Producing an effective marketing plan to deal with challenging times
It’s a tricky time to be in business, and to survive, entrepreneurs need to adapt, change and work within these new and challenging circumstances. A great way to start to think more clearly is to produce a marketing plan. This is a structured and well thought out response to this crisis, a space to evaluate your company and create a clear plan of actions to help you get back on track and stay afloat.
There are 13 sections to complete in a marketing plan. Start by setting SMART objectives that you want to achieve for your business. SMART stands for – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound and these should sum up the goals you are aiming for. In the context of COVID-19, you may want to set short term goals for the duration of lockdown and then longer-term goals of how you want to build the business back once things get back to normal.
Next is the useful exercise of doing a SWOT analysis. This evaluates your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and is a great way to get a really clear picture of your company overall. Don’t simply limit this to the current crisis, but do include this when you’re evaluating. If a weakness is lack of online or virtual working identify this and try to think of creative solutions to get around this issue. Of course, this pandemic is a threat to all businesses, so think about coping strategies for the different ways it can affect you and your team.
Next move on to a competitor analysis. In order to successfully compete with companies who are offering similar products or services to the same target market you need to understand who they are, what they are doing, how you differ, how you are the same and what differentiates you. Looking at your competitors right now can also give you useful insights and ideas on how you can change your product and service options to adapt to these extraordinary times.
Now it’s time to define your target audience and think carefully about who you are trying to reach. Try to picture your ideal customer in terms of their age, sex, location, interests, nationalities etc. to make sure you really understand your customer and can target messages to them. Think whether your target audience has changed during lockdown, or what their needs or fears are during this time that you could help them with.
The planning process gives you an opportunity to define your company personality, clearly state your product benefits and create a strong USP to define what makes you different from your competition. The plan guides you to select communication channels, decide on how to measure the success of the campaign and helps you to set a budget. You then have the opportunity to fill in actions for fulfilling your objectives. This is the place to plan out your campaign.
In a normal plan we’d suggest a minimum of 3 months, up to a maximum of 12 months. However, if we’re focusing on an emergency plan for COVID-19 it should be focused on the shorter term. I would recommend 1 to 3 months, to take you from making major changes in how you deliver your product or service during lockdown, to a recovery period and how you will respond when the lockdown does end, as things will take some time to get back to normal. The key to making this work for you is to include specific actions that you will follow, using dates and budgets so you can use this as a practical document to work to. Of course, things change and new opportunities will come around, so this is a document which evolves and changes over time. But if you follow the steps and use the plan properly your business will benefit.”
We have a marketing plan template which we’re happy to provide free of charge to all businesses to help them to weather this storm. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your copy. We also have lots of useful articles to help build up your marketing skills and we’re sharing weekly videos and tips on our Facebook page.