Crucial for any sized business, a strategic marketing plan helps to guide limited budgets toward effective ROI (return on investment) and keep outreach activities aligned with overall business. Let's discuss the core elements.
Discover. Thoroughly understand your current position with a SWOTT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and trends). You'll benefit by more clearly recognizing your true USP (unique selling proposition), what aspects of your brand and advantages set you apart from the competition and the open seas you can seize in the marketplace.
Target. If you try to reach everyone, you'll reach no one. As specifically as possible, targeting the audience that's most likely to buy (and that's the most profitable) is the "sweet spot" to efficient ROI. Spend time getting to know your current and prospective customers with basic market research. This is the foundation of creating "buyer personas," descriptions of your target audience's basic demographics and psychographics, including their habits, pain points and challenges, which will assist you throughout the planning process.
Be SMART. Using the SMART method (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound) will enable you to set your mission, ensure you have the resources to achieve it and ultimately keep you on course toward a year in the black. From here, you'll set the appropriate operational and marketing tactics to achieve these goals.
Get tactical. This is the "how" of reaching or communicating to your target audience (and where your buyer personas will come in especially handy). Pinpoint the outlets and media that will most attract your desired audience. What online communities or websites do your target audiences gravitate toward? Which industry-related media are they most likely to trust? What tradeshows are you attending "because everyone else does" versus other marketing activities that have generated higher-quality leads in the past?
Budget. Now that you've looked at all the elements above, consider your budget. Determine what steps and actions to take based on both your budget and the outcomes you wish to achieve.
Look at the timeline for each of these steps, decide what your goals are for each quarter and flesh out your marketing plan for the year. Remember to build in milestones and evaluation points to determine the effectiveness of your plan as you carry it out (and course correct if needed).