Competitive analysis, metrics reporting, and branding―these, among others, are all marketing terms we’ve heard in business at one time or another. So you’ve been tasked with creating a comprehensive marketing plan for the company where you work? Or perhaps you’re stuck on how to create a marketing plan for a small business or personal blog. Where do you start? How can you create a strategy that will make an impact?
If you’re a brand new blogger and are looking for some tips on how to get started in the blogosphere, read this blog post on how to start a successful fashion blog. Then, come back to this post for a more detailed and business-specific checklist. And now, let’s dive right in to how to create a marketing plan.
When you’re creating a marketing plan, it’s important to focus on the smallest of details while being mindful of the big picture. It may be more fun to jump in to website design or social media strategies, but there are other components of marketing that should come first.
Below, I list, describe, and give examples on 15 important concepts that you need to be thinking about and incorporating into your marketing plan. Whether you’re working for a large organization, a small business, an online store, or a blog, the points below will help you create an effective strategy that will grow your business, audience, and bottom line.
How to create a marketing plan:
- Positioning – Before you do anything else, you need to consider the positioning of the business, brand, or blog. Who is the audience? What do they like to do? Where do they shop? What are their personalities like? Who are your competitors? How is your business, or the business where you work, different from similar companies in the market? What is the value proposition? List out questions like these, and then answer each question with the business in mind. Get really specific. The more specific and detailed you are, the easier branding will be since WHO the audience is and WHERE the business stands in the market will dictate the brand attributes people will respond to.
- Branding – Next, it’s time for branding. This can be a really fun step in the planning process! Everything that happens in the branding phase needs to be a reflection of what you discovered during the positioning process. If you’ve determined your audience profile is 29-year-old women who enjoy visiting local coffee shops, shopping at farmers markets, and spending weekends taking cooking classes and reading, your branding should be different than a business whose audience profile is 21-year-old women who enjoy going to SoulCycle, eating out, and spending weekends grabbing cocktails with friends and trying out the hottest new brunch spot. The branding for those two audiences should be completely different. Color choices, fonts, imagery, writing style (AP vs. Chicago), logo, and tone are all important parts of branding and should be included in your plan.
- Website – This is a big one. If you are working at a company with an IT/web development team, you’re going to want to consult with them before deciding on any major website changes. If you’re working at a company where the marketing team has ownership of the website, or if you’re building a website from scratch, then you have some control and options. This day and age, you really don’t need to build a custom CSS website unless you’re dealing with sensitive or personal information (like in the medical, finance, or insurance fields).
I highly recommend spending some time learning the WordPress platform if you’re in marketing, PR, or blogging. Buy a cheap domain, use WordPress.ORG (the .org part is important), upload a theme you like, and do some digging. This blog is run on WordPress, my business’ website is run on WordPress, and many of the websites you are visiting day in and day out are run on WordPress. It’s a great, customizable, user-friendly platform that, once you understand it, can really transform a business’ digital presence at very little cost. You DON’T need to know how to code to use WordPress, and the websites you can build using this platform have incredible features, capabilities, and aesthetics. If you’re looking to build out a website for a business, here (Rare theme) and here (Divi theme) are two themes that are incredibly professional and customizable. If you’re a blogger, you can find some pretty gorgeous theme options here and here.
- SEO – This is probably the most intimidating of all of the components of a marketing plan. SEO (search engine optimization) is very complex, and it’s always changing. However, even if you’re not an SEO expert (I’m certainly not), there are a few basic concepts you should know and be able to incorporate into a marketing plan. First, understand how keywords impact SEO. Determine what keywords are important for your business, and be strategic about putting them in headers, titles, metadata, alt tags, and general page content.
Additionally, keeping content fresh and new impacts SEO. If you’re a blogger, posting frequently is an easy way to combat stagnation, but if you’re working for a company, switching up the home page, swapping out images, and even hosting a blog that’s updated regularly will keep search engines interested in your site.
Finally, use backlinks as a way to encourage search engines to crawl your site for more valuable content and information. Backlinks are also a great way to keep visitors on your site longer. On every page on your website, make sure there is at least one link to another area of the site. For example, if you’re running an online boutique, make sure if a visitor lands on a product page with a blouse there is a link to a pair of shorts or jeans that would compliment the shirt on that page. Encourage them to complete the outfit with links to an accessories page, too!
- Social Media – You can’t run a business or blog and ignore social media these days. People from every age group, every demographic, and every neighborhood are engaged on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, and beyond. However, not all social media platforms are right for every business. Go back and look at the positioning you did for your business or blog. Based on your audience profile, where should you be visible on social media? Don’t waste time on Twitter if your audience isn’t on Twitter. When it comes to incorporating social media into a marketing plan, think about timing, tone, imagery, post frequency, reciprocating engagement, and cross-promotions.
