11 marketing plan tools

09 May 2016

by Rachel Suddart

What should go in a marketing plan? Take my whirlwind tour of tools and tricks to throw (aka ‘strategically place’) in the mix.


1. Promotional print: Posters, flyers and postcards are a great way to raise the profile of an event or product but you need to think about what they are going to look like, who you are targeting, how you will distribute them, where they will appear etc. Consider design costs, printing costs, content and how many you will need to get printed. It’s easy to get sucked into ordering large amounts to justify the cost – but if you don’t have a carefully thought out distribution plan then they’ll just sit under a desk waiting to be dumped into the recycling. Think about content and visuals – what will attract your audience? What information do they need to know? And proof, proof, PROOF! Posters should be easy to read with minimum text and clear messages. Think about where they will be displayed and what size is most appropriate. And check out lead times on production processes. Out of date literature is just a waste of trees.


2. Banners: Everyone seems to want banners. And they can look great and attract a lot of attention. But before you emblazon your product or event on a giant canvas, take a bit of time to consider where they will be displayed. Prime spots often have costs attached and guerrilla tactics can sometimes end with confiscation or prosecution. Is your message time sensitive? Can your banner be reused? Will it need re-lettered? If you decide that banners are vital to your campaign, ensure you include a clear, easy to read message, think carefully about positioning and be careful when you’re hanging them!

3. Brochures and listings (print): Whatever your product or event, ensure that you utilise the marketing tools of partners and host venues etc. Find out when there lead times are on production schedules and printing deadlines, ask what information and visuals they need and make sure you provide copy and content accordingly. It’s a great way to reach new audiences and maximise reach.

4. Direct Mail to existing customers (hard copy mailings or e-newsletters): Often, your most likely sales leads are people who have purchased from you previously. Direct mailings are a great way to re-establish contact. This can be done by post in a letter format or you can choose to go digital in an e-newsletter or e-flyer. There are pros and cons of both. Digital correspondence is low-cost, can be delivered instantly and you have the ability to track open rates. Unfortunately, people receive so many emails these days they often get lost in the clutter. Postal direct mails can be costly and you have no way of knowing if people have opened them or even received them. But with direct mailings becoming less common these days, a carefully targeted letter with a creative angle and a demonstration of customer knowledge or habits can often get good results.  Ultimately, format will be determined by various factors including audience type, budget, what contact details you have collated and data protection restrictions. Whatever method you choose, make sure the content is creative, well-written and targeted.

5. Press Release: Lots of people will tell you that the press release is dead. It’s certainly not a magic ticket to the top but it still has its place in the marketing mix and can reap rewards if you plan ahead and think things through. There’s mountains of advice on what makes a good press release and I’ll cover that another time but for now we’ll focus on the salient points. Think about your product and your audience and decide whether media coverage would help you achieve your targets. Then think about which channels would be most appropriate – local, regional or national? Digital, print, radio or TV? Do you actually have a story? Research the platforms and find out about their deadlines and what content might interest them. Put it into your marketing plan at the appropriate time with notes on what your angle might be. As always, timing is crucial. Too early and it won’t get picked up, too late and it’s a waste of resources. Oh, and don’t forget visuals…
In a world of decreasing resources and budgets it can be hard to get coverage in local media but don’t get disheartened. Once you’ve identified your best platforms for your product, try and build a relationship with the journalists and understand what they need. If you can help them to help you, everyone wins.

6. Digital opportunities:  Utilise your company website and ensure your product / event info features in the relevant area; ensure that your partners use the same content on their websites and explore opportunities for free listings.

7. Social media & blogs: Schedule in regular postings on social media platforms by creating interesting and meaningful content. It’s worth spending a bit of time deciding on which platforms are right for your product or event and ensuring that your content is tailored to your audience. Consider paid for advertising and boosting posts depending on product type and budgets. Don’t forget that social media users are savvy. They don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches and posts. Social media is supposed to be ‘social’. Start conversations, respond to comments and SHARE! Blogs are a great way to attract people to your website and help build relationships with potential customers and audience members. Think carefully about topics, formats and how they support your other activities. Blog about your industry, not yourself and focus on great writing, not just the techy stuff.

8. Paid for advertising: This completely depends on what sort of budget you have (if any) but the same principles apply. Consider your audience, research the available platforms and spend your money where it is going to get the best results. Think about content, think about timing and think about reach. TV, commercial radio, newspapers, local magazines and various online platforms all offer advertising packages.

9. PR stunts: In a world where people are bombarded with information every hour of every day, it’s hard to get people’s attention but a creative, relevant and well-planned PR stunt might help you stand out from the crowd. It will also give you lots of content for your social media platforms and help you secure press coverage. Plan well in advance to get the best results and make sure you are ready to handle any enquiries or deliver follow up activity after the event. Your stunt will be associated with your brand so aim for the two Qs. Quirky might grab their attention, but Quality will hold on to it.

10. Presence at events: Look out for local events that might be relevant to your product or that might attract people in your target audience. You might be able to have a stand with your promotional literature displayed or you may even be able to sell things on the day. Observing behaviours of potential customers and simply to talking people will help you raise the profile of your brand and understand your target market.

11. Internal Communications: Don’t forget the power of your workforce and ensure you keep them informed. Your staff members, colleagues and even clients (if you are a freelancer or sole trader) can be the best ambassadors, but only if they have the right information in a user friendly format. Tell people about what you are doing and encourage them to like and share messages on social media etc.

So there you have it. A whirlwind tour of a marketing toolkit and things to consider including in your plan. Each project will require a different combination of tools depending on the nature of your product and the circumstances in which you are trying to sell it. Timescales, budget, sales targets and audience type will all influence your choices and the timing, cost, amount and order of things may vastly differ.

But there are certain things that shouldn’t change. All activity should adhere to your brand values and carry a consistent message; it should be well planned and delivered, it should aim to get the best return on investment and it must be tailored to your audience.
Happy Planning.