Marketing Plan vs Marketing Strategy vs Target Market
Creating a marketing plan is all about letting people know about the product or service you offer, and persuading them to buy or use it. And for effective marketing you have to let people know about your product or service repeatedly in a coordinated way. To do this, you’re going to have to come up with a marketing strategy as well as create a marketing plan.
Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, your marketing plan and marketing strategy are two separate elements of your business. Your marketing strategy is what you need to achieve with your marketing efforts, and it’s shaped by and should reflect your business goals. Your marketing plan is how you are going to achieve those marketing goals, and it’s the practical implementation of your marketing strategy. Both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan are necessary because they work together to promote and grow your business.
When you work day in and day out on marketing plans and marketing strategies you can find yourself in a dry spell with a lack of new ideas. This can be a frustrating position to be in. We’ve found that when we hit a creative dry spell it helps to spend time reviewing marketing tips and ideas. By doing this, it often provides a jolt to my creative thinking and we push through the marketing mental block.
1)General Marketing Ideas
- Participate in LinkedIn Groups that are about your industry. Use those groups to gain insight into what your customers are looking for and what your competitors are doing.
- Don’t forget the 80/20 rule, 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers. Are you remarketing to your current or past customers? If not, today could be a good day to start.
- Ask for referrals. Referrals can help in growing your business and most people will trust their friends, family, and associates over a marketing message or advertisement. Why not ask for referrals.
- Measure your marketing, know what works and what doesn’t and obviously spend more time on the efforts that get your results. What campaign brought you the most results and have you tried doing something similar to it lately? Your answer could be right in front of you.
- When stuck sit down with a notepad or idea journal. Just start writing – you’ll be amazed and what you can come up with by just letting your mind wander and jotting down your ideas.
Know your market. If you are selling to a B2C audience focus on the features, if you are selling to a B2B market focusing on the benefits is the way to go. B2C is about how you make them feel. B2B is about how you save them time and money.
Use social sites like Pinterest and Instagram to showcase photos of your products. Make sure the photos are good quality and really show the craftsmanship of your product.
Product testimonials can help you in getting consumers interested in purchasing your product. Your testimonials don’t always have to be written, how about utilize video technology and really add an impactful statement. The video is also great for showcasing a demonstration.
Evaluate your marketing channels. Are they reaching your intended audience? Are there other channels you could try? Think about it, if you are marketing to young mothers you will find them in very different spots than you would 50-year-old men. Why not brainstorm and explore some new channels?
Are you collecting reviews and ratings on your product? Reviews play a big role with consumers when it comes to decision-making.
- Take a look at your marketing message, how are you competing? Service businesses tend to see great results when their marketing message is geared towards the value that they provide.
- Do you provide services to residential customers? Go ahead and try using an incentive for them to give you a try. You can target specific zip codes and market using a service like Groupon or ValPak.
- There is no such thing as “one and done” when it comes to marketing your service business. Stay in touch with customers on a consistent basis to ensure that they think of you when they need your service again.
- Position your business as an expert in your industry. Write about your industry, speak, do lunch and learns. Get out there so that when consumers are in need of your service, they think of you.
- Lead Q&A webcasts inviting consumers to join you and ask questions. Google+ Hangouts makes this very easy.
4)Online and Digital Marketing
- You don’t have to be on every social network, but do a kick-ass job on the ones you are on.
- Make sure your website projects the professionalism and the message that is a true representation of your business. Oh, and while you are reviewing your website be sure and make sure that contact form works. You’d be surprised at how many don’t.
- Use compelling and engaging copy online. If you can’t stand to read your website what makes you think others will want to?
- Set up alerts so that you know when consumers are talking about you or looking for your product or service. We use Google Alerts and Social Mention for social alerts.
- Write, write and write some more. Content is becoming a huge component of online marketing. If you aren’t a writer, find someone that is.
- Be consistent. That will be key in your content marketing success.
- Content isn’t just text. Content includes can include photos, graphics, video, and text. Be creative.
- Don’t judge the success metrics of your content until you’ve spent a year building content. Results won’t come quick, but when they start there will be no denying the investment of time is worth it.
- Write as if you are having a conversation, you aren’t writing a term paper and you want people to read it.
- Spend most of your time on evergreen content or content that will still be relevant in one, two and even five years.
6)Creating a Marketing Plan
If you were going to drive from Vancouver to Halifax, would you really just glance at a globe and then head out? Expecting to implement a marketing strategy without creating a marketing plan is just like this analogy. The more detailed information that’s been collected beforehand, and the more planning that’s been done ahead of time, the faster and more pleasant the trip – and the more effective your marketing plan will be.