Bloggers, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. It can be easy to get caught up in the Instagram hustle right now, but Facebook and Pinterest are HUGE website-traffic drivers. You could be missing out on sales, commissions, and reaching an engaged audience if you neglect certain social media platforms and singularly focus on others.
- Email Marketing – Email lists are a currency in marketing. In your marketing plan, determine how you’re going to capture email addresses on your website, the types of email lists you’ll grow and maintain (internal/external), and what kind of content you’re going to push out to your list(s). Are you going to update the people on your list on sales, promotions, coupons, rewards, renewals, changes, roundups, or a little bit of everything? How often are you going to send out email campaigns? How are you going to use metrics to be more effective? If you have an internal list for employees, what kind of content makes sense for that group? How will the content differ from what you’re sending out to consumers?
- Content Marketing – Have you ever heard the phrase “content is king”? Content marketing is an important part of your website, blog, and social media channels and definitely needs a place in your marketing plan. Not ranking in one of your primary keywords on Google? Use content marketing to boost your search results, improve brand visibility, and encourage sales. Here are some content-marketing ideas if you’re feeling stuck:
- Compose keyword-heavy blog posts
- Create branded infographics (Canva is a great resource for infographics)
- Invite an expert in your field to write a mini-series
- Design branded graphics that other people in your field will want to share on their social media platforms
- Think of the inspirational images that are liked, shared, and reposted thousands of times on LinkedIn and Facebook
- Printed Collateral – If you’re working in marketing or PR for any organization, printed collateral is going to be important. Flyers, postcards, business cards, letterhead, product catalogs, corporate capabilities overviews, brochures, and even clothing tags are all printed collateral pieces you may need for your business. Put together a design timeline and make note of how you plan on creating professional and cohesive printed collateral that aligns with your branding and positioning.
- Public Relations – PR is important in any business, and, unfortunately, sometimes it’s overlooked in a marketing plan. I didn’t realize this until after I worked as a book publicist for three years, but public relations goes way beyond writing and distributing press releases. PR is really anything you’re doing that’s reaching your audience or consumer. It’s planning events that speak to your brand, building TONS of relationships, guest posting on websites and blogs, responding to direct messages and comments on social media, and working with brand ambassadors.
- Referrals and Rewards – Referral and rewards programs make for great marketing tactics, as they not only build brand loyalty from customers who already like your content, products, and services, but they also prompt more sales, encourage word-of-mouth marketing, and make customers feel like they’re part of a community. If you’re selling products, you may reward customers for spending more than $100 with free shipping. If you’re in the service industry, you could offer rewards to customers who refer friends to your business. Even a simple punchcard is an effective way to reward customers, and today, you can provide digital punchcards with apps like Flok.
- Partnerships – Partnerships are fantastic ways to improve brand awareness and sales. Working with a like-minded company that has complimentary goods and services to what your business offers can provide a mutually-beneficial opportunity. Team up with another business to put on a social media giveaway for followers, create a product bundle for a holiday promotion, or guest post on each other’s blogs.
- Affiliate Marketing – If you’re running an online business, creating an affiliate program might prove a valuable way to improve sales and visibility. Test out an affiliate marketing program by giving your most-loyal, most-engaged customers codes or identifying URLs to go out and evangelize your business. Not sure how to create your own affiliate marketing program? Try out this software, which takes the technical work of creating affiliate marketing out of the equation.
- Influencer Marketing – Influencer marketing is a new and underutilized strategy that, depending on the business, should be incorporated into your marketing plans. Influencer marketing involves cooperating with a blogger in your business’ niche to serve as an ambassador for your brand. When working with a blogger, you pay them a fee to promote your product across their platforms. Fashion, travel, food, parenting, technology, home decor, and lifestyle are just a handful of topics bloggers cover. You can do a quick Google search, or even search tags on Instagram, to find local bloggers who fit your brand and are option to collaborating.
- Advertising – These days, there are multiple mediums for advertising. You can take the traditional route with a print campaign, or you can advertise online or via social media. Since a very small percentage of your followers on social media will actually see your published posts (welcome to the world of algorithms), utilizing promoted posts on social media will be an integral part of your marketing plan. Consider which mediums, traditional, digital, social, or a combination of the three, make the most sense for your business, and determine if the ROI will be high enough to pay for advertising.
- Direct Mail – Direct mail is having a comeback. It’s not right for every business, but it might be something to think about if you’re looking for creative ways to reach your audience. Use direct mail to make an offer consumers can’t refuse, or tease a new product release date and drive people to your website.
There is a ton of information here, and each of these points could be an entire blog post on their own (and that’s the goal, eventually). I have some additional resources for you bloggers out there that I think you might find useful (especially if you’re just starting out). Check out this post on how to start a successful fashion blog. There are a bunch of tips and tricks specially for new bloggers. I hope it helps!
If you have ANY questions or want more information on how to create a marketing plan, leave a comment or shoot me an email. I love to hear from you guys and would love nothing more than to help as much as I can.