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How to Start a Marketing Plan

A letter from Jane

I know creating an annual marketing plan can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be!

Here’s a preparation guide to creating an effective marketing plan for your startup, small business or nonprofit. We start by first understanding your audience, your product and services, and your competition. This is the exact process Kelsey and I use at BrandSwan… so let’s dive in!

Starting your Marketing Plan

Download our Marketing Plan Template.

Define Your Goals

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to set some goals and objectives for your marketing plan. Be sure to make them realistic and achievable so that you can measure your progress along the way.

Know Your Audience
Who are your customers, and what do they want? What are their demographics? Once you understand your target market, you can start tailoring your marketing efforts to appeal to them specifically. Download our target audience worksheet.
Know Your Product & Services
In order to market your product effectively, you need to have a complete understanding of what it is and what it does. What are its features and benefits? How does it compare to similar products or services in the industry and in the market? When you have a complete understanding of your products and services, you’ll be able to position it in the marketplace more effectively.
Research Your Competition
What are they doing well and where do they fall short? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What strategies are they using? By understanding your competition, you can develop strategies to differentiate yourself and give consumers a reason to choose your product over theirs.
Choose Your Marketing Platforms
Each marketing platform has a different audience, so chose which ones will work best for your business. Don’t forget about offline platforms such as direct mail, sponsorship opportunities, and tradeshows.
Set a Budget
Decide how much you’re willing to spend on marketing — monthly and annually — and stick to it.  The rule of thumb according to BDC is 5% – 15% of your revenue.
Create a Schedule
Make sure your marketing efforts are consistent by laying out a timetable for when you’ll execute each aspect of your plan.
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Track Results
Measure results and adjust as needed. Regularly evaluate your progress and make changes to ensure you’re meeting your goals. (Head on over to this page to download our tracking worksheets.)

A well-thought-out plan is essential for any business that wants to grow. By taking the time to define your goals, understand your audience, and research your competition, you can create a plan that will help you achieve success. And don’t forget to measure results and adjust as needed; even the best plans need fine-tuning from time to time!

Don’t worry, you got this. It took years and years before I got wise enough to having a marketing plan. Having a clear direction forward allows all of your efforts to align and make a bigger impact.

Jane Clark, Chief Creative Officer of BrandSwan

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