Happy 2015! What better way to take on the new business year than with a fresh marketing plan? If you haven’t created your marketing plan yet, do not fret! Marketing departments across the world are in the same situation, and we are here to help guide you through the process. The following blog post will be the first part of our Effective Marketing Plan blog series.

Businesses that are successful in marketing customarily start with a marketing plan. A marketing plan maps out how you are going to put your marketing strategy into practice in the New Year. The marketing plan ensures that everyone on your team knows what you are trying to accomplish, how these goals will be measured, and how your marketing department will support the company’s overall goals for 2015.

In order to create an effective marketing plan, you need to have a firm understanding of your target market, your competitive position in that market, and how you intend to reach that market. Characterize your target market by their needs through market research. Estimate the size of your customer base (i.e. how many people purchase your products and/or services), demographic, income levels, and so on. With a better knowledge on your target market, you can address them better than your competitors.

An effective marketing plan should set clear objectives that will help you towards your goals.

Once you know your objectives, you can break them down into different strategies and action plans to support the objective. If your objective is increasing brand awareness, then a strategy you can take action to is to increase social media engagement or send out a direct mail campaign. Make sure your goals aren’t too far-fetched. If you spread your efforts too wide, they may be too difficult to reach.

Your everyday business marketing activities are likely to be focused on communicating with existing and potential customers. Your marketing plan should include how and when you will do this. A good way to do this is by identifying your company’s busiest time of the year, such as Black Friday or back-to-school season. Time your marketing campaigns to fit these events and dates, and make sure you give yourself ample time to prepare beforehand so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. If you have gaps to fill in your schedule, you can fill them with cost-effective activities like email newsletters to maintain your brand awareness.

Having a budget in your marketing plan is very important. You can come up with the fantastic marketing ideas, but if your business doesn’t have the budget to support them, then those ideas won’t go anywhere. Think about how you are going to achieve your marketing goals within a realistic budget. Everything at this point is just an estimate, so don’t sweat it if your budget changes, or a marketing campaign ends up being more expensive than you originally planned. The most important thing here is to make sure your feet stay on the ground so that your marketing plan is feasible. If you don’t have enough room in your budget for everything you’d like to do, you’ll have to prioritize them based on which ones are the most likely to make a big difference in your ROI.

A good marketing plan will ensure you are not only sticking to your schedule, but that you are spending your marketing funds wisely and appropriately. I know it may seem overwhelming, but take one step at a time! The purpose of a marketing plan is to help you put everything into perspective. Your marketing plan will probably change over the coming year and be influenced by changes in your market and industry. After all, we can’t predict the future! However, with a solid marketing plan in place, you will be able to keep your department on track through all the twists and turns that a new year inevitably brings.

Stay tuned for our next 2015 Marketing Plan blog post on how to create and coordinate a marketing plan for social media.