6 Digital Marketing Planning Process Steps

The marketing planning process for online businesses is a step by step process that outlines what a business wants to achieve, how it will achieve it, by when and who will launch and manage it.

Whatever the business sector or industry, an online plan is helpful and it guides the business towards real profitability. Here are 6 main steps of the planning process:

1. Digital Marketing Research

Research is an important part of the digital marketing planning process because it informs all other parts of the plan. So you should research your target customers, competitors, the business environment and features to include in your products and so on.

There are two types of research: primary and secondary research. Secondary research is also known as desk research and it is about looking for information that already exists about your target markets, competitors and others. So, this is research that already exists and that would have been collected in the past for another purpose. If there are any gaps in the secondary research, then primary research will be necessary.

There are tools that can help you research online including keyword tools like the keyword planner, surveying tools, search engines, competitor websites, shopping comparison engines and so on.

2. Market Analysis

From the information you gather in your research, you can now carry out a SWOT Analysis to identify the most important Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that are applicable to your business. Your strengths and weaknesses are internal to your business and the opportunities and threats are external and you have to manage these well to ensure that your business survives and thrives.

3. Marketing Objectives

Your objectives are targets that you want to reach with your digital marketing plan. They should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time related (SMART), while ensuring that you are meeting the needs of your target audiences.

4. Marketing Strategy

The strategy describes all the tactics that you need to implement to achieve your objectives and business mission. Your strategy should include product, price, place and promotion tactics which form the 4 Ps of the marketing mix. These are applicable in an online context and your planning process should describe how they work towards achieving your objectives.

5. Promotional Tools and channels

Promotional tools and channels fall under your strategy and they are the tactics that you use to advertise, promote and communicate your products and brand. There are many online channels to choose from including search engine marketing, social media, email marketing, online PR, affiliate marketing and many others and the hundreds of tools that are available for each of these channels.

6. Budgets and Control

Finally, you should set your budgets to help you implement your marketing strategy and achieve your objectives. Your budget should be sufficient for all tactics that you include in your plan and should be continually revised as you action your plan.

Down and Dirty – Creating a Marketing Plan That Works

Wouldn’t it be great if you could follow the Field of Dreams approach to business? What do I mean by that? I mean simply open the doors of your business, then sit back and wait for the people to come. Unfortunately, it’s not a very realistic approach to doing business for most entrepreneurs. What is realistic is putting together a detailed plan for promoting your business, and that approach takes the form of a marketing plan.

Many people cringe at the idea of creating a marketing plan because they have never done one before. Luckily, marketing is not rocket science. True, it is a skill, but it can be mastered over time. That’s good news for anyone who worries about putting together the right marketing plan for their business. Follow these easy steps and you can get started on creating a successful marketing plan in no time at all.

Research Your Market

This is an extremely important part of your marketing plan. Chances are you have already completed a lot of market research beforehand from when you created your initial business plan. Therefore, it should not take much to identify your market segments and what will make your products and/or services stand out from the competition.

Pulling It All Together

The research on your market is just one important piece you need. Other information that will prove helpful in writing your marketing plan includes:

  • Latest financial reports (operating budget, profit and loss statements, etc.) for the current and past three years, if available.
  • A list of all products and/or services you offer, along with the target market for each.
  • Your understanding of the marketplace, i.e. competitors, types of customers you sell to, latest and most relevant demographic data and any information on trends in your markets.
  • Input from sales staff as to what the most important points, in their opinion, that should be included in the plan.

Plan Draft – Define

  • Market Situation – The market situation will contain your best description of the current state of the marketplace. There is no room for guessing here. You need to know how big your potential market is, who you are going to sell to, and just what your potential customer is (demographics, income level, etc.). A lot of this information is probably in your head, but you’ve never committed it to paper. Now is your chance.
  • Threats & Opportunities – This is a continuation of the market situation, as it focuses on the good and bad aspects of the current market. List out what threats and opportunities you see facing your business in the next year. Ask yourself, what trends in the market are working for and against you? Are there competitive trends working in your favor or against you? Do the market demographics favor you or are they against you?
  • Marketing Objectives - Here you begin to “paint a picture” of what you see for the future of your business. You want to define what marketing objectives you want to achieve over the coming year (marketing plans are generally one year in length). Each objective should include a narrative description of how you intend to accomplish it, along with concrete numbers. Remember to make your objectives simple, concrete, countable, ambitious, but definitely achievable.
  • Implementation – Each objective defined above should have several goals and tactics for achieving each, i.e. the “what” and the “why” of the marketing tasks ahead. In this section, focus on the practical side of each objective: the who, where, when and how it’s going to happen. Create an activity matrix (timeline) so you can plot out when each action needs to be taken.
  • Budget – Each planned activity needs to be assigned a dollar amount in a budget. If you are new to calculating a cost of something, give your best estimate and add 25% to be safe. Be sure to consider both internal costs, such as staffing, and external out-of-pocket expenses when creating your marketing budget.

