business as a whole.

A great criterion to follow when setting goals for your business is the SMART method. SMART is an acronym and focuses on helping you create realistic and specific goals for your business. It consists of these five core elements:

  • Specific: Your goals should be specific and have a clear end point.
  • Measurable: Track and measure your progress so you will know when a goal has been met.
  • Attainable: Set realistic and achievable goals. It is good to be ambitious as long as you are also being realistic.
  • Relevant: Set goals that will benefit your business directly.
  • Time-bound: Set a realistic timeframe for each of your goals. This will help you stay focused and on track, ready to meet your deadlines.

Meeting specific, realistic and measured goals will be the key to your business’s success.

Confirm and discuss your Business’ Goals with your team

The next step is to set and confirm the goals you would like your business to meet, including the timeframe you envisage their completion. An example of a good marketing goal is to increase your business’ website traffic. This can be accomplished using methods and techniques such as SEO, social media advertisement, blogging and email marketing. Your goals could take a few years to achieve, but a good marketing plan should be long-term and cover a few years into the future.

Perform Market Research

Market research is the process of collecting data about your target market, consumers and competitors. It is important you do this so that you are able to analyse and interpret the data and understand where your business fits in an already busy industry. It is also crucial that you keep yourself and your customers up to date with recent trends and changes within the market. If your market changes so should your marketing strategies and plans. This will allow your business to always be relevant in an ever-evolving market.

Profile potential customers for your Business

Understanding who your customers are is an important part of your business. Profile for customers using your market research to discover who you are targeting and what their needs are. To do this you need a strong understanding of the products and services you wish to sell.

Profiling serves to reveal customer buying patterns, how they buy products, where they buy them (e.g. online, in-store or from catalogues) and what they buy.

It is important to continue examining and re-examining for potential customers as the market and your products and services evolve. But do not forget to keep up your relationship with existing customers whilst on the search for new ones. 

Profile competitors

Profiling for competitors is similarly important. You need to be constantly aware of your competitors, otherwise you may risk your business becoming irrelevant and left behind. Competitor profiles will allow you to collect information on the products they are selling, pricing, supply chains and their marketing tactics. However, this does not mean you should attempt to copy them.

Use the profiles to identify what makes your company stand out against your competitors and evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses to improve future performance.

Develop Plans that involve Marketing Strategies to meet your Marketing Goals

After carrying out the previous steps you should have enough information and data to develop marketing strategies for your business and implement them in a strong marketing plan.

An example of a business goal could be that you would like to strengthen your brand. A strategy likely to help you accomplish this is to grow your company’s social media following. Next is to develop an effective plan, this could include methods such as: engaging with your followers and running competitions, researching and using popular hashtags, producing valuable and informative content, working with influencers and using analytics.

Utilise the 7 P’s of Marketing

Once you have developed a marketing plan you should use the 7 P’s of marketing to continuously evaluate your business’ activities. By revisiting the 7 P’s your business is sure to stay up to date and on the correct path to success in the marketplace.

The 7 P’s are:

Product: Evaluate your product. Consider its quality, image, branding, features, uses and availability.

Prices: Continually examine and re-examine the prices of your products and services to ensure they are appropriate for the current market.

Promotion: How are you promoting your products and services to your customers? Examples include PR, branding, sales promotions, personal promotions and communications.

Place: Where are your products and services sold? Options include direct selling, telemarketing, catalogues, tradeshows and online.

Packaging: First impressions matter. Do not be afraid to change your product’s packaging to meet new trends. Improvements to packaging could lead to more sales.

Positioning: How are customers thinking about your company and its products, do you think you are at the forefront of their consideration? How do you think people describe your business? What position do you have in the market? If the answer to these questions are negative, you need to make changes.

People: Who is going to carry out each task within your company? You need to find the right people for the right positions. Positions include sales, customer contact, training, company image, recruitment and marketing.

Implement your plans

The final step is to implement your plans to test if they help you reach your business goals. Do not expect immediate results, growing a successful business takes time.

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