I recently wrote this article for Willow Printing Group’s (www.willowprint.com) BeyondPrint newsletter, and it is re-published here with their permission.

Why You Need a Marketing Plan

In the simplest terms, your marketing plan is your guiding light for achieving your organization’s business goals and vision. Creating it will take you through the process of clearly defining what you do, whom you want to sell your products or services to, and how you will market your brand or company successfully. It will help your organization decide how to best allocate your marketing dollars to maximize return on investment.

The bottom line–your Marketing Plan is your action plan to help you strategically grow your business.

Start with Your Brand Strategy

In our recent BeyondPrint and WeConnect publications, we tackled the topics of research and targeting in our articles: Know Your Audience-Do Your Research, the Secrets of Successful Surveys and Segmenting + Targeting = Profits. These are all part of developing a Brand Strategy that will differentiate you from your competitors and allow you to communicate successfully with your target audience.

If you incorporate the tips and ideas we offered in these articles, you’ll already be ahead of the game. To develop your marketing plan you will build on this exercise and should draw from research you have already completed. Before creating your marketing plan, it is advisable to start with a clearly articulated Brand Strategy. If your company or brand doesn’t have a formalized Brand Strategy, the process outlined below will be helpful for you to follow:

  • Do a Competitive Analysis
  • Do an analysis of buyer needs and wants (through research)
  • Segment clients and prospects
  • Establish your value proposition: what differentiates your Brand?
  • Think through the benefits of dealing with your organization (B2B) or buying your brand’s products (B2C)
  • Establish your Brand Promise
  • Establish your Brand Personality/Positioning-your 30 second “elevator pitch”
  • Create or revise your Brand Look and Feel if needed

Remember: if you are a business selling to other businesses, your company is your brand and you still need a Brand Strategy.

If you’ve already worked on your Brand Strategy, congratulations: you’re already ahead of the game and – although you’ll want to revisit your brand positioning frequently – you won’t have to go through this exercise in its entirety.

Establish Your Business Objectives First

You want your business to be successful and profitable. With your management team, set your revenue goals for the year, and outline how you plan to achieve them. The role of your Marketing Plan is to support these business goals.

For example you might have a goal to increase overall revenues by 10%, or increase your profitability by 5%.

What Have You Learned

This is one of the most important elements of your plan. Take a step back and objectively look at your business and your marketing. What worked and what didn’t work for you in the last fiscal year? What did you learn about your target audience and how can you apply that learning to your marketing strategy? It is best to conduct this exercise as a management team–be sure to get as much feedback as possible from all stakeholders, both internal and external field sales.

For example, you might have learned that you have much better response rates from targeted direct mail campaigns than from untargeted mass mailings.

Also as part of this exercise, you could conduct a SWOT analysis with your team on your business. SWOT is a classic exercise, and stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWOT_analysis). This step will help give you some direction before getting into the planning process.

A 360-Degree View of the Market

Define whom you are up against. Are you competing locally, regionally or nationally? What is your competitive advantage? Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your competition will enable you to better position your company or your brand.

You should also be very aware of challenges your buyers and consumers face, as this will help you speak their language in your marketing messaging. What are the key industry trends and economic issues? Finally you should take into consideration any regulatory issues that may present constraints or opportunities.

You’ll have already looked at your competition if you have undertaken the Branding Strategy exercise – but it’s worth revisiting this part in more depth.

Target Market: Who Makes the Cut

Let’s briefly review the recommended steps for segmenting your customer base:

1. Set clear business goals and objectives around what your organization wants to achieve with its customers and prospects, such as acquisition, retention, increased share of wallet etc.

2. Gather relevant research and information such asgeographic location, usage behavior, product and service needs, purchase patterns, stage in customer life cycle and value (revenue/profit) to your organization.

3. Look at revenue per customer, purchase frequency, margin contribution, potential value of customer if you increase share of wallet and future life time value. How big is the market?

4. Segment based on behavior using criteria such as purchasing patterns, demographics, sociographics and psychographics.


Definitively establishing the audience for your brand or organization is the key to marketing success.

The ROI on Targeting

“During a recent conversation with e-Dialog CEO John Rizzi, he cited an interesting statistic from Jupiter Research: Targeted emails (those with segmentation and dynamic content) deliver five times more revenue than broadcast email campaigns. Profitability goes up too, he said. ‘If you want high deliverability, send email people want to open.’”