1) The first step is to create specific marketing objectives and write them down. What do you want your promotion efforts to do for you?
If you’re selling herbs, for instance, perhaps you want to increase your monthly sales by 25 percent. If you’re a realtor, a good marketing objective might be to get 10 new listings each month. My own marketing objective is to gain a new client each month. Whatever marketing objective you set, be sure it’s realistic; you need to be able to achieve the marketing objective if it’s going to motivate you or serve as a good benchmark to evaluate your success.
2) Now the hard part. Under each marketing objective, write as many specific things as you can that you are going to do to achieve the objective. If I want to increase my monthly sales by 25 percent, one thing I might do is place some ads. But when I’m working on my marketing objective list, I need to take the time to think it through so I’ll be able to follow through effectively.
Just “placing some ads” isn’t specific enough to serve as a marketing objective. I have to consider what type of ads and where I might place them to increase my monthly sales. For instance, I might write, “place an ad describing specials in the local newspaper” as a marketing objective, or “put ad on local TV station”.
Then I have specific actions to follow that will help me achieve my marketing objective rather than just a vague idea. If you’re having trouble with coming up with these specific activities, or seeing how each marketing objective fits in with your marketing plan, reading The Advertising and Promotion Plan will help you fit all the pieces together.
3) Go over the list of specific activities you’ve brainstormed and check them against your marketing plan. Choose the ones that fit best with your marketing objectives and do the best job of targeting your potential clients or customers.
4) Then, using your calendar, decide which promotional activities you’re going to do when. You can break your marketing plan down by month or by quarter, but be sure you include not only a description of the activity or event, but also a reference to which marketing objective the promotion activity or event is related to, and a cost estimate.
Once you create a marketing plan, remember that it needs to be an organic, living document, not something you put into a nice folder and file somewhere and never look at again. Take fifteen minutes every day to review your goals and specific activities; what did you do that particular day to help you achieve the marketing objectives you’ve set?
What do you need to do tomorrow? Too often we make plans or list objectives and then get so enmeshed in all the things we have to do to run our businesses that we shunt them aside. Taking fifteen minutes a day to review your marketing objectives, marketing plan, and marketing activities goes a long way towards helping you stay focused and on track and market your products or services effectively.
7)Marketing Strategy Vs Marketing Plan
The marketing strategy is shaped by your overall business goals. It includes a definition of your business, a description of your products or services, a profile of your target users or clients, and defines your company’s role in relationship to the competition. The marketing strategy is essentially a document that you use to judge the appropriateness and effectiveness of your specific marketing plans.
To put it another way, your marketing strategy is a summary of your company’s products and position in relation to the competition; your sales and marketing plans are the specific actions you’re going to undertake to achieve the goals of your marketing strategy.
The marketing plan, then, can be thought of as the practical application of your marketing strategy. If you look at my article, Writing The Marketing Plan, you’ll see that the marketing plan includes details about your business’ unique selling proposition, pricing strategy, the sales and distribution plan and your plans for advertising and promotions.
So in effect, you can’t have a marketing plan without a marketing strategy. The marketing strategy provides the goals for your marketing plans. It tells you where you want to go from here. The marketing plan is the specific road map that’s going to get you there.
8)What a Marketing Strategy Looks Like
When creating your marketing strategy, you should identify your:
- Goals: Identify the short- and long-term objectives of the marketing initiative and how they interact with your overall business goals.
- Target market: You should know what customers you’re trying to reach, their perceived values, what drives their decision-making process, and the problem they’re facing.
- Competitors: Make sure to know who your competitors are, their market position, and their strengths and weaknesses.
- External marketing message: Think about how you will solve your customers’ problems in a way that aligns with their values.
- Internal positioning goal: Identify what makes you different from competitors and why customers should believe in you.
If you don’t have a good sense of your position in the market in relation to your competitors, you may need to perform a situation analysis. This will help you understand your business’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as any opportunities or threats that could undermine your business goals. Understanding how your brand is perceived relative to competitors will allow you to create a more complete and effective marketing strategy.
9)Using Your Marketing Strategy and Plan
Once you have your marketing strategy completed, you can use it to create a detailed marketing plan that will achieve your specific goals.
As you map your marketing strategy into a marketing plan, be specific when deciding what, how, and why you will communicate with your customers. The more specific you are in your planning, the easier it will be to follow through with effective implementation.
10)Focus on your target market
Dump the idea that everyone interested in your products and/or services. They’re not. The reality is that only people who feel they have a need for your products and/or services will be interested in them – and those are the people your marketing has to reach. They are your target market.
