Marketing plan: A how to

22 Apr 2016


by Rachel Suddart


Whatever it is that you want to sell or promote, a marketing plan is essential if you want to achieve your goals. It helps you identify priorities, apportion your time, approach things in an organised and strategic way and if you consider the right things from the outset, it can maximise opportunities and help you get the best return on any investment.

Marketing plans don’t have to be complex. Sometimes, the simplest approaches achieve the best results. Formats can vary and will depend largely on who needs to have access but if there are multiple users, make sure that everyone knows how data is to be recorded, how it needs to be updated and where it should be saved. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen teams fall at the last hurdle because schedules are confused and people are working at cross purposes.
In order for it to be a help, rather than a hindrance, your marketing plan has to be:

Simple, user-friendly, targeted & realistic.

So what needs to be in there?

Well, before you are able to select the right marketing tools for the job, you need to consider a number of important factors.

Goals: What is your end goal? What does the plan need to do? What do you need to achieve? And by when?
Keep reviewing this as you progress through your project and check that your activity is delivering what you need. Your end goals may change as you go along but as long as you are monitoring things and your plan remains flexible you can still achieve desirable results.

Target market: Think about your audience. Who is it that you are trying to reach? How many people are you trying to reach? Where are they located? Do you have knowledge about their behaviours?
Prioritise your time and budget on areas that will get the best return on investment and don’t waste your time on activity that won’t be seen by your target audience. Choose tools that you know your market will respond to and tailor your promotional materials to the people you are trying to reach.

If you are promoting a 50 minute theatre show for children aged 2 – 4 in an auditorium that only holds a maximum of 100 people, there’s no point in spending a portion of your budget on national TV advertising or putting flyers in book bags for all year groups in a primary school.

Timing: Timing is crucial. Not just in terms of how much time you have but also deciding what to do when and in what order.
Think about how much time you have to deliver the activity? How much time will you need to execute tasks? How much time do they take to work? What needs to be done first so that other things can follow on? Work backwards from the event to find out when you have to start.
It’s also not just your time you need to think about. Consider other people’s availability if you need to get something signed off or approved, factor in print deadlines for newspapers, allow time for amends on designs etc. All of these things will enable to you to schedule the appropriate tasks in to your plan – and crucially, at the right time.

Remember: There are three really important things to keep in mind when looking at timing and the first one is that you have to be realistic. Is your plan achievable in the timeframe that you have? There’s really no point in including things in the plan that you haven’t got time to finish or that might reach your audience too late.
The second thing to remember is that everything takes longer than you think. Always over-estimate. Nine times out of ten you’ll end up being right on the nose – and if you have time to spare, then it’s a bonus! You can put more time and effort into the next item on your plan!
And the third?
Everyone will always tell you they don’t have any!

Resources: The first thing that people think about when they see the word resources is budget and yes, this is of course a big one. If you are lucky to have a large marketing budget then you can obviously consider using more expensive marketing channels and tools. But don’t be disheartened if you don’t have a bean to spend. Depending on your audience, your timescales and the other resources you have available, you don’t necessarily have to spend a bundle to get good results.
As well as the cold, hard cash you should consider what other resources you have to utilise. How many people do you have in your team? And how many hours can they commit to the project? Don’t forget to look at things like annual leave and other commitments. There’s no point in scheduling lots of activity in periods where you are short staffed. Things just won’t get done and you’ll all end up stressed and disheartened.
Consider what skills you have at your disposal? If you have a gifted designer in your team, how best can you work this in to the plan? If someone has a knack for writing engaging copy, what tasks need that particular talent?

I’m not saying that you should discount costly, high input devices that take a long time to execute. There’s certainly a time and place for all marketing tools and materials and depending on your product and goals, sometimes they are the only things that will do the trick. But by considering the factors outlined above, you’ll find yourself in a much better position to:

a) create an effective and achievable plan

b) prioritise time and resources

c) maximise your chances of success.

And that’s something that we all want, right?


Next time:
So now you’re ready to write your marketing plan. What things need to go in it? Take my whirlwind tour of tools, tasks and tricks to throw in the mix.