Anyone who knows digital marketing knows perfectly well that the marketing plan is the beating heart of one’s Digital Strategy, the element one absolutely cannot do without in order for the project to be successful. Not doing it right would be a bit like having a toolbox without spanners or a cake without yeast.
In this article, I will help you understand what is meant by a marketing plan. In the next few lines you will find:
- marketing plan definition and importance;
- characteristics and specialized figures in digital marketing;
- detailed step-by-step list.
Marketing Plan: what is it?
The marketing plan is a very important document that contains the entire strategy to be followed to create brand awareness, create and increase engagement, and acquire new leads.
One could imagine marketing planning as a set of actions aimed at achieving certain objectives following a set strategy and specific actions. In the case of a company, it is crucial to understand the difference between the marketing plan model and the business plan, the latter encompassing the overall planning of all documents including marketing.
To be even more precise, the digital marketing plan is the set of strategies and actions, obviously digital, designed and implemented to make the company or brand achieve the objective for which it was decided to invest in digital, thus outlining a digital strategy.
In all of this, the key figure in charge of following all these steps is a Digital Strategist, an expert in the field who manages the strategy and whose task it is to minimize the risk of error. The Digital Strategist is one who cannot miss a beat: he or she has the task of understanding which is the way to achieve the business objective that has been set and creating a solid, realistic, and efficient marketing plan.
If you are interested in learning more about what skills are needed to accomplish this feat, take a look at the Digital Marketing course.
The characteristics of the Marketing Plan model
Having made this brief but necessary introduction to Digital Strategy and who actually deals with it, we can try to better understand what a marketing plan is.
Try to imagine it as a real editorial plan, but more in-depth and detailed, and with a special caveat: it is the tools that must adapt to the objective, to what you want to communicate, and not vice versa. Often the opposite happens.
Indeed, it can happen that a client, even before starting, is convinced that he wants to follow a particular strategy without even having analyzed the market or set targets. But that is not how it works.
Next, I will explain what the marketing plan contains and its optimal structure, simplified into the 7 steps needed to launch your business.
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The Structure of the Marketing Plan: 7 Steps to Increase Business
The marketing plan must have a flexible structure and thus be adaptable to different needs. It must obviously be a wide-ranging, wide-ranging document that absolutely cannot be exhausted within a few days.
The marketing plan is encapsulated in a Digital Strategy which, in turn, is embedded in a broader business context of which traditional marketing may also be a part.
If at this point you are wondering how to make a marketing plan, you should know that it must inevitably open with an abstract summarising the plan in general, highlighting its objectives, desired positioning, strategies – also cross-media – target audience, Buyer Personas and the team that will work on its realization.
A good way to be sure that the marketing plan document created has all the essential features is to apply SOSTAC® developed by Pr Smith, which allows you to check whether all 6 elements have been applied and to plan a viable digital marketing strategy.
- S for Situation: the course begins with an analysis of the situation.
- O as Objectives: defined objectives which, as you will see later, must be Smart.
- S for Strategy: in this phase, the path to be followed is defined, identifying the Buyer Personas.
- T for Tactics: understood as the customer relationship management strategy and a communication and marketing plan.
- A for Actions: corresponds to everyday operational actions.
- C for Control: this is the phase in which everything is measured.
Market analysis: SWOT and Competitors
The starting point of any marketing plan template is the analysis of the target market and in particular the positioning of the company or project with respect to the sector and competitors. This phase also includes what is commonly referred to as a SWOT analysis: this is a strategic planning tool used to assess industry trends according to certain criteria:
- strengths (strengths);
- those of weaknesses (Weaknesses);
- opportunities (Opportunities);
- the threats (Threats) of a project.
The objective of positioning is to gain a competitive advantage over time as well as to identify possible future scenarios. At this stage, it is also important to identify and establish your USP (unique selling point), i.e. the added and unique value that distinguishes you from your competitors.
An indispensable element that a marketing planner must define its corporate goals, which can answer various questions such as:
What are the objectives of the marketing plan? Why? What do we want to achieve? Do we want to increase turnover or raise our brand awareness? Do we want to open up a new market or acquire new customers?
It is very important to focus as precisely as possible on the goal to be achieved because different goals respond to different strategies. At this stage, it is essential to distinguish between strategic (long-term) objectives, which correspond to planning for the years to come, and operational (short-term) objectives, which refer to planning in the short term, e.g. annually.
SMART, what exactly does that mean?
