Getting your startup off the ground is not easy. It is all too common to hear of companies with great potential going miserably bankrupt in a short time. Despite innovative ideas and a capable and prepared work team, many of these realities fail to see the light. Do you know why? For lack of a good marketing and communication plan studied in detail; below you will find out what it is, how it is structured, what it is for, and above all who to contact for the best marketing plan for your startup.
What a marketing plan is
According to Investopedia “a corporate marketing plan is an operational document that outlines an advertising strategy that an organization will implement in order to generate contacts and reach its target market. A marketing plan details the awareness and PR campaigns to be undertaken over a period of time, including how the company will measure the effect of these initiatives.”
If in general marketing is the “set of activities aimed at studying and setting up the relationships between the company and the consumer to satisfy their needs and arouse their interest to the best of the competition”, the terms marketing plan and marketing strategy are often used interchangeably in an arbitrary manner because a marketing plan is always developed on the basis of an overall strategic framework.
Actually, the strategic marketing plan represents “the set of activities that makes it possible to define the objectives in order to achieve a good positioning on the market in the medium/long term”, while the operational marketing plan is “the set of objectives to be achieved and the resources to be used in the short term in terms of investments, forms of communication, prices and distribution”.
While distinct, in some cases, the strategy and plan can be incorporated into a single document, particularly for smaller start-ups that can run a few campaigns in a year.
In essence, the marketing plan outlines the operational marketing activities on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, while the marketing strategy outlines the overall value proposition.
In fact, a marketing plan always starts with the value proposition, that is the overall promise of value that a startup wants to keep towards the chosen customer segmentations.
The value proposition indicates how a product/service solves the customer’s problem, what benefits it offers, and above all why the customer should buy from this company and not from another. The marketing plan is, therefore, the operational hand of the value proposition towards the customer.
The marketing plan starts from the reference market of the product/service; market research, in fact, is the basis for the decisions of a target clientele and specific marketing channels.
The marketing plan includes the logic for all of these decisions. The plan should focus on the creation, timing and positioning of specific campaigns and include the metrics that will measure the results of the marketing efforts and that will allow changes and/or adaptation of the plan over time.
Corporate marketing plan: the structure
After examining many case studies of our customers, we have developed over time an example of the type of marketing plan that can help you understand what the marketing plan is for and then allow you to get your startup off the ground quickly and easily.
In fact, a good marketing plan should have the following fundamental parts:
- Executive summary
- The unique selling proposition
- Market analysis
- Analysis of the competitors
- Market target and buyer personas
- Goals and KPIs
- Pricing strategy
- Marketing budget
- Marketing channels
- Growth strategy
Each of these key elements is vital to the successful execution of a good startup marketing plan.
This section might seem like a waste of time for a startupper busy with his daily challenges, but marketing plans often tend to get very long, so it’s best to include a short summary and highlight the key points of every aspect of your plan right from the start.
The Unique Selling Proposition
The USP – The Unique Selling Proposition is nothing more than a promise, a commitment that your brand makes towards your target audience. It is a phrase that encompasses mission, vision, values, goals and differentiating elements and which, combined with the value proposition of the brand, makes it uniquely positioned.
A market analysis is a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a market. It analyzes its size in terms of value and volume and often highlights some of the latest trends or environmental conditions that determine its costs and opportunities.
An excellent way to structure a market analysis is to use the SWOT technique, an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Another important tool is the analysis of PORTER’s 5 COMPETITIVE FORCES because it allows you to better understand the structure of the sector in which you operate and its profitability and thus gain the greatest competitive advantage from it.
The model aims at identifying the forces that operate in the economic environment you are in and that, with their action, erode the long-term profitability of the companies. In fact, these forces act continuously and, if not properly monitored and dealt with, lead to the loss of competitiveness.
A final very useful tool is the PESTEL analysis, that is an acronym whose letters indicate precisely the factors that the company will be analyzing: P stands for POLITICAL factors, E stands for economic factors, S stands for social factors, T stands for technological factors, E stands for environmental factors, L stands for legal factors.
The PESTEL analysis provides you with a structure that allows you to investigate the external environment of your startup, it prompts you to ask yourself what external factors have the greatest impact on the organization and to discuss their probable implications.
