How to create a marketing plan for your startup

marketing plan for a startup

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When you start your business, there are many things to consider. One of the main questions everyone has to answer is: how to get perspective clients to see my business and buy (service or product) from me? A well-structured marketing plan helps answer this question. It will help you to focus on what’s important and to validate your idea.

*Bear in mind that this is not a marketing plan you would create for an existing company, or a business that has already tested a number of advertising channels. You can use it as the basis for creating a marketing plan for any of the above, however budgeting for each channel would need to be closely considered (see below).

1. Summary.

At the very start outline the goals of your marketing plan. Normally, short and long-term goals would help you keep focused. Having such goals in the back of your head would also help with generating ideas in terms of what channels and audiences to try out. This introduction can be used to convince your business partner/boss as to why the rest of the marketing plan is necessary. Always refer back to your goals as you work through your marketing plan.

2. Market Analysis.

Paradoxically, you do this after the “Summary”, but analysing the market helps you with setting the above goals. Usually, you start a business, because you see an opportunity in the market. This means that your goals should have been formed based on that opportunity that you saw.

Market analysis usually includes: total size of the market, estimations of specific niches/sectors within that market, number of companies in that market, any other figures you can find about the industry that you want to go into.

Apart from the above, you should also analyse main problems and opportunities within the market. As shown in our example, these can be: keeping price low while maintaining quality, scalability, potential for creating better customer service, etc.

Figures such as these can be found by performing basic google search. If you have access to more advanced tools, then by all means, use them. The best idea would be to ask someone who is in your industry – they are more likely to have access to reliable information that has been tested. Other than that Statista offers a great range of data on different markets (albeit a lot of it is primarily for the U.S. and you need to pay to view a lot of their material).

Interviews with other business owners, especially your competitors are also a great source of information. Just beware not to look at interviews that are 5-10 years old – things could have changed drastically since then.

3. Audience.

Identifying the right audience for your business means identifying your customer. Is your demographic primarily male or female? Do they live in the suburbs or in the city? Are you just targeting English-speaking countries?

You can try and find out who your demographic is by searching specific audiences in Facebook Audience Insights or by searching Google Keyword Planner (for both you would need an account with Facebook or Google respectively). By researching specific demographics, you can also find out what services/products they search for the most, to help you narrow down your products or services.

In our example “Nail salon near me” drew the most monthly searches on Google. This could be an indication that location (i.e. near) is key to such customers – they don’t want to go too far to get their nails done. You could also make an assumption that nail filing/manicure might just be the most popular beauty services out of all in your area.

While Facebook will show you an audience size, google keywords would help indicate demand month-over-month. (for example, on average 14k searches for “Nail salon near me” in your target location every month).

When identifying your audience you can also gather feedback from that audience. You can do so in person or by seeing reviews on your competitors’ websites. This is why you can complete this

Record your findings using Venn diagrams, tables or as simple lists that you can refer back to when creating your own alternative of the product!

4. Competition.

Your top 5 competitors should be the prime example of what to do/what not to do for your business. You may argue that your niche could be unexplored, and there is not much competition in it, but the truth is – one way or another, some companies will be similar to yours. And you can learn a great deal from them and their existing customers (see “Audience” above).

Look to create brief “biographies” of each competitor, to see what journey they are on, why they might be stalling or, the opposite – doing really well in their niche. If there are 20 or 100 such companies, you don’t need to list all of them, but focus on some of the strongest companies, as they would be the ones competing with you on your keywords and product offering.

Once you have finished looking into the above companies, create a table with their USPs (unique selling points – i.e. products/services that those companies are particularly well known for). As shown in our template, you need to add your own company in to that table, as you will need to see which aspects you would want to focus on. This will help identify your closest competitors better, and also establish how you can show your clients that you are better than the competition.

Analysing traffic/website visits to your competitors’ websites will help (once again) to determine the strongest competitors (the more traffic – the more clients they most likely have), determine your benchmarks according to these figures, and help understand the overall size of the online market for your business.

To analyse traffic you can use: SEMrush, Moz, Alexa and other ranking websites. You don’t have to get the paid versions. Use whatever free options they offer and combine your results to get the most accurate picture of the market. If you have money to spare – choose one of them and make sure you browse them wisely – read their guides and forums.

5. Execution Group.

These are the people who will be performing the tasks (that we will get to below) and that will oversee all the marketing efforts. As a startup… that could jut be yourself. And that’s normal. Don’t just start hiring people, because you can. Test a few things yourself, see what works, and then grow sustainably.

The execution group can include: Chief Marketing Officer, Customer Support (their feedback can be invaluable for marketers), PR specialist, Social Media Manager, Web Designer, Content Creator, and others.

6. Marketing stages and actions

This is what you will be doing in the next 6 months – 1 year. You have to be clear about: who you will be targeting, how you will be targeting them, what channels you would be using and what your goals are. The latter are very important – you need to understand why you are running particular marketing campaigns. Are you looking to get more feedback from customers? Do you want just more sales? Are you keen to build up your email list?

All of the above questions would help shape your efforts going forward. As you see in our example, you can split your marketing efforts into – very approximate – stages. For example: pre launch (no budget spent, focus on finding free marketing channels), stage 1 (you just launched and you need those first customers for feedback and to get the sales process going), stage 2 (you are scaling up and spending more money on paid channels) and stage 3 (you have raised your first round, and you are expanding your marketing department).

Remember, determine:

1. The audience to target.

2. Actions to take.

3. What’s the overarching goal?

As you have probably noticed by now the one thing that is missing here is your budget. Budgeting your marketing campaigns is very important, but you don’t necessarily need to include it in your first marketing plan for your business. At a pre-launch stage, you should really be looking at ways to reach people organically first. The majority of the work here is market research and establishing the right channels for your business. Once you have established all of the above, you can begin to plan your budget, and how you will scale it depending on the results.

Stay focused, determine targets and methodically adjust along the way. The marketing plan should be the framework that you work within, rather than being a “have to follow” guide. Along the way you will discover new ways of advertising your business, you will establish which channels work and which don’t, and you will then be able to adapt your approach to the realities of your business.

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