January 4

Steps to Take BEFORE Creating Your Marketing Plan

Are you ready to get started with your marketing plan? Before you jump in, it’s important to do some preliminary research and analysis first. You need to know who your customers are and how to best serve them. There are some key steps to take BEFORE creating your marketing plan!

See Related: Top 10 Life Coach Marketing Tips for New Coaches

A roadmap, with the pin on "SUCCESS," illustrating the 4 key steps to take before starting your marketing plan.

Your marketing plan is your business’s roadmap. It outlines how you will get your product or service in front of your ideal customers, including your goals, target market, and the different tactics you’ll use. This document is important because it allows you to make the best use of your time and resources. A business’s marketing plan allows it to generate leads efficiently and turn them into paying customers. It also helps you grow and scale for the future.

Developing a marketing plan can be quite a great deal of work, depending on the nature of your business, but if you follow the key steps in this blog, creating your marketing plan will be a breeze and well worth the effort. You’ll end up with a document that provides valuable guidance and direction, making all your marketing decisions easier.

Step 1: Target Audience Research

Primary Research VS Secondary Research

There are two types of research used in marketing, primary and secondary. Your goal should be to do some of each.

Primary Research

This is such an important step to take before creating your marketing plan! Primary research refers to data collection and research that you conduct directly with your ‘subjects’. This includes surveys, personal interviews, and focus groups.

One example of primary research is an online survey. This is a survey you offer your customer using a tool like Survey Monkey, Jot Form or Google Forms. Send the link to the survey to your target audience and the answers give you the chance to gain insights directly from the source. You might ask them about their needs and the challenges they face. Asking specifically what products they’d like to see you offer, or what they like or don’t like about products they’ve used is always a great form or research as well. As a coach or service provider, you can obtain a lot of detailed information with simple yes/no and multiple-choice questions, but make sure you have some open-ended questions to get the clients exact language that they use.

Another example is the live interview.  This is the preferred way to reach out to your audience.  You can conduct these in person, on zoom or on the phone.  It allows you to be in the moment with your ideal client and get clarifications or ask additional questions if needed.  It’s a good idea to record these sessions if possible so that you don’t get distracted by having to take notes.  Caution: DO NOT SELL ON THESE CALLS!

Secondary Research

Secondary research is another step you don’t want to forget before creating your marketing plan! This type of research refers to the indirect gathering of information from public sources like websites, social media pages, or blog comments sections. This allows you to gain an understanding of your target audience through their online activity and the discussions they’re having with others.  

The internet offers a wealth of opportunities for secondary research. An example would be joining an online forum like Reddit or Quora or social media groups related to your niche and listening in on conversations. People will express their opinions or ask questions here. Another simple example is looking at your web traffic, which tells you what content your audience likes.

Both methods of research are essential when developing a marketing plan. I recommend that you do at least 5 of each type for a total of 10.

Step 2: Define Your Target Market Before Creating Your Marketing Plan

Before you start writing your marketing plan, you need to gather intel on your target market, which you started with your primary and secondary research. The success of your plan, and your future marketing initiatives, requires a thorough understanding of your audience and how to meet their needs.

Create Your Ideal Customer Avatar Before Creating Your Marketing Plan

A valuable tool that will help you define your target market is an ideal customer avatar (ICA). An ICA describes your audience as if it was an individual – the one person you’ll speak to when you create all of your campaigns, social media posts, and marketing materials. Your products and services may appeal to a wide variety of people, but if you want your marketing initiatives to be successful, you need to be laser-focused on this one ‘perfect customer’.

An ideal customer avatar features demographic and psychographic data. Demographics include things like age, economic status, education level, marital status, and geographic location.

Psychographic data describes a person’s behaviours and attitudes. This information is important because it provides insight into your audience’s passions, pain points, likes, and dislikes. You can also discover the problems they face, which gives you the ability to highlight your unique solutions in your marketing materials.

A great way to drill down on the detail of your ideal customer profile is to tap into your previous research and take it even further. See where you have gaps and do more research. For example, go back to where your audience is on social media and look at profiles, content they share, and their comments. Look for patterns and use this to complete your profile.

Step 3: Define Your UVP Before Creating Your Marketing Plan

Before you create your marketing plan, defining your UVP is a critical step. Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, it’s time to examine your products. How do they help people? What benefits do they offer? What sets them apart from similar products in the market?

To clearly identify this, you will need to create a unique value proposition (UVP). This is a statement that describes how your product uniquely meets the needs of your target customer. It explains succinctly why your customers should choose to buy the products they need from you vs. anyone else.

How to Discover Your UVP

First, brainstorm the reasons why customers buy from you and not the competition. Refer to positive feedback you’ve received from customers in the past. Then, look through email communications, comments on social media, and online reviews and write down what you find. In addition, you could reach out to current customers and ask for their feedback.

Other ways to uncover your unique value proposition include:

  • Analyze Your Competitors. Look at what they offer and how they provide services. How do you do it differently?
  • Identify the Problem Your Product Solves. You know what problems your target market faces. How does your product help solve these problems?
  • Identify Your Core Values. What are the core values that drive your company? Why did you start it? What change do you want to make in the world?

Write your UVP as a single and concise statement that incorporates your key findings.

Step 4: Perform a SWOT Analysis Before Creating Your Marketing Plan

The next key step to take before you create your marketing plan is to perform a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis helps you get a clear picture of your business’s situation by identifying its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Among other things, the SWOT analysis clarifies your competitive position in the market.

SWOT divides your market position into internal and external factors. The internal factors are the strengths and weaknesses of your business. The external factors are market forces, represented as opportunities and threats.

To do a SWOT analysis, create a grid with 4 quadrants. Assign a category to each square and write down your answers.

  • Quadrant 1 – Strengths. These are the things you do well and the qualities that set you apart from the competition. These include skills, expertise, staff members, intellectual property, technology, product benefits, and more.
  • Quadrant 2 – Weaknesses. Here you will write down what you lack and the limitations of your resources. Include the things that your competitors do better than you.
  • Quadrant 3 – Opportunities. Include evolving needs in the marketplace that you are uniquely qualified to fulfil, positive cultural or workplace shifts, growing demographics, recent events that have given you an advantage over the competition, or favourable media coverage.
  • Quadrant 4 – Threats. Here you’ll write down emerging competitors, changes in the market that may affect you negatively, and changing attitudes of your customers that don’t serve your business.  A description of the competitive landscape is an important part of your marketing plan since it can help you refine your UVP as well.

Once your SWOT analysis is completed, you’ll have an easy-to-understand picture of how you’re doing and where you need to put your resources to make improvements.

Getting Started with Your Marketing Plan

Once you’ve done your research, created your ideal customer profile, defined your unique value proposition, and performed a SWOT analysis, you’re ready to get started on your marketing plan. Based on the work you’ve done above, you can create an executive summary that states your goals, who you’re serving, and your UVP. Combined with your SWOT analysis, you can decide on all the other details that will make your marketing plan effective in reaching your goals.

If you take the time to complete these steps before jumping into deciding on your strategies and tactics, you will end up with a powerful and effective marketing plan that delivers results.

Are you ready to take these key steps and create your marketing plan? Download my FREE Marketing Plan Foundation Worksheet to guide you HERE!


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