How has your newfound knowledge of digital marketing changed the way you look at the world:
As a consumer receiving marketing messages?
As a professional and perhaps a future digital marketer?
Now that you're well-prepared, you can start to dig a little deeper. In this second part, I'll teach you how to create a marketing plan!
Understand the Importance of Planning
Creating and updating this kind of document can be time-consuming. Is it really necessary?
At first glance, it might look like skipping this step could save time. You might think that you'll get more done if you spend more time executing than planning or evaluating.
The marketing plan's point is not to enable you to do more things; it's so you can do more of the "right" things. And by the right things, I mean focusing on marketing activity that helps you achieve your overall goal.
In marketing, the saying "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." It makes perfect sense.
One of the most cited strategists in business schools is Sun Tzu. It is often surprising how well the opinions of this 6th-century Chinese military strategist apply to corporate strategy.
For example, this quote underlines the importance of planning:
"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war. Defeated warriors go to war first and then seek victory. " Sun Tzu - The Art of War
If you replace the military references with marketing references, you get:
"A successful marketing strategy is effective even before it's launched. A poor strategist first launches the campaign and then looks for efficiency."
Do I have to plan 100% of my marketing actions in advance?
Not necessarily. Planning that's too rigid can keep you from the spontaneity and immediacy that digital marketing allows for. If you over plan everything to the last detail, you may not be responsive enough to seize sudden, unpredictable opportunities.
In SMM - social media marketing - for example, it's common to take advantage of the news. It's called newsjacking.
Some news is predictable (for example, the Olympic Games' time and date), and other news isn't (such as the event results).
Let's say that your organization sponsors an Olympic athlete. It's easy to plan an encouraging message at the start of the competition. On the other hand, it'll be a little more challenging to plan the congratulatory message. What if your athlete gets injured? Or breaks a world record? You need to be prepared to respond to each scenario without actually writing all of your communications in advance. Otherwise, what you gain in the ability to react quickly, you lose in spontaneity and relevance.
There was a famous example of this in 2013 when there was a power outage during the Super Bowl. Within 10 minutes, Oreos had the idea for, created, and published a simple ad on Twitter that dominated news cycles for days. You can check out a video of it here.
You can't plan 100% of your marketing actions in detail, but you can (and should) evaluate them all. The marketing plan will also be useful to assess and improve the performance of your actions.
Prioritize Your Efforts in Four Steps
In this part, I'll show you how to create a marketing plan in four steps. Each step corresponds to a part of the marketing plan. We'll go through them one by one in the next chapters:
Goal setting: specify what you want your marketing plan to achieve.
Market research: understand your customers better to reach those goals.
Marketing strategy: guide your activity to achieve a competitive advantage in your market.
The action plan: translate your strategy into an action plan over a given period and within your budget.
Is there only one good way to create a marketing plan?
No. But certain elements are more or less essential, whatever your organization, whatever your goals.
If you work for a small organization that only sells one product/service in a single market, your plan can be very brief. On the other hand, if you work for a multinational corporation with several product/service lines, you may not centralize everything in a single document.
I'll introduce you to a simple methodology that you can adapt to your needs.
You can easily find useful and customizable marketing plan templates that can save time.
What format should I use for my marketing plan?
Again, there is no absolute rule. Some marketers prefer a text document (Microsoft Word, Google Docs); others prefer a spreadsheet (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets). I like to use Google Docs for the editorial components. I can also link to Google Sheets for the action plan, which I believe requires a spreadsheet.
So that you don't have to jump between documents, I'll write the parts of a marketing plan right into the course in the middle of the tips on how to write it.
Use the Marketing Plan to Help Make Decisions
The marketing plan is used to define:
Where do you want to go?
When do you plan on getting there?
How do you want to get there?
By what means will you get there?
In other words, marketing without a marketing plan is a bit like going on an unplanned trip. If you only have a vague idea of which direction you want to go, you might get there eventually, but not in the best way possible.
A traveler (marketer) with a plan will arrive at their final destination (goal):
By taking the fastest routes (the action plan).
After having weighed the pros and cons of all modes of transport (strategy).
By having studied the city in advance (market study).
By controlling their budget (monitoring dashboard).
While a traveler without any plan may arrive at their final destination:
Getting lost on the way or making unnecessary detours (strategic errors).
By taking the first modes of transport available to them (tactical errors).
By discovering the city once already there (ignorance of the market).
By paying too much in tourist traps (mismanagement of the budget).
Of course, the travel example is just an analogy. Some travelers don't care about the cost or speed of the journey. On the other hand, if you want to market at the professional level, you can't afford to go where the wind blows you.
Help Mimine With Its Digital Marketing Strategy
In this part, we'll create a marketing plan for Mimine, a young company in Bordeaux, France that creates handmade children's clothing.
The unique feature of Mimine clothes is that they grow with the child.
Arthur and Zoë, the two managers of the company, are both excellent fashion designers. But they never took the time to learn about marketing and don't know how to sell their creations.
That's why they called you to help start their online business.
I'll be there to guide you every step of the way, starting with defining their marketing objectives - we'll take a look at that in the next chapter.
By the end of Part Two, we'll have made Mimine's marketing plan together!
The marketing strategy begins with a planning phase. Like a roadmap, you'll be able to launch campaigns deliberately while staying flexible.
To plan your actions, you have to:
Align your vision with your team, giving you time to think things through rather than dive into the operational portion of the marketing.
Follow a four-step framework: define objectives, create a market study, choose a marketing strategy, and develop the action plan.
Channel your decision-making by asking: where you want to go, and when, how, and by what means will you get there?
In the next chapters, you'll learn about the steps to create an in-depth marketing plan, i.e., the goals, market study, strategy, and action plan.