How-to create-a-marketing-plan-image

Can you feel that?

That feeling of dread.

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know things have to change. You have all those ideas inside you about growing your business. Like your own personal Jiminy Cricket in your brain continually whispering.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid that if you start you won’t have the time to finish the job. You’re afraid that all those wonderful ideas are stupid, and that you’re wrong.

So, you do nothing.

You carry on working hard, thinking that you will do it another day, and dip your toe in the water “just a little bit”.

And then the feeling of dread returns.

This cycle can go on until it drives you to distraction, it becomes a burden and almost stops your brain from making decisions. Believe me when I say “I’ve been there”. The truth is, and from experience, once you start to take action the burden starts to disappear.

So where can you start? How can you bring clarity?

The foundation for a healthy business is the ability to plan your growth. The starting place is the formulation of all your ideas put into writing to create a marketing plan.

A business plan = financials/business goals –  a marketing plan = action

It doesn’t matter how excellent your product/service is, without marketing you can’t attract customers. And if you can’t invite customers to your business you can’t make a sale and grow your business.

Side note: before you go wild and shout at the screen “some businesses never invest in marketing”. The truth is they all invest in marketing in some way.

So whether you are:

  • Investing time learning marketing for your business
  • spending time marketing your business yourself
  • spending money on a digital marketing consultant or agency

You’re either investing time, money or both (if your hourly rate is £20 then spending an hour learning or doing it yourself has just cost you that hourly rate – it’s not free).

There is an overused saying that I firmly believe after 35 years in business “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. I’m not talking about the crippling “analyses paralysis” brigade who have a spreadsheet for changing the toilet roll in the loo. I’m talking about the difference between an idea and a plan of action.

Most small/medium sized businesses don’t have a plan and tend to wing it. They know what they want to do, make money to support themselves and their family, and I get that. But the problem when you don’t create a marketing plan is that the idea and plan in our heads can fluctuate with the weather.

The reason why people don’t create a marketing plan is either:

  • they don’t have the time
  • you don’t have the patience
  • they don’t have the knowledge
  • don’t have the money

And there lies the problem that is a vicious circle of never-ending mediocracy in growing a business.

What is a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan works with your business plan, and should usually span a twelve-month period. Twelve months is enough time to implement everything you think you need to do to achieve your set goals.

Marketing plans are a detailed plan of marketing activities to achieve those goals.

So if your business goals are to:

  • increase your sales by £xxx
  • Add £xxx to your profit
  • signup xxx new customers
  • Give you a business you can run from the beech

The last one is a sick joke and a lie that internet marketers spin to take money from you. Usually making money from people who can’t afford it and are desperate.

A marketing plan is a document that lays out the things you need to do and the timescale they need to get completed.

So now that we have that out the way let’s get onto how to create a marketing plan that focuses on the things that matter to your business.

Step 1: Get it all straight in your head

Committing ideas and thoughts to paper is the first step to getting everything straight in your head. And putting it down on paper (or in a document) is the first step to create a marketing plan.

Be clear on:

  • What the product or service is
  • Exactly what you want to achieve
  • What need it fulfils, or problem it solves
  • Who is your ideal customer
  • Opportunities for growth
  • what makes you different/better from other people in the market (this is important)

Side note: Marketing yourself as being a caring, experienced, qualified, friendly people business is not a differentiator. It’s a given, vanilla, same as all of your competitor’s marketing.

Getting everything straight in your head and putting it down on paper is the first step to create a marketing plan.Click To Tweet

Here is an example:

If you owned a cattery (a place where cat owners leave their cats to be cared for when they are on holiday). Then most business owners label/market themselves as:

  • A caring cattery that looks after your cat
  • A premier cattery that has separate pens for your cat (they think they are smart marketers)
  • A 5* cattery that has individual pens for your cat (they think they are brilliant marketers)

Those are obvious statements to the customer, and what they are really interested in is your ability to care for the cat’s health and well being while they are away.

So what if the business said:

  • We are a cat holiday resort – when you go on holiday your cat does too
  • All our guests have views of the beautiful landscape
  • We have specialist cat grooming services on site to get rid of those pesky knots
  • Microchipping services on site to keep your cat safe
  • We specialise in clipping claws without stressing your little bundle of fur
  • If your cats on medication we’re qualified to dispense prescribed medication

Suddenly this “cattery” has differentiated themselves from the competition and had a lot more value to market themselves. They also have a broader sector of the market to advertise.

If you don’t know your “differentiator” or USP (unique selling point), then you will, unfortunately, be the same as your competition in the eyes of a customer. And the only thing you can differentiate on is price (not good for your margins).

Now that you have committed to paper what you are about and what you do differently, we move onto the next step.

