Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe’ – Abraham Lincoln

Preparation is key.

Whether you are chopping down a tree or marketing a business, the steps you take ahead of time to develop your strategy and ensure you have the right (and optimised) tools in place are crucial to your continued and eventual success.

Whether you work for a large organisation and have been tasked with developing next year’s marketing plan, or you’re a start-up needing to craft a plan from the ground up – a strong inbound marketing strategy is necessary to attract and convert buyers in the digital age. It’s vital you develop a functional, flexible marketing plan that will lay the foundation for the year ahead, helping you achieve those all-important measurable and quantifiable results.

Below are the key sections that should be included within a simple marketing plan:

Section 1 – Your Goals

Begin the process by carefully considering, developing and writing out your goals for the financial year. Some of these are likely to be financial, but they may also be related to growing your team, developing a new product, or extending into a new market. After all, you can’t hit a target you can’t see.

Section 2 – Your Research

1. Competitor Analysis

Find out as much as you can about your target audience’s potential choices within your market. Examine each proposition carefully and focus on identifying their strengths and weaknesses. What’s their individual market share? Which of them have scope for brand extension? What’s their buying power? How strong is their branding? What do their communications look like? Where do they advertise? Are they more focused on traditional or digital comms? Why? Etc.

2. SWOT Analysis

Identify all possible strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with your business proposition. Brutal honesty is vital here. Where you identify threats – look at how these can be mitigated should they come to fruition. How can you turn your weaknesses into strengths?

3. Buyer Personas

Create a series of buyer personas, in great detail. Who is your ideal customer? What is their demographic, where do they live, what radio station do they listen to, what shops do they shop in, what do they eat for breakfast? Once you understand your buyers daily motivations you can understand what might motivate them to purchase your product or service, and then build your communications strategy around that.

4. Buying Cycle

Create a complete buyer journey analysis. Talk to your customers. Examine user journeys through your website. Look for patterns. What motivates them to buy your product/ service? What is the seed that starts the buying cycle process? How can you plant more of these seeds?

Section 3 – Your Strategy

1. Know your USP

Use all your research from Section 2 to help you nail down your USP. Why YOUR product or service? What gap in the market does your business help fill? Create an elevator pitch around this USP.

2. Ensure your brand is strong

Complete a comprehensive brand audit of where your company’s branding is right now. You can do this in-house or approach a branding agency to handle the process for you.

3. Make sure your website is optimised

Does your website journey reflect your customer buying journey? Have you set up tracking on your website – heat maps, analytics, conversion funnels, form analysis etc. How’s your SEO? Is your website performing at it’s optimum to generate business for you?

This can be completed in-house or you can appoint a digital marketing agency to manage the process for you.

4. Kick-ass content

Create a comprehensive annual content strategy for generating inbound activity. What messages will most effectively communicate what you have to offer to your audience? Refer back to your buyer personas. What are their needs, wants and fears? Speak in their language. Ensure you create content that will cover not only the awareness stage, but also the consideration stage and decision stages.

5. Define your distribution channels

Where do your audience hang out? Where will they be most likely to see (and take notice of) your messages? What media do they consume? Which social channels do they use most regularly? Do they go to the cinema regularly or prefer staying in watching TV? Do they listen to BBC Radio 4 or Capital FM?

Stage 4 – Measure, Measure, Measure

Identify your baseline measurements, then schedule in strategies for measuring the success of your activities, and make sure they are time-bound.

And finally – you must remember to look upon your Marketing Plan as a guide and be flexible! Good luck!

If you want CuCo to complete a brand audit to determine the effectiveness of your branding, set-up tracking software to help you better measure your marketing success on your website, or write a full, complete marketing plan for your business, our experts are here to help! Get in touch today.