If you take the time to define your market properly and stick to targeting this audience, you will be more successful. Immediately and noticeably so!

And using targeted email alongside targeted print, packs an undeniable 1-2 punch that can boost your marketing success considerably.

Marketing Objectives

What to achieve…and by when? Finessing your marketing objectives is the best way to achieve your business objectives. This is where the old reliable SMART theory kicks in: ensure that your goals are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-specific.

For example let’s say your company markets educational seminars and conferences. In the upcoming fiscal year, you might have goals to:

  • Increase your revenue by 20% in the SMB sector by a specific date.
  • Target a new segment–home builders—and achieve revenue of X by year-end.
  • Increase your revenues in on-line conferencing by 15% by a specific date.

…and these Lead to Strategies

Marketing Strategies explain the big picture of how you are going to achieve your objectives.

For example, in keeping with the scenario above:

  • You could increase your revenue by 20% in the SMB sector through an online/social media campaign.
  • You could develop the home builders’ segment through a targeted communications program to the top 20 in the industry.
  • You could increase your revenues in online conferencing by 15% through online advertising

Get It Done…with Tactics!

Marketing tactics are specific actions you will take to implement each strategy. Tactics are budgeted on an individual basis and roll up to a total marketing budget you have set. Be creative in order to stand out from your competition.

For example, you could increase your revenue by 20% in the SMB sector by creating a blog with content of interest to the SMB community, settig up a Facebook Fan page with ongoing engagement tactics such as contests and quizzes promoted by Facebook advertising and tweeting tips for SMB owners on Twitter.

To focus on developing the home builder’s segment, you decide to execute a multi-channel marketing communications strategy, incorporating a quarterly print newsletter with content of interest to the target audience, a re-vamped website and online marketing strategy, personalized letters to decision makers and unique print promotional pieces as a follow-up to those who respond.

You could increase your revenues in online conferencing by 15% through a Google Advertising campaign targeted at specific segments, individualized landing pages with conference details and online signup/request for more information to be followed up by personalized print pieces customized to the prospect’s interests.

For each tactic, you need to work out the steps involved and the timeline to complete them. A good way to do this is to determine the target date, and then work backwards-assigning completion dates to all the steps involved

It’s All About the Money

Know how much your company is prepared to invest in marketing and set your budget early in the game. Spend more money where the anticipated return is greater. When setting tactics, you’ll want to ensure that the individual estimated expenses roll up to the marketing budget number you have set. You can tweak and fine-tune as needed to ensure that you have a balanced, multi-channel communication program targeted to the right audience(s).

Regardless of the specific circumstances of your company, you will have to spend wisely on marketing. Smart marketing investments are those that best connect your brand with your target audience. You may have an established client roster or you may just be a start-, but your marketing efforts need to be extremely targeted to ensure they support your organization’s objectives. One thing is for sure, you will need to commit to the investment of time and money according to the growth your company is seeking and the objectives you need to achieve.


Measure Your Success

Right from the beginning, decide how you will define and measure success. In your plan, determine specifically what you will measure and quantify the results you are looking for.

Measure the results from everything you do, so you learn what works and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t work: ditch it.

Marketing is an ongoing process and should form part of your daily operation – it’s not a stop and start thing you do when you can squeeze it into your schedule! You must do a Marketing Plan to maximize your full potential for success. The great thing about having a plan is that you can still be flexible and change it if it’s not working or if you learn new ideas along the way. Think of it as a road map: if new information comes up, you might change your route, but without it how do you know where you are?

We at Willow are committed to helping you achieve overall marketing success. We enjoy adding value by sharing our experience and the insights from our research and the marketing intelligence we keep tabs on. Drop us a line at any time to give us feedback or ask us questions: sales@willowprint.com


As an innovational Marketing Strategist, Linda Whitehead (Zuz Marketing) specializes in devising and deploying online and content marketing solutions to business challenges. Linda is a passionate senior marketing professional with more than 25 years diverse experience in B2B and B2C marketing-on both client and agency sides.

Contact: linda@zuzmarketing.ca

Linked In Public Profile:  http://www.linkedin.com/in/lindawhitehead

Twitter profile:  http://twitter.com/LindaWhitehead


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