An effective marketing plan spells out, very simply, what tools and tricks your business will use to reach your sales goals. And all businesses need a little boost to their marketing, whatever stage of their life they’re at.

Used strategically, a marketing plan will help you create your marketing strategy and give your business the growth it needs.

In this article we are going to guide you through the different elements that an effective marketing plan will contain. From knowing who your ideal customers are, to how to get your products in front of those customers, getting customers to choose your products over the competition and how to establish your marketing strategy.

1. Know your customers.

Before you can create a marketing strategy you have to know who you are marketing your new business to, and for that you will have to have conducted marketing research.

This marketing research could be in the form of:

  • interviewing potential customers.
  • distributing surveys and questionnaires to ideal clients and analysing the feedback, or
  • conducting customer focus groups.

Find out:

  • Why they choose to buy from the people they buy from.
  • What quantity do they buy and how do they pay?
  • Their opinion on your competitors’ products.
  • Their thoughts on your products or service, their quality, price point etc.
  • How you could improve your products to better meet their needs.

However you choose to collect the information pertinent to your business, be sure you understand what bind your potential customers are in and how you are going to provide them with a solution.

Once you know who your ideal customers are and where you can find them, you can target them with direct marketing, digital marketing or a marketing mix.

2. Identify all potential distribution channels.

In order to sell your products you have to get them in front of potential buyers, so what avenues are open to you?

Clever distribution could be the key to great sales for you. Maybe you could supply large customers directly, whilst indirectly using a wholesale/distributor to target all the independent, smaller retailers. Or how about a combination of both and sell directly to customers from your online shop, with a minimum order quantity. The choices are endless:

  • Wholesale
  • B2B
  • B2C
  • Online

3. Identify your competition.

What sets you apart from your competition is almost as important as what you have in common. Where you are obviously different is an easy sell, where you are similar is where you want to box clever: your price point, your quality, your outlets are potential areas you could explore. Identify your unique selling point.

Don’t forget to include your indirect competitors: if you run a local amenity, check out what else might draw customers away from you. If you’re a food manufacturer, where else can customers purchase something to eat?

Know what you’re up against and how you will use clever marketing, both digital and direct, to overcome it.

4. Establish what you want your marketing to achieve.

Write down a short list of goals and make sure they’re measurable as you will want to easily tell if you are achieving them or not.

Goals could include:

  • Increase sales by 20% in the first quarter.
  • Increase social media following by 100 new followers a month.
  • Increase number of website visitors by 10% per week.

5. Find your marketing niche.

If you haven’t got the scale or the budget to compete with the big boys, don’t bother trying. Instead look to find a small niche within your industry and set out to become the big player in that field.

Look for the gaps in the market that the big companies can’t fill and aim to be the go-to little guy, and use it as stepping stones to your growth.

6. Get in some big marketing wins early.

Have something you can shout about from the off: don’t start quietly, start with a fanfare.

  • Launch your new business startup at a trade show and invite all your potential customers to come to your stand and give them something to remember.
  • If you provide a service, maybe give it away for free to a big name to show off their name on your distribution list.
  • Snag some high profile stockists and retailers - you might have to have an exclusivity contract for a period of time, but it would be worth it to go big early.

7. Establish your marketing strategy.

By knowing which customers you want to target and in what market sector they lie, you can establish what marketing strategies will work best for you.

  • Always promote a clear brand message and make sure your staff all know what it is.
  • Prioritise current customers as they are onside already. Then target those customers who are likely to give you big revenues; one big fish is better and easier to manage than lots of little fish.
  • If you plan on using influencers ensure you’ve had a dabble at social media yourself first, it’s all too easy to dismiss it without trying, but the more effort you put in, the more you will be rewarded.
  • Target your audience with a tailored content marketing approach and use a marketing mix to ensure the greatest success.
  • If you’re planning on using affiliate marketing, make sure you know how to do it properly.