How to write a marketing plan
- Juliëtte Geers
- 22 May 2023
- 7 min
Marketing is how you bring your product or service to the attention of your (potential) customers. With a well-thought-out marketing plan, you reach new customers and work towards your growth ambitions.
A marketing plan is part of your business plan. In this plan, you describe your target group (the market) and the needs of your potential customer. You also describe how you will reach this target group, and how your product or service responds to their demand or need. You can discuss your plan with an experienced entrepreneur free of charge at Entrepreneurs Sounding Board.
This article incorporates the advice of Stefan Fabbro, head of marketing at digital agency Hoppinger in Rotterdam.
Parts of a marketing plan
You lay down your plan for reaching new customers in a marketing plan, also referred to as your marketing strategy.
1. Make a SWOT analysis
In a SWOT analysis, you list out the main strengths and weaknesses of your company and identify opportunities and threats. It is part of your market research. Make your SWOT analysis now and use its outcome in the next six steps of your marketing plan.
2. Determine your goals
What do you wish to achieve? First, write down your long-term dreams. Do you want to become a well-known make-up artist and appear in a TV show? Or do you want to become a healthcare provider with the most satisfied customers in the Netherlands? Writing down your dreams gives you purpose and inspiration.
Then, write down your goal (objective). Choose a time period between 3 months and 1 year for your objective. Think of it as your first step towards achieving your dream. Fabbro says: “Make sure that your objective (goal) is measurable, such as turnover in euros, percentage of market share, or number of new customers. Using the SMART method will help you set specific and clear goals in your marketing plan.”
3. Define your target audience
The clearer you define your target audience (or target group), the more effective your marketing will be. This allows you to specifically target your intended customers. Think of who needs your product or service the most. Make your target audience personal, even if your customer base consists of businesses. You can describe your target group as follows:
- Describe the demographic characteristics of your customer, including gender, age, place of residence, level of education or profession.
- Map out their social network, (media) interests, hobbies, and buying behaviour.
- Consider their daily activities and concerns.
Use this target group information for the next steps, in which you need to think about where, when, and how you are going to approach your (potential) customers.
4. Create your brand
Your brand consists of your identity, image and reputation. It is an answer to the questions: 'Who are you?' 'How do you want to be seen?' And 'How will you be seen?' With your brand, you convey your company's vision and mission. Your brand creates recognition among your customers. When they know what you stand for, they connect with you more easily and immediately understand the difference between you and your competitor.
Create your brand by writing down who you are and how you want customers to see you. Next, research where you differ from your competitors. To do this, look at your competitors' websites, get quotes, or even call them. If you know what your competitors offer, you can better answer the questions: 'What makes me special?' 'Why will customers choose me?'
Then write down your brand in a sentence, for example: 'I want to be seen as a vegetarian butcher who improves the world.' Or 'I want customers to see me as a company that means a lot to society'.
Fabbro explains, "Your image and the message you want to convey are reflected, for example, in your name, logo, website or advertisements. The colour, font, text, and images you use tie in with this. For example, for an eco-friendly company, the colour green fits. And for a personal family business, it fits to use images with people on them."
Do you want to prevent others from abusing your brand or counterfeiting your products? Then consider registering your trademark with the Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP). If your trademark is registered, you alone have the right to use it. If others use your trademark without permission, this allows you to take action against them. There are costs and conditions attached to trademark registration.
5. Choose your marketing mix
A marketing mix is the combination of resources that you use to shape your marketing plan. It consists of a number of components. Here, we will deal with the traditional 4 P's: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Under promotion, you will find an extensive description of online marketing channels and when best to use them.
What kind of product or service do you offer? Describe this clearly and ask yourself what problem you are solving for your customer. Also state how your product or service differs from that of your competitor(s). Think about packaging, service, warranty conditions, and appearance.
What is your selling price or hourly rate and what do you base this on? Describe your entire pricing policy, including payment methods, payment conditions, and discounts.