- S, therefore, stands for Specific (specific), to give a clear idea of what will be concretely realized.
- Measurable, so that their level of achievement can be measured.
- Achievable (attainable), i.e. they can be realized with the available resources.
- Realistic, i.e. referable to the context.
- Timed (planned over time) and then achieved within a set period.
Having defined context and objectives, all that remains is to identify your target audience, or more precisely your Buyer Personas.
They are hypothetical customers and embody their motivations, expectations, and, above all, behavior. It is important to define these audience segments in order to be able to create ad hoc marketing actions to meet their needs and requirements.
It can be useful to create an example of a marketing plan to have a template to start from, and remember that different personas must correspond to different tools: that is what the marketing mix is.
For any good marketing plan, it is necessary to establish a marketing mix that encompasses the variables that, when translated into actions, will enable you to achieve your goals and satisfy the consumer. How is this concept realized? This is where the 4Ps come into play:
- Product. By this you mean much more than just the service or product offered; you have to consider packaging and labeling, but also customer satisfaction, lifecycle, and positioning in relation to competitors and product range.
- Price. Price indicates how much the consumer is willing to pay for your product taking into account certain variables such as the market, competitors, and the expense of creating the final product.
- Placement. The distribution of the product to the end customer through physical stores or digital channels. It is very important to find the right channels so that your product is available to the customer when and where they want it.
- Promotion. This is the product promotion phase, i.e. the set of communication actions put in place to attract the customer’s attention. You can do this through public relations, online or traditional advertising, always with the aim of promoting your offer.
Take these marketing tactics into account when creating your digital marketing plan without forgetting that everything generated and proposed must be in line with your strategies and goals.
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Budget and Timing
Obviously, it becomes imperative to create a marketing plan without a budget, which is usually established in advance. The plan must forecast sales, evaluate costs and check cost-effectiveness.
When? This is also a sensitive issue that deserves much attention.
A marketing plan cannot have too limited a time frame, a few days or weeks for instance.
Nevertheless, it must still contain a very precise daily focus in which one indicates not only the day of the week but also the time to post on Facebook or Twitter for example.
Planning a broad and long-term time horizon, preferably annually, is the best choice. At this stage, it is very useful to use the Gantt chart to define timeframes and responsibilities for each area.
A good model to follow can be the RACE (Reach Act Convert Engage), a system for planning a digital marketing strategy, created by Dave Chaffrey of Smart Insights, which, by breaking down the marketing process into stages helps to identify the best strategies to use.
- In the Reach phase, you have to build your brand awareness and the simultaneous generation of traffic to your site.
- The Act (short for Interact) phase involves engaging the customer on the website or social media.
- The next step is to obtain conversions by converting the contact into a customer (also lead or fan) in the Convert phase.
- Finally, the funnel involves building relationships that can last. This is the moment of Engage.
Marketing Plan: KPI analysis tells you if it is successful
The success of all these phases must be measured using KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to crown the performance phase of the marketing plan. Tests and checks must therefore be carried out, data must be studied and collected, and the first evaluations must begin so that feedback can be drafted.
Therefore, one immediately starts testing the marketing plan exercise by comparing the results obtained with those expected. It is essential to monitor the chosen KPIs in the course of the exercise by also making use of Analytics tools.
Some parameters that can be evaluated are the number of fans reached and the cost per fan. Others may be the rate of acquisition of new users and their retention, i.e. the retention rate. And again: the viewing of a single page or one or more pages in the same visit; unique visitors or those who returned to the site at least one more time.
Scenario Analysis: the dynamism of the Marketing Plan
Having understood what the phases of a marketing plan are, it is not obvious but necessary to identify possible positive and negative scenarios that may occur.
As trends in marketing and the digital market are constantly changing, the structures and documents within them are also dynamic and must be easily adaptable to change. For this reason, it is necessary to prepare alternative solutions to be implemented in case everything does not go as planned, these proposed B-plans are always highly appreciated by investors who see professionalism and foresight in the team they have entrusted.
Conclusions and Strategic Consulting
Often many companies decide not to use a digital marketing strategy plan, thus risking the wrong approach online and losing customers due to the lack of a concrete strategy.
However, when you decide to use it, and this is the best choice you can make, knowing how to structure it and where to start can be the biggest challenge, but the one that will surely bring concrete results. The marketing plan is the key to the success of a business and the loyalty of its customers and investors.
If you are interested in receiving valuable advice, do not hesitate to request a Free Strategic Consultation with the experts and professionals at Digital Coach.
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