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How to plan your marketing strategy like a pro

Marketing isn’t easy, we might make it look like it’s a walk in the park, but we put in some real effort to make things work as well as they do (and sometimes don’t… but you didn’t hear that from me). We’ve all seen the adage about fail to prepare, prepare to fail, floating around the internet along with every other misattributed quote, but regardless of who said it first, there is some truth to it.

Honestly, a large part of marketing is planning and preparing, which is why it’s so important to have a strong strategy in place to remain both relevant and adaptable should you need to do an about-turn. Every good marketer goes about planning their own way, but if you’ve found yourself wading through the swamp of indecision, unsure of which way to turn and which option will be best for you – well, keep on reading, and soon you’ll have a roadmap of your very own.

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And just like another favourite quote of mine, you’ll be live, laugh, loving your way to a successful marketing campaign before long.

Decide on a goal

I don’t know a lot about football, but I do know it’s considered bad practice to move the goalposts. In marketing, the sentiment isn’t shared, and should you do, there’s much less risk of being chased across a field by eleven men. Deciding on a goal is important, but it can shift as your marketing plan develops, and as we’ll see, that goal will be broken down into bite-size chunks. So if you find your goal is difficult to achieve due to unforeseen circumstances, it can be better to change what you’re going for.

One thing that’s good to remember is that, unlike footballers’ insistence that the goal has to stay in one place, your marketing goals should line up with the wider business. A basic example could be that you sell professional conduits used in air conditioning (aka pro-ducts) to champion aquatic birds (aka pro ducks) and, as a business, you want to sell more of your company’s pro-duct products to pro ducks. In that case, your goal could be to drive online sales, where customers could purchase your goods without having to quack out their mobile phones.

Getting the lay of the land

Ok, here’s another analogy about a sport I don’t fully understand, but you know that bit in any boxing film where the main character watches videos of their future opponent to try and get to grips with what they’re going up against? Well, you need to do the same with your competitors, and while we don’t recommend psyching yourself up to thump them, it does help to know if they’ve got any tricks up their sleeve.

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Knowing the key players in your sector can help you establish your strengths and weaknesses and can be handy in identifying market trends and how you can best take advantage of them. Similarly, if you’re able to identify any common pain points customers may have encountered when dealing with direct competitors, you’re going to know what not to do.

Know your customers

We’ve talked at length about getting to know your customers and how helpful it can be in making decisions about your marketing. Really, your customers should be at the core of your strategy when planning, and once you know how best to meet their needs; do it better than your competitors do.

Many strategies involve customer personas, which is a way of creating your vision of your “typical customer(s)” and building a strategy for said “customer”. For example, if you were to sell a service similar to the talking clock where people could hear the time from a woman called Emma, you wouldn’t want to promote your product to people who are hard of hearing. You’d just be creating a dilemma for Dial Emma.

Knowing your customers means you can go about deciding on the best channels to contact them through and the most effective way of getting your message across.

Know your product and resources

Like any good market salesperson yelling about their apples and oranges, you need to know your products before you can flog them, and looking back at point two, this can really help figure out where you fit into the market.

One of the best ways to wrap your head around this is to rely on the four Ps. If you really are just selling fruit and veg, then stick with the four peas, but for everyone else, the four P’s are:

Product: Here, you need to examine what makes your product unique and what you’re providing your customers with.

Price: Does what it says on the tin(ned sweetcorn) and refers to thinking about how much you should charge for your product and how that relates back to the broader market.

Promotion: Where and how are you going to promote your product? Which channel will work best for you and your customers? What do your competitors do, which opportunities are they missing out on?

Place: If you’re down your local market and hear someone shouting about place, chances are it’s the fishmonger. But when we marketers talk about place, we’re discussing where best to sell your service. Is it only available online? If so, would it benefit from a physical location? And how easy is it to purchase your product online? These are the sorts of questions you should be asking yourself when thinking about your products.

Develop your objectives further

So by now, you have a pretty good idea of your goals, or at least your overarching goal. The big one, the heavy hitter, the million-pound idea, the one that sounded like a good thing at 5:29pm on a Friday when all you were thinking about was going home but in the cold light of day isn’t so great.

Regardless of your primary goal, you’re going to want to develop that idea into an achievable one, which means creating smaller goals that work alongside each other to create the big goal.

Say your business sells novelty-sized staircases. Breaking down your goal of selling small steps into smaller steps begins with just a handful of small steps. These could be deciding to grow your email list, drive more traffic to your site or find ways to increase conversions. On the whole, your goals should aim to be SMART, that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

They should also probably be, you know, smart decisions. As opposed to stupid ones.

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Produce a plan for sharing your marketing materials

Once you know what you need to do and the goals you’ve put in place look manageable, you need to decide how best to get the message across. In ye olde times, you’d hire a bloke with a loud voice to shout in the town square, but today that’s only practised by jugglers attracting crowds in Covent Garden and Brian Blessed doing his weekly shop. Luckily, there’s more than one way to shout about your brand and the things you offer.

The best channel for you and your marketing materials will depend entirely on your business and what it is you’re trying to do. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, but be wary of trying to do too many things at once because then there won’t be room to swing said cat. There are some more generic questions everyone can think about. Things such as; will you have an email campaign? Will you drive people to your site through PPC or SEO? Do you need a social media presence, and if so, which platforms are best for you?

You should also plan how you’re going to create your marketing materials. Regardless of what you make, you’ll want to make sure your materials are on-brand and have a consistent tone of voice.

Set a budget

If I’d’ve known how much of marketing involved numbers, I never would’ve got involved, but here we are …writing about …budgets. As my overdraft is keen to remind me, budgets are not just for Rishi Sunak and thrifty friends that refuse to do rounds in the pub; no, they’re also vital for marketing strategies.

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Essential for providing enough money to carry out your plans, but not so much you’re blowing resources on things that aren’t necessary. Likewise, you’re going to want a return on your investment and setting up a budget (and sticking to it) is one of the best ways to ensure this plays out in your favour.

Analyse performance

Here we are; we made it. Congratulations for making it this far, but this last step is undoubtedly one of the most critical elements of a marketing strategy. No matter what you’re doing, what you’re selling or how you’re selling it, you’re going to want to be able to track how well you’re performing.

Knowing how to measure your campaigns’ success or …not-so-successes will teach you more for future decisions. Because no matter how long you’ve been doing this, there’s always room for improvement and more to learn.

Hopefully, this guide will help you spot a strategy that’s a bit slight or shite on sight but don’t be afraid to make it your own. Rearrange the order, decide what weight to give the individual steps, and if there’s something you feel missing from this plan, go ahead and do it.

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