Step 1 of effective marketing is knowing who these people are:
So first, read How to Find and Sell to Your Target Market and learn how to zero in on your target market by using market segmentation.
Then work through Writing a Business Plan: The Market Analysis. This article, part of The Business Plan Outline series, directs you to write out your Market Analysis in paragraph form. You don’t have to do that as you’re not writing a business plan, but you do need to write down answers to the questions about your target market.
Find your target market
Step 2 of effective marketing is focusing your efforts on your target market and no one else. To do this, you have to know how the people in your target market behave.
You already know a fair bit about these people from the Market Analysis you just completed. To help choose the most effective marketing strategies to reach these people, you need to know the answers to just two more questions:
- How do the people in your target market access information?
For example, do they read newspapers and magazines, watch television, text, web search, email? Each of these ways of accessing information demands different marketing strategies.
- Where do the people in your target market hang out?
Mainly at home? Shopping malls? Gyms or fitness centers? Skateboard parks?
The easiest way to do this is to pretend your target market is an individual. Try it. Create an avatar, a fictional person that represents a person in your target market, and answer the two questions above as completely as you can.
11)Evaluate your current small business marketing efforts
Now that you know exactly who your small business marketing efforts need to reach, you’re ready to judge what you’ve been doing.
List all the marketing strategies you’re currently using. By each, write how likely your target market avatar is to see and pay attention to your marketing message.
For example, suppose that your business involves selling lingerie. You’ve created an avatar named Julie, who is young (30), married and working, with one young child. This is all statistical; stats say that a woman of that age would be all these things, generally.
In terms of the Step 3 questions, Julie does not read print newspapers at all; she gets most of her information off the internet through her Smartphone and spends a fair bit of time emailing and texting. She also uses Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. The 2018 Pew Center Report on Social Media Usage reveals that the average American adult uses three of the eight social media platforms measured in the survey and these three platforms had the most use. Occasionally Julie picks up a glossy women’s magazine when she’s going through the grocery checkout.
Where does Julie hang out? Like everyone else, Julie does things such as taking her young daughter to preschool and out to the local park with a playground. Other than that, Julie is very physically active; she takes yoga classes, works out regularly at the gym, and she and her husband participate in a lot of different seasonal sports, such as biking, skiing, and snowboarding. Julie’s hobby is cooking; she doesn’t have a lot of time for it but likes to try out gourmet recipes now and again.
We could go on but the point is that you want to make your avatar as complete as possible because the fuller the mental image of your target market person you have, the easier it will be for you to figure out how to reach him or her.
Now let’s suppose that so far your small business marketing efforts to date for your fictional lingerie business consisted of placing:
- A yellow page ad
- Several different newspaper ads
- Several radio ads
- An on-site radio promotion (Sweetheart day for Valentine’s Day)
Going over the list and asking yourself, “how likely Julie is to have seen your marketing messages?”, the honest answer is “not very”. She doesn’t read print newspapers, remember? As for the radio promotions, she might listen to the radio in the car when she’s driving around, but she’s more likely listening to preprogrammed music. In fact, these marketing efforts have probably been a complete waste of time as far as Julie is concerned – and Julie is the one you’re trying to market to!
Your turn. List all your recent small business marketing efforts and for each, note how likely it is your avatar saw and noted your marketing message.
12)Choose and implement at least two effective marketing strategies:
If the results of the last exercise were that your avatar was extremely likely to see and respond to all of your current marketing efforts, that’s excellent! In that case, we recommend choosing and implementing at least one more marketing idea that has a very likely chance of reaching your target market avatar and tweaking your current small business marketing efforts to make sure they pinpoint your target market avatar’s needs as much as possible.
Remember, most people need to see and hear a message three to seven times before they will buy, so marketing strategies that allow repetition of the message over time are always going to be more effective than one-shot strategies.
If your marketing efforts to this point have been a wash-out, as in the example of selling lingerie to Julie, the good news is that you’re starting with a clean slate. As “Julie” has never seen or heard your marketing messages before, they’ll all be fresh and new to her!
You want to choose two new marketing strategies that would be most likely to reach your target market avatar and implement them. One thing you want to do is get your marketing online because that’s where Julie gets most of her information.
And based on what you know about Julie, you have three main points of connection; young children, exercise and cooking.
So a better list of potential small business marketing strategies to use to connect with Julie would be:
- To create a Facebook page or a website to give you and Julie the chance to find each other
- To create an Instagram account and showcase your lingerie products
- To place lingerie ads on websites and/or social media about children, exercise and cooking
- To create YouTube videos about/relating to your products