Does your business have a marketing plan in place that you’re looking to adjust? Or are you just starting out with developing your first marketing plan? Either way, creating a strategic marketing plan is necessary for business success. Without one, you will waste time and money trying to achieve a goal that isn’t clearly set. Poor marketing plans are a reason many companies fail to achieve their business goals. In the following article, we will discuss methods you can use to create a strategic and strong marketing plan that will lead your business to financial and qualitative success.

First, Layout Your Goals

Prior to thinking about strategy or implementation, layout your business goals. This will help you define aspects of your marketing plan throughout the development process and lead you to a clear and strategic execution.

Think about where you want your business to be at in several years. How much do you want to grow? What kind of revenue do you want to be seeing? While thinking about these questions, layout your goals using the SMART format. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.

Specific – Your goals and objectives need to be specific enough so that everyone involved has a clear understanding of what the expected outcomes are. Avoid general objectives such as “generate more sales.” A more specific objective would be to “increase sales by 12% over the next six months.” This allows for everyone to picture the goal in a concrete, visual manner. In the long run, this will help your marketing plan develop smoothly.

Measurable – Your goals must have some form of quantitative unit for measuring progress and success. This can be in the form of KPI’s or ROI’s. If you’re implementing a social media strategy, you can measure success through engagement analytics, such as number of likes, followers and shares. Your units of measurement will differ depending on what sort of marketing strategy you are implementing.

Attainable – Your goals also need to be attainable. This means being realistic about what you can accomplish in a given amount of time. If you’re a small business that’s just starting out, making a goal to “be a multibillion-dollar company in less than two years,” is grand and unrealistic. A more realistic goal may be, “In two years double our current revenue.” This is a much more realistic and attainable goal. To decide what’s attainable for your business, you will need to analyze your current financial and structural state. What’s attainable for each business is going to be different depending on these factors. So, don’t sell yourself short when planning your goals for your marketing plan, but also keep in mind what’s attainable.

Realistic – Forming realistic goals is very similar to the previous point where we talked about making attainable goals. The difference is that here we are focusing on what’s realistic financially for your marketing plan. Now that you are going to layout your budget, how much are you willing to spend on it? Also, what do you hope to gain from your marketing plan in terms of revenue? A perfect example of a realistic smart goal is stated by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen on her site Life Blossoms, “‘In six months, I will look at my blog earnings and personal finances, and see if I can go from full-time work at my day job to part-time work. I see myself working part-time at my outside job while working on my blogs part-time.’ It may be a slightly optimistic goal to be earning part-time money after six months of blogging – but we have to be optimistic when we set our goals!”

Setting these types goals will clarify the financial aspects and optimistic goals of your marketing plan.

Time-bound – Your goals all need a time frame to work by, with solid deadlines to measure success. Set time-bound goals, both short-term and long-term. What do you want to complete in six months from now? And what do you want to complete this month? You should also set daily goals to help keep you and your team focused. Setting a time frame for your goals will help keep your marketing plan focused and on track.

Next, Develop A SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is an analytical system first developed by Stanford University researcher, Albert S. Humphrey, to analyze data of major corporations. The purpose of a SWOT analysis, as explained by Heflo, is “to study the internal and external environments of a company, through the identification and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and the opportunities and threats to which it is exposed. Part of the purpose of SWOT analysis is to also assertively identify factors that influence the functioning of the organization providing very useful information in the strategic planning process.”

SWOT is an acronym that stands for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By analyzing these four aspects of your business, you can take advantage of your strengths and opportunities, as well as acknowledge your weaknesses to counter threats. Performing a SWOT analysis will help you strategize for potential risks and overall improve your marketing strategy.

Third, Identify Your Target Audience

Every marketing strategy needs to clearly identify its target audience. To create your target audience, you can start by creating fictitious buyer characters to represent your target audience; these are referred to as target personas. This will help illustrate the potential market for your business. When devising your target personas, take into consideration demographic data, education, online performance and personal history. According to Trew Marketing, “Once you have your full list, identify the ones who have similar needs or roles and consider merging them. From here, prioritize your list of personas by considering their impact on the final purchase decision, their relationship to your company, and the size of the audience persona group. Once you’ve finished brainstorming, create your actual personas.”

Finally, Create Campaigns

Once you’ve set your goals, conducted a SWOT analysis and identified your target audience, you are ready to create your marketing campaign. This is the last step in your marketing strategy.

Now you’re going to set the specifics of your marketing campaign.

Set your budget – You’ve already brainstormed your potential budget in your SMART plan, but now you’re going to set it for real. Be realistic about your budget. You want to put in enough to get results, but you also have to take into consideration your company’s financial situation. Set a budget for your marketing plan that is reasonable to yield results.

Craft your message – Now think about what exactly you want to tell your audience. You want your message to have a punch so that your audience will remember you, but also be clear what it is you want them to do. It’s a good idea to brainstorm many ways to convey the message you’re trying to tell.

Choose your media – Finally, think about where you want to market your business. There are many channels, such as social media, email marketing, printed advertisements, etc. You’ll need to choose media that are relevant to your target audience and fit within your budget. As said by R & A Marketing, “The best campaigns usually utilize a mix of different media to target and re-target customers. With a huge selection of print, digital, cable and in-person media at your disposal, it might be worth trying new media in addition to trusted ones and seeing how it impacts your campaign.”