Analysis of the competitors
The next critical step is to understand your competition and what the competitive landscape looks like in your industry or niche.
The main questions that your analysis of competitors should answer are:
- Who are the competitors?
- What marketing strategies are they using?
- How do they achieve their goals?
Market target and buyer personas
The best way to create target people is to create a customer journey map, which is a visual representation of all the various points of contact your startup has with a potential customer.
Buyers can interact with you through hundreds of channels, both online and physical, even if today the consumers’ decision-making process has changed and continues to evolve because the context of the shopping experience has also changed.
Identifying the specific problem that a particular customer is trying to solve is fundamental, also because it helps you define your buyer personas, i.e. fictitious representations of a company’s typical customers, created on the basis of data collected through research, surveys, or interviews, taking into account not only their socio-demographic, psychographic and behavioral characteristics but also data, quotes and idioms that can be useful for creating products/services.
Goals and KPIs
The first step when building a marketing plan is to identify and define what business goals the plan aims at achieving.
The main questions you should answer are:
- What are the business goals I need to achieve?
- What KPIs will lead me to achieve my goals?
- What does my marketing channel look like?
Pricing is often part of the sections regarding the market and the analysis of competition, but sometimes startups have to discuss them separately. This depends on how important the pricing considerations are to your business and how competitive your market is. For example, if one of the main advantages of your business is that your product is priced significantly lower than the competition, a pricing strategy will play a key role in your marketing plan; on the contrary, if your brand bases its business model on quality and other unique characteristics rather than on the comparison of prices, your attention to the pricing strategy will be less intense.
Here are the 5 most common pricing strategies:
1. Cost-based pricing
The price is based solely on the costs of the products. The company simply takes the cost of producing the product or service and adds a markup.
2. Value-based pricing
The price is based on the perceived value of your product.
3. Competitive prices
The price is set based on what the competition is offering.
4. Decrease in prices
This strategy involves setting a high price and then lowering it as the market evolves. It serves to maximize profit and increase the perceived value of the products/services.
5. Penetration price
Penetration pricing is the exact opposite of a decrease in price. It involves evaluating a product that has an initial price that is very low in order to enter a competitive market, then slowly increase the price over time.
It is always crucial to tailor your pricing strategy to the specific customer segment you are trying to reach.
Just like marketing goals and KPIs, budget planning depends on the stage of your company’s life cycle. Normally, startups invest more in acquiring a share of the market and acquiring new customers, while established brands invest more in loyalty and reputation.
The first step when planning your marketing budget is to find out which growth channels have worked for you so far and are part of your marketing strategy for the next year. Based on the effectiveness and cost of each channel, you can start allocating your monthly and yearly spending.
The main questions you should answer are:
- What are the most effective growth channels I have so far?
- Are there any other growth channels that I want to try out next year?
- Does seasonality affect my sales?
- Adjust your budget with your KPIs
The time has come to find out the strategies to convey your startup in the market and transform visitors into customers. In addition to the conventional approaches, we’ve compiled a small list of some versatile marketing channels that could benefit your business.
Let’s see how to use them effectively in order to make an impact.
Social media is the most up-to-date marketing tool, as it is now a crucial part of any marketing plan since you can target a wider audience, which in turn can lead to potential additional customers. Through a professional use of social media, your embryonic startup could acquire important shares of the market. Focus on small goals by following a systematic approach and try to coordinate the campaign with other activities such as blogs, eBooks, newsletters, influencers, and more.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Search engines are a major source of “near-zero cost” marketing for most startups. They provide long-term organic traffic on websites and apps. That is why it is important for a startup to focus especially on search engine positioning. A strong SEO strategy greatly reduces your subsequent spending budget and increases your potential ROI.
DEM (Direct Email Marketing)
Email marketing is a proven and effective means of promotion for many startups. It is also an integral part of the initial marketing plan and is widely used for re-targeting. Email marketing requires the automation of funnel campaigns to convert visitors into customers and is used to take visitors from the awareness stage to the conversion and loyalty stage by providing relevant marketing material.
