How to Build a Great Marketing Plan

When I say you need a marketing plan for your business, do you feel immediately overwhelmed? Or do you roll your eyes in disgust, imagining sleazy marketing executives trying to manipulate people to spend their hard-earned dollars on stuff they don’t need?

I hear you. There are millions of examples of shady marketing tactics, and it can make you just throw up your hands in defeat, and simply wait for people to come upon your business by chance. Hopefully they’ll love it so much, they’ll tell all their friends about it and somehow you’ll make your fortune without ever having to put together an ad or a social media campaign. This is where I need to give you a big fat reality check: you will doom your business to failure.

The truth is, you can promote your business in all sorts of ways, and do it with integrity. Check out the latest episode of The New Entrepreneur to see what I mean:

  1. What does your brand stand for? I’ve talked before about building your brand with your values. I believe you need to do this from day one, when you’re writing your business plan, and you absolutely need to be clear about your values when you’re developing a marketing plan. People will make up their own minds about your business, but you should be doing your best to help them associate it with the words and phrases that represent your values–like eco-conscious, healthy, generous, hip or high-quality.
  2. Do a S.W.O.T. analysis. Sit down with your team, or trusted advisers, and do a thorough analysis of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Do it once, focusing internally on your business, then a second time shifting your focus to the external world surrounding your business. Use this information to guide your marketing strategy.
  3. Get friendly with the media. Always be thinking of new ways to get free, or partially free exposure for your business through the media. As I mentioned in the video, one of the ways I do this is by getting space for a column I write in a local magazine, where I also pay for ad space. I also like to come up with fun advertising campaigns that get the local DJs involved. And best of all, I get widespread media attention whenever I do something worthwhile through my business, like the 22 Days of Kindness Campaign. What can you do to make your local media sit up and take notice of you? Be unique and extraordinary, and you’ll get loads of invaluable PR.
  4. Create a plan for paid advertising. Determine your annual budget for advertising at the start of your fiscal year, and be strategic with it – buy ads in bulk. And always be thinking about how you can appeal to people’s senses with your advertising!
  5. Sponsor greatness. Consider local events, initiatives, athletes or sports teams you might want to sponsor. Who do you you want your business associated with? I focus on kids’ athletics in particular because my staff and I believe in supporting efforts that contribute to kids’ health and wellness.
  6. Strategic philanthropy: The benefit of making philanthropic contributions in a strategic way is that you can reduce turnover rate with staff, because they’re more satisfied with their jobs, you get valuable exposure through the media when you support worthwhile causes, and you attract value-driven customers. These are the people who will come back to your business even if they can find a cheaper option, and even when you mess up. They also refer other customers to you more often. Follow the P.R.O.F.I.T. model of philanthropy:
    • Public Relations – make sure your contribution is of interest to the media, and send out well-written press releases about it.
    • Related – choose causes that are relevant for your business. My store sells healthy food and beverages, so I sponsor events and causes that contribute to the health of my community.
    • Obligation – Determine what you can afford to give. This can be a designated amount, or a percentage of gross sales.
    • Fun – Choose a cause that’s inspiring for you, your team, and your customers. The more you enjoy supporting it, the more successful your initiatives will be, and the greater your (internal and external) rewards will be.
    • Independence – It’s wonderful to support those in need of help, and it’s even better when you can help those people support themselves. Micro-financing organizations are great examples of this, providing small loans to entrepreneurs in third-world countries so they can start or improve their own businesses. And there are local and international organizations that help people get the education or skills they need to get better jobs.
    • Time – Decide on a time-frame for your contribution and stick to it. Be clear about whether you are supporting this cause in an ongoing way indefinitely, or if it’s for a few months, or one campaign.
What are your favourite marketing strategies? Leave a comment and share!
6 Responses to How to Build a Great Marketing Plan
  1. Rachel Lavern
    August 20, 2011 | 11:02 pm

    I have finally learned to say ‘no’ to the Flavor-of-the-Month marketing approaches. Every time I turned around, it seems that someone has a new
    marketing idea for me. Sometimes when we are not seeing immediate results from what we are already doing, it may be appealing to try something new.
    I now keep in mind that EVERY marketing strategy takes consistency and persistence to pay off.

    When we drop what we have been doing to try something new, we may lose out on both the benefit of what we were doing before AND the new approach we are trying now, because we will have given neither of
    them the attention and longevity they truly require.
    Rachel Lavern recently posted..There Must Be 16 Ways to be a LoserMy Profile

    • admin
      August 21, 2011 | 8:09 am

      This is such a great point, Rachel! Yes, absolutely, we need to be patient and persistent with our marketing efforts. It can be hard to do when there are so many shiny new options presented, which is why having a solid plan and sticking to it is best for most of us, I think. I still like to leave some room to play and have fun with it though :)

  2. pea
    August 24, 2011 | 8:32 am

    Hello Natalie a well rounded piece, I particularly agree with the bit about knowing what your values are up front. I have watched many a small business owner be swayed and confused by offers that come in following a little bit of success, that jars with who they are, but having forgotten who they started out as in the battle to succeed they can no longer see it.

    It should be written somewhere that can always be picked up and re read to stay on track. Anyone who buys into you and your business must buy into who you are or go find the person they actually want.
    pea recently posted..SublimeMy Profile

    • admin
      September 21, 2011 | 3:38 pm

      Absolutely, Pea – and I love that last point you made. If you’re true to your values, you will attract other people who resonate with your values… you don’t need customers/clients who are at odds with your deeply held beliefs, so stop worrying about pleasing them!

  3. Travis
    September 16, 2011 | 6:02 pm


    Great blog post I am currtenly trying to brand myself. Its been a bit of struggle but I am never going to quit
    Travis recently posted..Network Marketing Can you Really Build a Successful BusinessMy Profile

    • admin
      September 21, 2011 | 3:39 pm

      Best of luck Travis – I think branding is actually pretty fun and easy… like I talk about here, it’s all about tapping into your authentic values. The brand will flow from there… :)

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