Also include the competition in your research. Supply and demand for a certain product within a market affect what price you can charge for your product. Current prices and price developments of products, services, and producers can be found on the website of Statistics Netherlands (CBS).
Describe the place where customers can find your product or service. This doesn't always have to be the place where your company is located. Think of shops where you can get your product, a distributor, or the internet. Your customer is looking for service and convenience. So ask yourself: “How do I make sure that my customers can easily get to my product or service?”
Make sure that your location fits the type of business you have. Not just the village or town itself, but also the location you choose. For instance a business park, in or outside the centre, or from home.
Describe where you are going to promote your product. Through which marketing channels do you want to reach your target group? Choose the channels where your target group is already active, and which suit you and your company. Then write down how each channel contributes to your goals from step 2. What result do you expect from each channel that will make your dream and goal come true?
In addition to traditional media – such as television, radio, magazines, bus shelters, advertising columns, and newspapers – consider including the following online marketing channels in your marketing plan:
- Search engines
Can customers find you in Google or other search engines? There are two ways to get visible in search results: paid and unpaid. Optimise your website to get a higher ranking in search engines. By using keywords that score a high search volume, for instance. You can also consider advertising in a search engine, or by using Google or Instagram Shopping. Almost every target group uses search engines.
- Social media
As a marketing channel, social media is characterised by the fact that its users provide the content and there is interaction between users. This is particularly suitable for engaging with your customer. Social media can also be used in both paid and unpaid ways. You reach your own followers without paying. Through paid advertisements, you reach new people in a targeted way. Find out which social media channel your customer is on by conducting customer or competition research.
Fabbro emphasises that online marketing via social media demands a lot from you. "Tracking, responding, advertising. Do not feel obliged to use social media just because everyone else does. Does it connect with your target group and do you enjoy doing it? Then choose a channel and go for it! But don't do it half-heartedly."
- Email marketing
You can send emails to your customers with news, offers, or inspiration. Email marketing has the advantage that (potential) customers have already given you their email addresse.
- Influencer marketing
Influencers are role models with reach and authority. With influencer marketing, you pay them to promote your service, product, or company to their viewers or followers. Make sure that your target group matches that of the influencer’s.
- Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is when a website (the publisher) promotes an advertiser's products via a blog, podcast, social media post, or website. From that channel, they link to your website or webshop. When a customer buys from you through this link, you pay the publisher an agreed amount. The advantage of affiliate marketing is that you only pay when it earns you something.
- Content marketing
Content marketing means creating content (text, images, or video) that is valuable to your customers. You publish this content. You share knowledge in, for instance, a trade magazine, on a well-known YouTube channel, or on websites your customers often visit. Sharing knowledge or inspiring customers generates brand awareness, sales leads, or website visits.
6. Determine your budget
Determine how much money you want to spend on marketing in what period. That way, you can assess whether your marketing is paying off and worth continuing. In practice, there are 4 principles for calculating your budget. The first principle is best for reaching your goals. The following principles can be used:
- Your marketing objectives (step 2). What does it take to achieve these goals and what budget do you need for this? Bear in mind that most of the budget is spent on advertising costs.
- Your expected turnover. Reserve a percentage of this amount.
- Leftover budget. See how much of your budget is left over and allocate that to marketing.
- Your competition. If you know what competitors spend on marketing, you can align your budget with that.
Fabbro gives another tip: “In online marketing, you never spend your entire budget all at once. Maybe you don't have the right target group or your message isn't catching on. It’s a matter of experimenting, measuring, and adjusting.”
7. Draw up a schedule
Finally, make a schedule that includes when you use which advertisements to meet your marketing goals. Remember to check your results regularly, for example, every month or quarter.
Fabbro cautions: "Marketing takes time. Allow yourself a week to think out your marketing plan. Online marketing alone usually costs you at least 4 hours every week. After all, your website or social media profile is always ‘switched on’. In this time, you update your website or social media profile, write texts, take photos, check the results, and adjust your advertisements."
Have your gone through all of the steps? Then you are ready to get started!