Pippa Highfield of Brainwork Marketing talks us through her tips on writing a marketing plan.

I once had a boss whose stock phrase was ‘if it’s important, write it down’ – I thought perhaps it was just his poor memory or his tendency to pass off my work as his own; I soon realised though, how valuable the process of simply committing pen to paper really is.

The same, I think, is true of writing a marketing plan. For any size organisation, going through the discipline of writing a plan can really benefit your business. But how can writing a plan actually help? Simply put, your marketing plan should help you focus your limited resources (time and money) on your best prospects (your most profitable customers) to ensure your business prospers.

marketing plan
Do you have a marketing plan? By Shutterstock

The perfect Marketing Plan in three questions

You will find lots of templates, theories and entire books written about marketing planning. The following three questions will, I hope, act as a starting point to help you on your way to writing a good plan:

Where is your business now?

This is an important starting point and should include results of any formal research you have undertaken as well as anecdotal evidence. Specific areas to include in your analysis are:

  • Market conditions – external factors affecting your business
  • Competitor activity – think about direct and in direct competitors
  • Overall business objectives and sales targets
  • Profitability model – which products/services/customers are most profitable
  • Your pricing structure
  • Your company strengths and weakness and external opportunities and threats.

What does your ideal customer look like?

In order to attract more customers and retain existing ones you need to develop a profile of what a ‘good’ customer looks like. This may seem obvious at the outset though once you drill down into customer segments and match them with product profitability you may find some interesting results. Specific areas to analyse are:

  • Customer segments – which distinct customer groups buy your product/service
  • Customer characteristic
  • Demographics – for organisations selling to consumers i.e. B2C
  • Business characteristics – for organisations selling to business i.e. B2B
  • Influencers/advocates – who are they and what are their characteristics?
  • Profitability -which customer groups are the most profitable?
  • Customer lifetime value – how much is a customer worth to you over the time of your relationship with them?

What are you selling and how are customers buying from you?

It is important to think about your product/service from the point of view of your customers. Think laterally about your offering and challenge your own perceptions by asking customers what they think. Specific areas to articulate include:

  • Features, advantages, benefits – what solution is your product providing to your customers?
  • Unique selling point/competitive advantage – what is different about your product or service?
  • Buying process – through which channels do your customers buy from you?
  • Customer service – what additional value do you add to your product?

Once you have taken the time to analyse your business using these questions you will have a much clearer idea of what marketing activity is right for you. It may seem like a lot of effort; you won’t be the first person who is tempted to jump straight in and commission a website, book advertising space or go to a networking event without a plan. If you do decide to take the time though, you will be rewarded by saving time and money on costly marketing mistakes.

For more marketing tips and to find out how Pippa can help you develop your marketing plan go to www.brainwork.co.uk

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