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Create a Measurable Marketing Plan

Ensure you deliver on your business' promises and achieve your goals.

Every successful business starts with a clear business plan. Within that plan lies the all-important marketing plan. Some businesses, however, never seem to actually execute that proposed marketing approach.

As times are changing and customers are looking for better deals and better experiences, businesses need to ensure they have detailed a clear approach to delivering on their business’ promises while achieving the intended business goals and results. Here’s a closer look at how to approach your marketing plan and how to ensure you can deliver, year in and year out.

Start with a mission

Before you begin thinking of a catchy slogan or competitor-crushing goals, begin your marketing plan by understanding the “what” and “why” of your business. This is where you decide what you’ll offer and why you think customers will purchase it.

Brainstorm a list of mission elements—that is, the identifiable aspects of your products or services, which customers you think you can serve and how you’ll differentiate yourself from any existing competitors. Create a simple list of prioritized business intentions, using those mission elements to further drive you to define how you’ll deliver on each. Keep these intentions simple. If they’re too complex or even ambiguous to define, it’s likely going to be difficult to take practical actions toward achieving them. And, if you’re struggling with this initial phase of determining your marketing plan, you need to rethink your intentions and capabilities (better now than later, right?).

Take those business philosophy goals you’ve set and make them real by defining exactly what you’ll do and how you’ll do it

Distill your strategic actions

From your mission intentions, you should next distill a list of statements upon which you can define actionable engagement points and measurable results. For example:

  • Provide more than 100 varieties of a product every day of the year (distilled from “the best selection on the planet”)
  • Purchase an item in three simple clicks of the mouse (distilled from “online selection and purchase as easy as 1-2-3”)
  • Offer goods at 10 percent less than any competitor’s prices (distilled from “we guarantee the lowest prices on everything we sell”)

You get the idea. Take those business philosophy goals you’ve set and make them real by defining exactly what you’ll do and how you’ll do it to ensure you can and will meet those goals.

Also, during this phase of your marketing plan development, be sure to ferret out any as yet undefined intentions that aren’t truly measurable. While it’s perfectly fine to seek intentions such as product or service superiority, best-in-market shopper experience, and customer trust and loyalty, those statements alone are ultimately not actionable, nor measurable. Distill those into practical actions and measurements that will hopefully uphold and return on your overall mission results.

Plan. Do. Check. Act.

It boils down to these four verbs that have guided businesses of all sizes for decades. For you and your business, your marketing planning revolves around these four actions:

  • Plan: Establish your goals in concrete actions that will yield a measurable result.
  • Do: Implement the methods and mechanics to allow you to reach customers and convert sales, driven by your predefined goals.
  • Check: Review the actual results of what you’ve implemented to determine if you’re meeting, exceeding or falling short of your goals. Identify where adjustments need to be made, what adjustments will be made, and when and how you’ll implement those adjustments.
  • Act: This is the “Do” step again where you’ll implement the methods and mechanics to reach and exceed your goals. This is where the process becomes circular, where you then measure again, determine next adjustments and then act upon them.
If you’re not getting the results you expected, you need to identify where you’re falling short and understand why you’re not meeting your goals

As you can see, the “Check” and “Act” steps are the crux of your marketing plan—or any business plan, for that matter. It’s imperative you closely monitor the actual results of your plan. Are you reaching the number of customers you intended to? Are you converting shoppers into buyers at the rate you predicted? Are the returns (that is, the bankable revenue) measuring up to exceed your marketing and operating costs per your original calculations?

If you’re not getting the results you expected, you need to identify where you’re falling short and understand why you’re not meeting your goals. Is there a problem with your items as offered and described? Are your images as clear and compelling as they need to be? Where you’ve established advertising links, are you getting the clicks and follow-backs that you intended? If not, is there an issue with your message or are there some technical troubles? Most telling, are you receiving customer feedback—on your sales site or via email messages—that calls out troubles your visitors are having?

All of this information is vital to your understanding of how well your marketing efforts are working (as well as revealing any operating problems that might exist in your sales process). Check your actual results on a regular basis, as recommended below.

  • Operational and technical matters (such as item visibility, image availability, bid or buy functionality)—verify daily.
  • Link tracking and customer conversion to purchase—verify weekly.
  • Sales trends (customer acquisition, revenue growth or loss, inventory turnover)—verify monthly, quarterly and annually.

Set new goals

And what if you’re reaching all of your goals when you measure your results? Well, bravo, but your work is not done. If your goal is to grow and expand your business, then it’s time to create new goals that help you reach the next level. Establish measurable growth metrics (such as increase average per-customer revenue by 10 percent, or turn over inventory 20-percent quicker) and create steps to implement and monitor those next goals. And if you merely wish to maintain a steady state of business activity, you’ll still need to set ongoing goals to keep yourself moving with customer wants and business trends.

Essentially, your work is never really done, but when you create and actively care for your marketing plan, you’ll be best positioned to stay in business just as you want, for as long as you want.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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