Marketing plans can be complex. Like, really, really complex. Depending on the number of products or services you’re selling, the size of your market, the strength of your competitors, and the amount of time and money you have to spend, a detailed plan could single-handedly destroy an entire forest.
It can also provide you with a lot of insights to base your strategy on.
Luckily, we can simplify the entire process by asking just three questions. You can build the answers out as much as you want, but make sure you have answered all three to have the essence of your plan and a quick reference anytime you’re evaluating a marketing opportunity on the fly.
Where are you now?
It’s important for any plan to acknowledge what is currently happening in your business. Are your sales just starting out? Growing? Stagnant? Declining? Why do you think that’s happening?
If you offer multiple products or services, you might want to note what ones are your top sellers.
What is your biggest challenge right now? What’s happening in your industry that you’re aware of? Are there any opportunities you see, or is there a threat looming?
You should also make a note of who your current customers and competitors are, and any noteworthy trends that are affecting them.
Where do you want to be?
It’s hard to build an effective plan without a goal. If its SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound), all the better.
You can base your goal around what you want to see change in your business. This might be more sales, more customers, or getting customers to spend more per transaction. You might be moving into a new market (either a new audience or a new product/service) or you might be focused on growing your online community through social media or email lists.
Not only can your goals be about moving toward something, they can also be about moving away from something. Looking at your biggest challenge, what is your resolution to that problem?
How do you plan to get there?
You have a point A and a point B. Now you need to find a way to connect them. What steps do you need to take? What has to happen before the changes occur?
How will you get in front of your audience, and what will you say to get them to make up their mind? What marketing channels do you own (website, storefront, signage, social media), and which ones will you need to pay for or earn (advertisements, events, media coverage)?
As I said, you could spend a lot of time getting into the details. A well thought out marketing plan that takes into account your limited resources and abilities is important to saving time and money, plus seeing real results when marketing your business. Even so, you should be able to share the core concepts of your plan with your team or outsourced help in about 30 seconds using the questions outlined above.
At its core, every marketing plan should boil down to the three essential questions: Where are you now, where are you going, and how do you plan to get there?