2011 Marketing Plan Strategies: How To Write A Marketing Plan

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

“Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s is easy to beat most folks.”
– Paul “Bear” Bryant, football coach, University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide.

You’ve got to know where you’re going and how you are going to get there.  With the New Year weeks away, it is the right time to write your 2011 marketing plan and commit to the specific actions you are going to take in 2011 to grow and improve your businesses.  Writing a marketing plan will arm you with the confidence that you are allocating marketing dollars to the most productive marketing strategies.

While writing a marketing plan can seem like a daunting task, it does not have to be complicated or lengthy to be effective.  Often the most effective marketing plans are those that have been well thought out and then documented in a simple, brief and concise format.

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Have your written your 2011 marketing plan?

A streamlined 2011 marketing plan could outline in five pages or less:
1. A summary of  industry /market trends that could impact how you market your business as well as an internal analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your company, your products/services and your marketing operations.
2/3. Customer profiles and key messages (who your different target customer groups are and what message you will use to communicate value to each of them).
4. Key marketing/communications objectives (what you are going to achieve and when).
5/6. Marketing strategies and marketing tactics (how you are going to achieve those goals and through what specific marketing and advertising activities you are going to reach them). With each tactic that you decide to pursue, be sure to outline the 1) rationale for pursuing that marketing tactic 2) person accountable 3) an allocated budget 4) a timeline.

7. Timeline (What is going to be achieved and which actions are going to be taken in a defined period of time). Using a one page Gantt chart can be very effective. Here is video Tutorial of how to make a Gantt chart in Excel.

8. Budget (How much money will be allocated to specific line item marketing activities).
9. How you will evaluate and measure your success at key milestones throughout the year i.e. performance measures

How do I start writing my 2011 marketing plan?

In its essence, the key to writing a great marketing plan is asking the right marketing questions. These are questions that provoke thought and reveal opportunities and gaps in your marketing plan.  From this phase, you will engineer an action plan that pursues each of those opportunities in a logical, cohesive way that fits your marketing budget.

Remember, things have changed a lot even in one year

It’s especially important to keep an open mind about how to integrate new media and new technologies into your marketing plan. The fact is although it has been one year, a lot has evolved in marketing.

The social marketing space has grown exponentially as well as the age and demographics of web 2.0 users. The way people search for products/services is increasingly mobile.  Key search engines have become more “real time” and “instant” in how they process searches. It has become increasingly difficult to have your website show up on page one of Google due to the millions of new websites coming online which has made search engine optimization an essential part of every businesses internet marketing plan.

And consumers are much less influenced by interruptive, traditional advertising vehicles than in the past.  Where and how you communicate with customers may need to be reevaluated.

So, what are some of the key questions I should ask myself to write a 2011 marketing plan?

Our hope is that by asking yourself some of the questions below you will be inspired to take time out of your busy workday and start reflecting, strategizing and planning for how you will market your company in 2011.  Add to or edit the list. Make it your own.

•    Did I reach my 2010 marketing goals? If not, do I know why? Am I investing in marketing / advertising activities that can be measured in terms of performance?
•    What industry and consumer trends might shape my 2011 small business marketing plan? Here is an interesting article about 2011 consumer / marketing trends.
•    Is my product or service still in demand?
•    What are my marketing goals for 2011? Are they Clear, Quantified, Achievable, Realistic, Timely, and Agreed Upon) goals?
•    What is my budget for marketing in 2011? How can I shift my marketing dollars to higher return, more measurable marketing tools to grow my business?  On a monthly basis, where will my marketing dollars come from to fund marketing activities e.g. by decreasing inventory, ST loan, projected cash flow etc.
•    Who are my competitors in 2011? What are their weaknesses? Who has entered the market in 2010? Who has left in 2010?
•    What needs are not being filled in the market right now by my competitors that I can fill in 2011? Is there an opportunity to introduce a new product or service?
•    Do customers know what is unique about my business? Where am I positioned in the market e.g. price leader, specialist/generalist, service leader etc.?  Why should a customer buy from me instead of my competitors?
•    Am I pricing and packaging my products/services in the most profitable way?
•    Can I accurately describe each of my customer segments? Who is my most profitable customer segment? Can I really create a clear customer profile with what I know today?
•    What am I doing to maintain and deepen relationships with existing customers/clients?
•    What feedback do I have from customers that can shape my 2011 marketing plan?
•    What insights are revealed? What specific actions can I take to better serve my customers in 2011?
•    How have behaviors of my target audience changed? Am I using the right media to communicate to my audience?
•    Have I taken advantage of the many “free” marketing tools available online such as Social Media Marketing with Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube Video Marketing, Social Bookmarking, Forums etc. to build my marketing program?
•    What am I going to do to “wow” customers and stay memorable? What are some low-cost, high impact strategies I can use?
•    Who is going to be accountable for which marketing activities?
•    Can I reach my marketing goals with in-house resources or do I need to consider getting expert help from a marketing consultant?

What questions would you add to this list?

Going through the Discovery process and looking at your company marketing plan with a fresh set of eyes before allocating precious marketing dollars to the same activities you did last year can be the difference between being in the red or the black next at the end of 2011. Spending the time now to plan and make strategic decisions can save you a lot of money and missed opportunities this year as well improve your results significantly.

Once you have written a streamlined marketing plan for 2011, just remember that it’s acting on what you have learned and executing those ideas flawlessly that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.  If you’re not sure what to focus on, put resources toward marketing to the 20% of your customer base / target audience that will generate 80 % of your revenue. If you have questions that you cannot answer, it can make sense to engage a marketing consultant to work with you as you plan for the coming year.

Best of luck marketing in 2011! Feel free to share comments here or with our marketing consultants. Thanks.

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