Finally, regular review of your marketing plan is important. At a minimum, you should be reviewing quarterly, and more ideally, you should be reviewing monthly. Your marketing plan is a work-in-progress so expect it to be adjusted often depending on the results you achieve. To be truly successful, a marketing plan takes time to create and implement, but the effort and time will definitely be worth it.

Making an Internet Marketing Plan to Ignite Your Sales For the Whole Year and Beyond

If you really want to make a difference and bring your online marketing up to a new level, you need to start with an effective internet marketing plan. Anybody that has made it huge online has learned how to plan as part of their Internet training.

Making a plan is just as important as learning strategic marketing methods. It is a vital part of your business, and leaving it out is the same as leaving money on the table. A lot of money.

If you look at the CEO of any major company, you will not see a person floundering and not knowing what he should be doing next. He always has a plan of action and is ready to take the next step. He knows what the next day will bring, and the one after that. He may even know what the next year holds in store!

This is what sets apart leaders from followers, and successful online marketers from not-so-successful ones. Any internet marketing plan is better than no plan, because a plan lays out the path you want to follow to get to your goals.

How can you ever reach your goals if you don’t know which way to go? How can you reach a goal if you haven’t even taken the time to define it? By setting up a plan you have committed yourself to a goal, and set it in writing. There is no turning back once you make that commitment, and you have no choice but to succeed.

Internet Marketing Planning Tools

There are many worksheets available on the Internet that you can use to help you put your plan in writing. Some of these planners involve working with the calendar to set up certain sub-goals to reach within a week’s or month’s time.

Some worksheets are based on action plans and what needs to be done next according to priority. They may not have any time limits attached to them, and you just need to check off what you have done as you do them.

It is better to work with a planner that gives you time limitations to get certain actions accomplished. If you have decide this year would be the year that you see a big difference in your business, then you will need to break your actions down into time periods to make sure that you reach your goal this year.

If you don’t take the time to make this plan and set up a time formula to follow you will find yourself lost and overwhelmed by information and actions that need to be taken. A well thought out plan will help you focus more and be able to deal with distractions much better.

Constant Change: Part Of An Effective Internet Marketing Plan

Setting up a calendar of action is easily modified and you have to be flexible with it. Nothing in the Internet marketing world is written in stone, and if you find that a change is needed then go ahead and make that change.

The internet marketing plan can be altered and changed at any point of the journey if you find there is a faster route to get to the end destination. A plan that is not perfect is at least a starting point. You have laid out where you are and where you want to go.

Between these two points are different ways to get there. During your journey towards your goal, as you follow your plan, you may see something that will help you reach your goal much faster. If you do, it should be implemented. Internet marketing is a world of testing and trials, and modifying things on an ongoing basis is actually necessary for a business to succeed. Keeping this in mind as you make up your plan will help you get it done.

Some marketers hesitate about making a definite internet marketing plan because they feel it is useless to make one, knowing that there will be changes to it in the future. Never fear a plan. You can make it flexible, yet solid at the same time. There are certain things any internet marketer needs to do. These include setting up a site, advertising, and promotion. There are so many ways to do each of these, but the basic idea is that each one needs time and effort. If you at least plan out getting these things done, you can then vary the techniques as necessary.

This year can be a turning point for your business. If you know where you want to be by the end of the year, you can start planning out the way to get there. Every day is a new day, and they go by in the blink of an eye, so don’t waste any more time.

Devote yourself to your business by taking the time to commit yourself to an internet marketing plan of action. It is not time wasted, and it will make your life so much easier.