Why do you need a marketing plan? Simply put, a marketing plan is something that will unify your team behind a set plan for how to reach your customers. Do you have a nonprofit agency? Is your small business in need of some promotion? Do you have a blog that needs to be promoted more? All of these requirements need a set strategy to reach your customers. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that you can follow to create the best plan for your company.

Make a skeleton for your marketing plan

The best method to start any formal document is to create an outline. This is the skeleton for your marketing plan document. Making sure that you have a solid outline will provide you with a place to go to expand your ideas for your marketing plan. The outline should include your ideas for why a consumer would use your product, how you would like to market, and any metrics you would like to accomplish. Once you have set up your outline, you can get more detailed with your marketing plan.

Set yourself a marketing timeline

Entrepreneur recommends having a marketing plan for at least the next year. This is because a marketing strategy is always a long term strategy. Marketing takes time. It takes time to reach consumers. There is no such thing as an overnight solution. When you’re creating your marketing plan, you should plan to have active marketing efforts going for at least a year. Don’t expect immediate results, but rather, long term growth.

We use a marketing plan that has a continuous timeline, and we change our marketing plan as is necessary. Trial and error is our friend when it comes to online marketing, so being flexible is key. We will talk more about that later.

Check out Venngage’s Marketing Plan templates here.

Identify your target demographics

Demographics are extremely critical to a successful marketing plan. Demographics are defined as the group of people that you are targeting. This is also important to your marketing plan because your strategy is based on how you expect to reach your consumers. For example, for a business targeting millennial customers may want to use social media and email. A campaign targeting older consumers may benefit more from direct mail. In any case, it is important to know to whom you are marketing.

In our case, we target those who use social media to market. Because our blog helps others find the right marketing tactics for them, we find that writing about these topics is most effective. We have identified our target reader as the small business owner or any person who is looking to reach users on social media.

Figure out who is also looking for those customers

Find out who is offering a similar product to yours. Do you offer construction services? Find some competitors in your area. Are you a real estate agent? Figure out who is also showing listings where you are. The more you know about your competition, the better you can compete in the real world market. The best way to compete is to understand the competition. For example, if your competition is publishing real estate listings, but no articles to help prospective homeowners, you can see an opportunity. You may see a gap in content, but you may also see a direct competition opportunity.

For our purposes, we have seen some of the articles that our competition publishes, and these articles can sometimes provide inspiration. I found that when I was reading a specific blog, I found an opportunity to educate our customers about the nature of sales psychology.

Be flexible

A good marketing plan is structured, but has wiggle room for different tactics. You may find that your marketing plan may not work for a specific demographic as you go. If this is the case, you have to be willing to change it up. If you need to change it up, you will want to amend your marketing plan. Make sure you take full advantage of any analytics you are using and check in on your content frequently.

When we choose marketing plans, we inherently make them flexible. We want to make sure that the data is driving our marketing efforts. It is important to be able to change your tactics based on your research.

Take full advantage of your analytics

If you run analytics, you will be able to see how successful your efforts are. Use your Google analytics to determine if your content is attracting an audience. When you understand your data, you will be able to change the things that aren’t working and enhance the things that are working. More importantly, you can see when  your competition is overtaking some of your efforts.

We prefer Google analytics for our data tracking, as this helps us to analyze raw data very quickly. There are also features that will show you a trend over time.

Use a search engine optimization service

SEO services are out there to help you to determine what is going to reach the furthest online. There are plenty of services out there that help the small business marketer or the blogger to determine the best way to publish content. We prefer ahrefs because of their attention to detail and their deductive process. We are able to research competitor pages, well-performing content, and keywords. There is also a trending tracker that will tell you the progress that you’re making toward your goals and the numbers you have set forth for yourself.

Wrapping it all up

It is very important for you to have a unified marketing plan for any efforts that you make to market to your consumers. Even for a small team or a team of one, you have something in writing to tell you what you have and haven’t done. A marketing plan will provide you with the most important goal: a flow chart for your marketing. I find that when I lay out a plan for anything related to marketing, it is extremely helpful to have a checklist for me to refer to. By referring to a checklist, I’m able to keep myself on track and make sure that I am paying enough attention to the marketing efforts that we have set out.