A clear and actionable marketing plan helps you to stay focused on the main activities that help you create profit. Big companies prepare their annual, quarterly, and monthly marketing plans covering all their business activities. These marketing plans can consist of 30 or even 100 pages. But the bigger the volume of any plan, the harder it is to implement it. Therefore, the classical approach to creating a marketing plan might not be the most effective way for startups.
In this post I’ll share how to create your marketing plan literary on a single page. It’s not done in a conventional way and it doesn’t include as many details as a traditional marketing plan. But, a marketing plan in this form will give you a clear view of your main marketing goal, what intermediate objectives you are seeking, and what tasks you should do to achieve the goal. What I like most about it is that the marketing plan is very actionable.
Goals such as more paying customers, increased sales, and higher profit are too generic to be included as your main marketing goals. Each marketing plan is prepared for a certain period (for example, for 12 months), for high season, for a special event, and for a certain goal. The most common case is to prepare an annual marketing plan and set a goal to increase net profit, sales revenue, or any other metrics during the period. Therefore, your main marketing goal should be oriented towards the same period (in most cases – one year). Use the SMART methodology to define your main marketing goal:
Let’s take my personal example. While writing this book and having so many personal interviews with startups, I was suggested to create online video courses for startups. These courses would help startups founders to build their profitable and scalable business faster by effectively aligning marketing activities. The main goal of my marketing plan could look like this:
It is specific, measurable, action and time-based, and because it indicates the action “to sell,” explains what should be sold, how many, at what price, and when this goal should be achieved. Is it realistic? It depends on the resources I currently have or can acquire.
Once you have a clear and measurable goal, try to figure out what generally needs to be done to achieve the goal. Make a list of three to six intermediate objectives which if achieved, would also ensure you achieve your goal. Remember that you are creating a marketing plan on one page, so don’t get too deep into the details. Some marketing specialists would rather call it an outline or a roadmap rather than a plan, but don’t worry about the name at the moment. You need to create clear and actionable instructions for yourself on how to boost your startup business.
Let’s continue with the example. If I want to sell my online courses, there are five intermediate objectives to achieving the main goal. It’s obvious that first of all, I have to create the online course, which will involve market research and other tasks, but we’ll talk about them in the next step. As you see, I’ve set a qualification criterion for my courses: they must be really worth at least $500. This is double compared to the price I plan to sell at. Why have I made such a criterion? Before investing time and money in larger scale marketing I want to get market verification that target customers find this product at least two times more valuable than the price at which I plan to sell it at large scale. Imagine how much easier it will be to sell if people see, feel, and understand that it is much more valuable than the price it is sold at.
Courses will be sold online, so driving targeted traffic will be one of my main objectives. But how much traffic should I plan to reach, if I want to make 1,000 sales? I came to these measurable objectives by thinking backward from my goal. I want to make at least 1,000 sales and expected average conversion rate is about 7%. This is a hypothesis based on industry average conversion of similar tools and tactics I plan to use, so my final objective is to at least meet the industry average of 7% conversion rate on the course sales page. The course sales page will be shown not to random visitors, but to engage potential customers. If I succeed in achieving such conversion, it means I’ll need roughly 15,000 activated, engaged target customers (for example, they should see my free online seminar series before they visit the course sales page). I think (this is another hypothesis that must be tested) that email marketing automation would be the most effective channel to reach potential customers and activate them. But I need to collect email addresses first to implement email marketing automation later. In order to acquire email addresses for potential customers, the landing page will offer one to three lead magnets (something valuable for startups absolutely for free and with no obligation, just in exchange for the email address). So here comes another measurable objective: acquire 50,000 email addresses. Why 50,000? Because for the next objective (activation) we’ve set a 30% conversion rate, based again on the industry average. Finally, we can calculate how much traffic we need to drive to our landing page if we want to collect 50,000 email addresses and the landing page conversion rate is expected to be 25%. The right answer is 200,000 targeted visitors.
Remember that we also have to check if those intermediate objectives inevitably lead us to the main goal. If we drive 200,000 visitors to an initial landing page which has 25% conversion rate, we’ll collect 50,000 email addresses. If email marketing automation campaign achieves a 30% conversion rate, we’ll get 15,000 engaged potential customers. And finally, if we have a sales page with an average 7% conversion rate and we offer a really valuable product, we’ll have 1,050 sales. The goal would be reached!
The next task is to break out each of the objectives into smaller more detailed tasks. Yes, it’s easy to say “drive at least 200,000 targeted visitors,” “achieve at least 25% conversion,” but when it comes to the implementation of these objectives, you might get stuck. In order to avoid getting stuck, ask yourself one simple question: “what needs to be done to achieve this objective?” Apply the same principle as in the previous tasks when you were breaking out the main goal. Also, always double check if the objective will be achieved if you successfully complete those tasks.
The serious project manager would say that each of those tasks should be made according to the SMART methodology. But, actually, it’s up to you to decide if you want those tasks to be highly specific or more like major guidelines. The more specific you make the tasks, the easier it will be for you to implement the plan, because you’ll already know precisely what has to be done and that it is more or less realistic. But in some cases, startups always face a lot of uncertainty and it’s really difficult to set highly specific, lower level tasks because so many things can change very quickly. As far as I’ve found out during the startup case studies, the best practice for most startups is to set general tasks to be done to achieve the particular objective and to figure out along the way how to test it.
Here is an example what the marketing tasks could look like for each of objectives. It doesn’t require much explanation. If you are preparing a marketing plan not only for yourself but for a team, it might be wise to at least explain each task in a couple of sentences. Print it out on a single page and keep it in front of you in your workspace. This doesn’t require much of your time and effort but will help you not to lose track of your progress.
Now, it‘s about time to make your marketing plan more actionable and trackable. Having a marketing plan is good and helps a lot, but if you want to achieve even greater results you must plan your marketing actions based on time and money. Basically, you must decide when each of your tasks will be done and how much money it will cost. There is no one-size-fits-all solution
You can put your tasks in your personal calendar (online or offline), time planning app or software, or your company CRM if it has objective and task functionality. There are many specialized free and fee-based software solutions for drawing Gantt diagrams for your projects, including your marketing plan.
The example shows the main principles of putting your marketing plan in Excel spreadsheet. Most startups find this solution for marketing planning easy applicable and very helpful because it allows them to:
Create tasks for objectives, subtasks for tasks, and so on and put comments on each of them. So you can go as deep into details as you want and everything will be on track. If you want to see the general, strategic view, you can hide grouped rows with sub-tasks and tasks.
The top row of the table shows the timeline (usually months or weeks). Marking certain cells with your chosen color allows you to easy to see the tasks you should be focusing your time on.
The bottom row of the table shows the sum of money required for all marketing tasks each month. All you need to is to add the amount of money required for each task in already colored cells.
You can find this spreadsheet in the set of templates for download at www.evolutioncurve.com/templates. I hope you‘ll find it useful, too.
More findings and practical step by step advice is published in the book Startup Evolution Curve: From Idea to Profitable and Scalable Business.
Dr. Donatas Jonikas is a Startup Marketing Expert and Author of Startup Evolution Curve. Donatas holds a doctoral degree in economics and has more than 10 years of experience in strategic marketing. He has developed and helped to implement marketing strategies for more than 50 companies in different countries: Baltic States, Ukraine, Germany, Great Britain, Switzerland, China, Mauritania and etc. He is an author of 3 practical marketing course books for university students, public speaker and mentor in various startup events.
Read Donatas’ previous guestblogs on Slovak STARTUP:
Or the interview with him at: Startup Evolution Curve: A Practical Guidebook Based on Real-life Startup Struggles