Developing a marketing plan

Marketing can be confusing, especially if you're new to selling. You might think that marketing is too complicated or expensive to work for your business. Maybe you've tried one or two ideas without success. If you're getting stuck, then making a marketing plan might help.

You will probably use several tactics to attract and keep customers. Each of these tactics is a part of your marketing strategy, and your marketing plan outlines how and when you will use them. Your marketing plan helps you make decisions about who you are trying to reach, what you want to say, and how to get the word out. Understanding your marketing goals can make it easier for you to find the marketing tactics that are right for your store at different parts of your selling cycle. Below, find some basic steps to get started with a marketing plan.

Step 1: Defining your message

By using consistent and targeted messaging in the marketing for your store, you give customers information that might help them decide to buy your products. Each time that you create an advertisement or a piece of content, you should make sure that it reflects your brand by using your message.

To develop a message, try writing a few words to answer each of these questions:

  • What makes your store special?
  • How are you different from your competitors?
  • What do you have to offer to customers?
  • What do you stand for?

After brainstorming, you can write a message that uses some of the words in your answers. For example, if your product is different from your competitors because it's more eco-friendly, then you might use words like green and recyclable in your message.

Step 2: Understanding your customers

You can imagine what kind of customer might be looking for your products. Think about their demographic traits: their age, gender, roles, economic status, and location. What are their challenges? Specific personality traits? The more that you understand about the type of customer who might buy a product, the better you can tailor your marketing to them. You won't reach everyone with your marketing, but you will attract customers that are more likely to buy your products.

Analyzing online store traffic

If your online store is already receiving visitors, then you can analyze your online store traffic. You can use Shopify's reports to learn about your sales and customers in great detail.

You can also set up analytics services, such as Google Analytics. With some initial effort, you can use these tools to see how customers are interacting with your online store.

Step 3: Choosing marketing tactics

The marketing tactics that you use are unique to your store, and depend on the products that you sell, your customers, and your brand. You should choose the tactics that make sense for your business rather than trying to do everything.

Your marketing plan might include some of the following tactics:

  • research: collecting feedback and analyzing data
  • product pricing: pricing products competitively within the market
  • sales and promotions: offering discounts and planning promotions
  • content development: creating visual or written content for blogs, social media, or other channels
  • advertising: placing print, audio, or online ads to get the word out about a product or service
  • public relations: managing your store's reputation and brand
  • customer service: promoting customer loyalty through support
  • community involvement: connecting with customers based on shared concerns and interests

Step 4: Setting goals

Each marketing initiative that you begin should start with a specific, quantifiable goal. If you set a goal, then you'll know if your marketing tactics are successful and you can adjust them as needed. A goal might be short-term or long-term, and it might focus on attracting new customers, gaining repeat customers, or selling a certain amount of product, like these examples:

  • 250 new customers in 6 months
  • $5000 in product sales during a promotion
  • 75 email subscriptions
  • 20% improvement on abandoned cart recovery
  • 10% increase in sales over last year.

Setting goals can be challenging, especially when you're new to selling. Start with short-term goals so that you can quickly see if you're on the right track. It's easier to analyze the impact of marketing on a small, short-term goal. If you have trouble reaching your marketing goals, then try planning for a smaller goal and a stretch goal that is slightly more difficult. If your store reaches the goal, then you can work toward reaching the stretch goal while still knowing that the marketing initiative was a success.

Step 5: Choosing your marketing channels

There are many different places to market your store including paid advertising, blog posts, press releases, social media, and email. Some marketing channels are better suited to short-term goals, and others are better for long-term customer retention. You can develop a mix of channels that you use in different ways and to reach different groups of customers. For example, you could pay for online advertising to attract new customers, and maintain a blog to attract repeat visits to your store.

Whether you are investing time or money into your marketing strategies, there is a cost to marketing your products. Make sure that you set a budget before you choose your marketing channels and begin developing advertising and content.

Paying for online advertising

You can use online advertising to feature your products, like Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, or Pinterest Promoted Pins.

Step 6: Analyzing the impact

Analyzing the impact of your marketing can help you make decisions about future marketing initiatives and prevent you from wasting time or money on marketing that doesn't work. You might realize a problem with your message, or decide that a marketing channel isn't a good fit for your store.

During a promotion or marketing campaign, keep track of progress by breaking your goal into milestones. For example, if you're trying to increase the traffic in your store by 500 new visits in a month, then you might want to divide that by each day or week to keep track of progress. If your store seems on track to meet or exceed a goal, then you could consider expanding your marketing or adding another goal. If your store is not meeting the milestones, then you might be able to make changes to improve results before the end of the campaign.

At the end of a promotion or marketing campaign, you should analyze the results. You can look for patterns in store traffic and product sales. If you were keeping track of your progress during a campaign or promotion and made changes, then you can analyze the impact of each change.

Step 7: Repeat

Planning for marketing and developing your strategy is never finished. Each time that you make a change to your marketing tactics, products, store, or brand, you should look at your marketing plan to see if you need to make any changes. As you gain more experience, it's easier and faster for you to make decisions because you understand more about what increases sales in your store.

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