Paid marketing is the key to any rapid growth! As a startup, after familiarizing yourself with your brand, you will need to convey it to the appropriate audience and your target market, advertising the most relevant and appropriate messages; in this way, you will be able to reach new customers and amplify your business. Make sure you identify the best-performing marketing channels on the CAC (customer acquisition cost) side and remember that paid marketing is based on purchase intent or impulse buying.
Affiliations and Referrals
People often confuse affiliation and referral programs, although the difference is substantial: Affiliates are other businesses that are trying to make money by promoting your products, while referrals are loyal customers who direct their friends and family to your store. Getting affiliates for your startup is one of the best ways to increase the CR (Conversion Rate) faster and the cost is linked to a specific action: you have to pay a commission to your affiliates only when someone signs up from their referral link. Referrals are another great way to increase sales. It is not as effective as affiliate marketing but it is still a precise marketing strategy for startups. Many scaleups use referral marketing magnificently, in fact, every time a user installs their app, a message is sent inviting them to disclose the coupon and if this referral is used by a third party, the user will receive XXX euros in credit.
Blog and PR
As a startup, you need to focus a lot on content marketing. This involves creating a marketing blog and aan wareness strategy focused on organic positioning. Blogs alone are the best way to raise awareness about your product with respect to any other medium because it belongs to you.
Influencer marketing is another way used to create “hype” for your startup. Therefore, it is also an important part of the initial marketing strategy. It involves paying an influencer to promote your message on social media within their circle of followers. Influencer marketing doesn’t guarantee sales but it’s a great way to spread brand awareness.
In most cases, online marketing is enough to trigger growth. But some startups need to integrate offline marketing channels as well in order to be successful. Business development, direct sales fairs, offline events, traditional PR, public speaking, offline advertising, radio marketing, TV marketing, telemarketing, and guerrilla marketing are the main channels.
After setting goals, KPIs, budgets, and choosing the channels you will invest in, it’s time to plan your marketing activities for growth; in fact, a growth strategy is an action plan to increase your startup’s share of the market. If your business is looking to expand, a market growth strategy will allow you to chart your path to expansion, taking into account your industry, target market, and finances.
Consultancy for your marketing strategy: B-PLANNOW®
As we said in the introduction, getting your startup off the ground is not easy, but without a good strategic and operational marketing plan and one that has been studied in detail it is practically impossible nowadays!
Regardless of the product or service offered, the marketing strategy for companies must be based on some fundamental pillars that must still be identified at the very beginning in the choice of the business model.
Many startups think they can get around the obstacles by taking shorter and cheaper routes, but does all this really make sense? The available budget must be studied and used wisely in order to find the way to success.
Without investing in marketing and without relying on a specialist, you run the risk of failure or, to put it in Silicon Valley words, “getting stuck in the land of the living dead”.
Identifying the audience is the first step in the strategic analysis for marketing positioning that B-PLANNOW® makes available to you: without in-depth market research, correct identification of the customer segment and related buyer personas, and precise analysis of competitors, every piece of the marketing plan is bound to collapse like a sandcastle.
Analyzing and identifying the USP (unique selling proposition), the value proposition, the sales channels, customer relations, and pricing strategies are then the next steps; finally, the marketing objectives must be set, the so-called “goals” which according to the Americans must be SMART i.e. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound, therefore specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and they must have a deadline.
Then B-PLANNOW® proceeds, via the work of a special team, to choose the most suitable marketing plan for your startup based on:
online marketing channels:
- SEO (search engine optimization)
- SEA (search engine advertising)
- SMM (social media marketing)
- DEM (direct e-mail marketing)
- content marketing
- guest posting
- affiliate marketing
- display advertising
- viral marketing
- digital PR (public relations)
- community development
- influencer marketing
- crowdfunding as a marketing
offline marketing channels:
- business development
- direct sales
- offline events
- traditional PR (public relations)
- public speaking
- offline advertising
- radio marketing
- TV marketing
- guerrilla marketing
Finally, B-PLANNOW®, as your marketing strategy consultant, assists you in budgeting and data analysis, and during the monitoring phase by identifying and controlling realistic KPIs and metrics, helping you to avoid those “vanity metrics” that would only lead your startup astray.
Now that you know everything about what a marketing plan is, how it is structured and what a marketing plan means for your startup, you just have to contact us, talk to us about your idea, and promote it together with us!