If you don’t know your “differentiator” or USP (unique selling point), then you will, unfortunately, be the same as your competition in the eyes of a customer.Click To Tweet

Step 2: Identify your ideal customer

social media marketing agenciesIdentifying your ideal customer is the way forward to a sustainable business. In my years of running and owning companies, I have come across some cheesy marketers.

They are proud of the fact that they sell to “anyone with skin”, or anyone “with a pulse”. Thinking that this is a great statement to make, when actually what the marketers are saying is I don’t know or care about my customer.

The best salespeople I have ever met have identified:

  • who their ideal customer is
  • What their pain points are and how they can help resolve it
  • constantly thinking how can I better serve my customer
  • Where to find them (in today’s terms which social channel they hang out on)
  • how to connect with them and start the conversation to build a relationship

Those marketers have more success as they are focused on who and what matters.

Knowing your customers

There are other essential factors in identifying your ideal customer. There will always be a percentage of customers who take up a disproportionate amount of your time. Will still demand more than they are paying for. And will have less financial value than other customers.

We all get mixed up in mistaking “treating every customer the same” as a badge of honour. When actually what you are doing is treating customers described above the same as your best customers.

I made this mistake when I started a print and design company in 2002, first of all, I didn’t create a marketing plan. I knew how to market businesses, after all, I had been doing it for multi-million-pound companies for years. The local community, pensioners, and mums came in for a 10p black and white photocopy, and they would stay and chat for 30 minutes.

I kept telling myself to treat them like every other customer, and that it may lead to bigger business opportunities. The unfortunate thing was 4 of them a day meant I lost two hours per day for 40p, with overheads of £150 per hour.

If I had focused on visiting my ideal customers, I could have generated £300 in half-hour visits.

So I put my minimum charge for a black and white copy up to £10 per copy. The locals stopped coming and went to staples, and I gained two more hours a day to talk to my ideal customers and increased my turnover by 50% in 3 months.

Step 3: Decide what channels you will use

It’s no use if you create a marketing plan that includes paid advertising if you have no budget. So you need to be very clear on how you are going to reach out to your prospective customers. There is a multitude of channels you can use such as:

  • social media
  • paid advertising
  • email marketing
  • snail mail
  • telephone
  • Face to face networking
  • Leaflets
  • Video channel
  • content marketing
  • podcast

I could go on…

The reality is some channels are going to take time to get traction and engagement; some are instant results, and some just won’t work for your business.

You have to work out whether it needs time, money or both to action that channel. One of the most significant opportunities today is being able to repurpose content. Allowing you to create once and use several times which is excellent for time-starved businesses.

If you have a local business I have written a post


If you decide on social media

Social media marketing is and has been the go-to channel for several years now (I can’t believe I’m saying that I remember when it was the newbie on the block). The best advice I can give you is this:

  • decide on one social media platform and work it till you have success, then add another and so on.
  • be clear that social media is in its name, most B2C are there for social first, and most B2B are there to sell not buy.
  • the social media platforms have rigged their software to limit your ability to reach people unless you pay the platform to advertise.
  • social media is about earning the right to pitch a sale. So it’s no use turning up and promoting your product/service. The audience needs to know like and trust you first.
  • you have to turn up consistently to be seen

There are several other blog posts I have written that delve deeper into social media, paid advertising and video.



Step 4: Create a marketing plan

Creating a marketing schedule is so much easier if you have completed steps 1 to 3. You know what you want to achieve (your business plan and your heads straight); you know who you want to focus on marketing too. And, you know what channels you will use to reach out, connect, engage and communicate.

Now you have to put it all together in an easy to understand and precise schedule. A free resource that we all have is spreadsheets if you take some time to create the template.

If you don’t have time and it’s a stumbling point, here is a great resource from Hubspot “marketing-plan-template-generator”

The things it should include in a simple marketing schedule:

  • The subject of the marketing campaign (i.e. promote x not “my business”)
  • The channel/s you will use (i.e. repurposing material)
  • The budget (if any)
  • How you will measure its effectiveness (analytics)
  • Who will do each piece of work
  • When is the deadline to start
  • When will it be completed by

I have written a post that explains the eight digital marketing elements I use when working with clients that work for me.

Thank you for reading this post, I hope that it has given you some real actionable areas and answered your question “How to create a marketing plan”.

Please let me know in the comments below if it has delivered the value I intended, and if it has, share it using the buttons below.

Getting everything straight in your head and putting it down on paper is the first step to create a marketing planClick To Tweet

Steve Welsh
Steve Welsh

After a long career in senior management in the motor industry, working with motor manufacturers. Guiding companies to effective marketing and increased revenue. I created and developed several businesses in commercial print, design and marketing. For the last 10 years, I have been specialising in marketing and growth management.