How to write a marketing plan

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.

You lay down your plan for reaching new customers in a marketing plan, also referred to as your marketing strategy. This article incorporates the advice of Stefan Fabbro, head of marketing at digital agency Hoppinger in Rotterdam.

1. Make a SWOT analysis

If you have not done a SWOT analysis during your market research, this is the time to do it. It will give your marketing strategy direction. Use the conclusion of your SWOT analysis for the next steps. For example, to determine your goals (step 2), to describe your target audience (step 3), to establish your reputation and brand (step 4), and to choose your marketing mix (step 5).

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 short-term goal (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. Choose a time period between 3 months and 1 year for your objective. 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

Determine how you want your (potential) customers and competitors to see you. Once they know what you stand for, they will connect with you more easily. A clear brand and reputation ensures recognition and differentiates you from your competitors.

Investigate how you can differentiate your business from your competitors. Some tips:

  • Visit your competitors’ websites, request quotations, or give them a call.
  • Make sure that your corporate identity (such as images, colour, and font) fits well with your brand. This also goes for your website and advertisements.

Then boil down your findings to 1 sentence. For example: "I want my target audience to see me as a vegetarian butcher who makes the world a better place." Or "I want customers to view my company as meaningful to society".

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.

Product

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.

Price

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).

Place

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.

Promotion

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.

    How do you know if your target group is active on a particular social media channel? When you advertise, you fill in demographic data and interests of your target group. You can then immediately see if your customer is active here. There are also studies on this subject, such as the National Social Media Research (in Dutch) by independent market research agency Newcom and What's Happening Online? (in Dutch) by online research agency Ruigrok.

    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 address. So you know they are interested. Pay attention to these 3 conditions (in Dutch) if you send out promotional emails. You use this marketing tool mainly for existing customers.
  • 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. A website (the publisher) promotes an advertiser's products via a hyperlink. As an advertiser, you pay if a visitor eventually makes a purchase. For example: in a blog about a book you sell, there is a link to your online shop where the visitor can buy this book. You can use affiliate marketing as a publisher or advertiser. You can use it to reach any online target group.
  • Remarketing. This is a marketing tool with which you bring your visitor back to your website or online shop. With remarketing, you show visitors who leave your website a targeted advertisement on another website or on social media. This can be a text, image, or video. This way, you reach a target group that has already visited your website or online store.
  • Content marketing. Do you like to write? Then you can start blogging on Medium for professionals and Reddit for the technical sector, for example. On these online platforms, you can share knowledge or inspire people. Depending on your goal (step 2), this will generate brand awareness, leads, or website visits. You reach a target group with specific interests.

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. For example, start with a budget of 50 euros per month for search engine advertising (SEA) and a few tenners for social media.”

7. Draw up a schedule

Finally, make a schedule that includes when you use which advertisements to meet your marketing goals (step 2). Also, schedule the following appointments with yourself:

  • Each month, review the results from your marketing activities on your marketing channels. Those are running advertisements that you have set up in step 5. Adjust where necessary.
  • Each quarter (3 months), review whether you have achieved the goals you defined at step 2. Determine in advance what statistics you will look at to assess this. Adjust where necessary.

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."

Your (online) marketing plan is done

Have your gone through all of the steps? Then you are ready to get started!

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