The first part of writing a successful marketing plan is to establish your marketing objectives. You need to figure out what your business goals are. Ask yourself – what are you looking to accomplish? Before you start getting excited and planning what the next steps are you have to start from the beginning so don’t get ahead of yourself – create a vision statement!

This may seem overwhelming at first, but it is definitely worth your time and effort!  A vision statement is simply the long-term mission of your business. Creating it  will provide your business with a defined direction – and keep you focused on your overall goals. Your Vision Statement is the message that you will follow and integrate into the very fabric of your marketing plan. With it, you will be armed with the facts to better articulate the key benefits and the value  of your products or services that define your brand and its long-term positioning.

Ask yourself, “What do I plan to achieve with my marketing plan?”

If you find that is a challenge to clearly state your overall vision, you are not alone!  Just take a step back and start by performing  a S.W.O.T Analysis. S.W.O.T stands for  strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Start with your strengths.  What do you have going for your business?  Focus in on those areas where you overachieve and beat your competition.  Next, take a look at weaknesses.  These could be anything that you see as areas where you want to improve, key features that your competitors have that you don’t, a lack of capital or human resources – any item that you see as a weak area in what you offer.  Next, focus on opportunities.  Here, take a look at where you know you can sell your product or service, where you see an immediate market need (maybe it’s a certain industry).  Finally, outline the threats that are potentially in the way of your success.  Maybe it’s a competitor that is better funded than you or a sputtering economic condition.

By conducting a SWOT analysis you will identify the key insights and a strategic plan that will help to guide your business for years to come! Once you have your vision and a better sense of the opportunities and threats facing your business, you can begin establishing your S.M.A.R.T. objectives.  These objectives analyze the specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound business tactics that will help you drive to your tangible goals, such as profitable growth or market share.

Now that you’ve figured out the vision, goals, and tactics to get you there, you need to clearly understand who your target audience is and how you will communicate with them.  If you aren’t sure of all of the different customer segments that are in need of what you have to offer, do some research! Before you begin any outreach or start any marketing campaigns, it is vital to establish who your client is! Depending on what you are selling, whether it’s a product, service or you are simply promoting your brand to create more awareness– you need to start with the customer.

First, define your target demographics: What do your best customers look like? For example, if you market to businesses, what size of business needs your products, or what industries need your services?  If you market to consumers, who uses what you sell?  Is it young families with children?  Or maybe it’s people in a certain geography of a certain age.  Think about who your products are most attractive to – who needs them?  Determining who your specific audience is will help you find more who are interested in buying your service or product. If you don’t determine this up-front, you will not only be wasting your money but also your valuable time. Sit down and figure out the age range, location and income of your potential customer. This will help  you truly hone in on  who, exactly, is your ultimate buyer.

So what have you learned . . .

1. Don’t get ahead of yourself; start by defining your Company Vision, Objectives and Tactics.

2. Do the research and make sure you are targeting the right audience and getting your important message out to the those who will resonate with it the most.

You have to determine the reason for your efforts! I hope after reading this you will take a moment and analyze your outreach and marketing goals. By start with a well-thought out Vision for your business, you will be better able to accomplish all of your goals with your Marketing Plan.

Good luck!