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8 steps to help you create an effective marketing plan
If you’re serious about getting the best value for your marketing budget, you’ll need a marketing plan. Here are eight steps to consider.

If you’re serious about getting the best value out of your marketing budget, you’ll need to develop a marketing plan.

These eight steps can help you make your marketing efforts more effective.

|1| Know your customers

First, you need to identify your target market. You probably have an idea of who buys from you but make sure you:

  • Define your target market in detail.
  • Write down who your target market is.

Spend time finding out about your customers’ preferences and habits. Doing so will help you focus your promotions more effectively.

To get the best return on your investment, look at how your message is structured, worded and designed. Also consider where and when you advertise.

|2| Study your market

Market research is an effective way to help you find out about your target market.

Conduct online or in-person surveys. Or, ask customers for feedback when you see them next.

Ask questions like:

  • Why do you purchase from us?
  • What could we do better?
  • What additional products or services would you like us to offer?

Customer responses will highlight what works well and help you attract more purchasers.

This feedback can also help improve your services—and encourage positive word-of-mouth referrals. When you show that you’re listening and improving where you can, you’ll gain greater customer loyalty.

|3| Identify your competitors

Find out who your direct competitors are. Gather as much detailed information about them as you can.

You can try:

  • Visiting their website, social media sites and any other online presence to better understand how they communicate to their customers. Compare your messaging to encourage their customers to switch.
  • Retaining customers who are tempted to leave with offers, loyalty discounts or even special attention.
  • Reviewing their advertising, promotions and how they position in the marketplace to develop a unique selling proposition.

If you want consumers to distinguish you from your competitors, develop a fresh marketing and advertising approach. Your competitors’ weaknesses will present opportunities for you to market your points of difference.

|4| Determine your competitive advantage

Sit down with your staff, advisers and mentors to brainstorm the best competitive advantage for your business.

Your competitive advantage can be anything that sets you apart from your competitors in your target market.

This advantage might be your:

  • Price
  • Service
  • Product
  • Delivery
  • Location
  • Exclusivity
  • Brand

It should be something that:

  • Makes you stand out from the crowd.
  • Exploits a gap in the market that your competitors aren’t solving.
  • Suits your business and the current market condition.
  • Is important to your target customers.

After identifying your competitive advantage, use it in all of your marketing. Ensure that your competitive advantage is clear in any customer communication.

|5| Create a promise

A promise helps clarify the most important aspect of your business to your customers.

You want your customers to value your promise or guarantee.

But if you offer a product or money-back guarantee, stand by these assurances. Your customers might tell others that you stand by your promise, generating trust in you and your business.

|6| Make it simple to do business

Ensure it’s easy for your customers to interact with your business.

They want to have enjoyable experiences regardless of what product or service you’re selling. Exceptional service is one area that should be non-negotiable. Here are some ways to deliver on this:

  • Your business is easy to find.
  • Someone always answers your business phone promptly.
  • People get the answers and information they need.
  • It’s easy for customers to purchase from you.
  • Answer online queries immediately.
  • Set up auto-marketing responses.

|7| Build an ecosystem

It’s vital you develop an integrated marketing strategy. Make sure all your promotions, advertisements and marketing communications convey the same unified brand message and consistent brand values.

Maximize opportunities to cross-market your message.

For example, if you create a piece of marketing content, amplify it by:

  • Asking customers to register to download it from your website.
  • Posting it on social media. {Learn how to build an effective social media strategy here!}
  • Replying to any likes or comments on social media.
  • Printing the content and giving it to customers.
  • Encouraging staff to email the content to prospects and leads.
  • Syndicating it to partners or industry groups.

|8| Evaluate and update your marketing plan

Measure the return on investment on all your marketing efforts. And update your marketing plan based on what works and what doesn’t.

Some returns are easy to quantify, like the number of sales or the value of sales generated from an advertisement or promotion.

Others are harder to value, like the number of followers gained on social media or the number of visitors to your website.

And some are a lot more difficult to measure, like customers’ perceptions or increased brand awareness.