Online shopping has steadily grown over the past few years and is expected to reach 17.5% of retail sales by 2021.
This means there’s potential for more customers, more conversions, and more online traffic. What’s not to love?
In order to take full advantage of the rise in online shopping (and all the perks that come with it), it’s important for your business to have a growth strategy that keeps your organization working towards goals that go beyond what the current situation is in the industry.
Having a dedicated team focusing on a business plan tailored towards what’s to come, rather than solely on what’s here, is a vital way to keep your business at the forefront of trends and changes in the market.
One of the first steps of creating a growth strategy is coming up with an effective marketing plan to align your company as well as bring all your strategic goals and ideas into fruition.
Knowing where the industry is going means nothing if you don’t have a plan on how to get there.
What is a Marketing Plan?
A marketing plan outlines a company’s strategy to acquire new customers, communicate with existing customers, and promote a brand.
Because marketing plans drive all your marketing initiatives, it’s important that they touch on every element of your marketing mix. We’ll go over this more thoroughly in the Marketing Plan Template section, but the following aspects should be touched on:
- Executive Summary: What is your goal with your marketing plan?
- Mission Statement: What’s your company’s “why”?
- Trackable Goals: How will you measure success? Which key performance indicators are you focusing on?
- Situation Analysis: What’s your industry look like in the next five years and how is your company adapting?
- Target Market: Who are your current and potential customers?
- SWOT Analysis: Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the market and in comparison to competitors.
- Buyer Personas: Similar to your target audience but with more detail and insights.
- Promotion/Distribution Strategy: How are you going to reach and convert your target customer?
Why Ecommerce Businesses Need Marketing Plans
Whether you’re selling t-shirts out of your garage or distributing software to enterprise businesses, you need a marketing plan. And while we could come up with countless reasons why ecommerce businesses like yours need a marketing plan, we’ll keep it short and sweet by focusing on the following three reasons.
1. Marketing drives sales for ecommerce.
Marketing is a significant driver of sales for ecommerce. Consumers aren’t likely to go to your website and make a purchase if they don’t know who you are, what you sell, or why they should order from you over your competitors.
A clearly laid out marketing plan can help answer these questions and create the connection between what the consumer wants and how your business can provide that.
It’s important to note that not every potential customer is ready to make a purchase from your ecommerce store. Enter the buyer funnel.
The buyer funnel has three stages – awareness, consideration, and decision.
The awareness stage is when your customer has a problem or opportunity they’d like to solve or take advantage of. They’ll dig a little deeper into what their problem is and how to frame it.
The consideration stage is when your consumer has defined their problem and are researching the different approaches and options they have.
The decision stage is when they’ve decided on their method or solution and they’ll come up with a list of different merchants and products related to what they are looking for.
Lets say your company sells paddle boards, a bigger investment that your consumer will want to put more thought into before purchasing. To grab their attention in the awareness stage, you may want to do targeted ads for people searching about summer lake activities, things to do in the summer on the water, or more specifically — paddle board rentals. Having an ad linking to your products or an article on “X Reasons To Get Into Paddleboarding” could spark the attention of people who are curious but still needing to do more research.
Moving into the consideration stage is people who are thinking about investing in a paddleboard. An example on how to reach these people is testimonials on your product and the reasons why it’s better than canoeing or kayaking, along with competitor paddleboards.
Lastly in the decision stage, personalized remarketing ads or a promotion could tip them over the edge and into a purchase. Job well done.
In addition to gaining new customers, your marketing plan can address how to communicate with existing shoppers. Whether it’s through promotional emails, retargeted ads, or referral bonuses — there are endless ways to continue to successfully delight your customer base.
And more successful marketing means more revenue for your ecommerce website.
2. There is more to it than you think.
Marketing isn’t simple and isn’t something that can be done without much forethought.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and your marketing plans won’t be either!
Not only does a marketing plan help your business to be successful in driving sales — it also gives you a better idea of where your marketing stands in the current landscape and where it should go in the future.
Start with an audit of your current marketing efforts and how they align with your business goals, compare to your competitors market share, and reach your target customers.
When doing an audit, you should start by going through your primary channels that drive business, online traffic, and conversions – whether that be social media, email marketing, or your website. Creating a report with quantitative information (site traffic, average number of posts, or click through rate) over the past year or so will give you a solid idea of how your marketing is currently performing.
For something like social media, you can compare the engagement, followers, and posting consistency that your company is doing and see how it lines up with your competitors. What social channels are they on? Are they investing in influencer marketing or doubling down on promoted posts?
Once you’ve completed an in-depth audit of how your marketing currently performs, it gives you great insight into how you can improve for the future, which helps to inform overall strategy.
3. Informs overall strategy.
Often a marketing plan (and the process of making them) can help guide other important strategic decisions.
From your marketing audit, you may have realized that:
- The majority of your competitors are selling on Amazon.
- Your cart abandonment rate is high.
- It’s been awhile since your current website was updated
Each of those areas requires a different plan of action and group of resources that’s bigger than just your marketing team. For example, if you realize that your current website is terribly out of date in comparison to your competitors and it might be wise to invest in a web development agency to redesign your website.
This would require a significant budget, timeline, and outside group of developers to complete.
Deciding what to focus on for your marketing plan helps you think big picture and where you can grow your business down the road.
How Specific Does a Marketing Plan Need To Be?
You now know the importance of why you need a marketing plan to go along with your business goals, but just how specific does it need to be? Well, that depends on your business and overall strategy.
For some companies, marketing plans can be more generalized whereas for others they should be extremely focused and detailed. Neither is right or wrong but, as always, there are pros and cons of each approach.
In general, we believe it’s better to take a more focused approach to see where the gaps are as well as make it easier to pass off and share the plan with the rest of the organization.
1. Deciding to take a broad approach.
A broad approach means that you need overall improvement on your marketing and advertising plans. This is a fantastic way to start a marketing plan if you’ve never done it before, but falls short of getting deep into the specifics needed to have a really killer marketing plan.
Pros of the Broad Approach
- Perfect for beginners that have never created an ecommerce marketing plan before and need quick guidance before they enter the market
- Improve your marketing as a whole rather than a few specific aspects.
- Focus on developing a strategy that meets your goals, then determine which tactics will be needed to make achieving those goals possible.
Cons of the Broad Approach
- Lack of specialization or focus on specific channels.
- Covering everything can translate to covering nothing.
- Harder to track where success is coming from.
2. Focusing on specific channels.
Focusing on channels such as paid media, search engine optimization (SEO), or creating a well developed content marketing strategy is another great way to individually see how each channel is working. This is an ideal approach for when you may have a missing link stopping your advertising from reaching its full potential.
- Build expertise and improvement in a concentrated area.
- Specific details make the plan easy to pass off.
- Detailed metrics makes it easy to see success.
- Being too focused potentially on the wrong marketing area.
- Might not have the resources or expertise to improve certain aspects.
- Too robust or extensive for you current marketing team.
Marketing Plan Template: 8 Sections You Should Have
Once you’ve decided to create a marketing plan for your business that aligns with your strategy and company goals, now comes the time to lay it out.
You should focus on eight key sections to address answers and show the value of your marketing.
1. Executive summary.
What are you setting out to do? Define that in 3-4 sentences. This should be a high level overview that answers:
- What you’re trying to accomplish
- Where are you at right now
- What needs to change
- How will you make that happen?
While this is the first page of your marketing plan, it should be the last one written so you can summarize all the information and strategies your team came up with.
2. Mission statement.
What’s your company’s mission or “why”? Why are you in business and what problem can you help people solve?
3. Trackable goals.
Which key performance indicators, or KPIs, are you looking to pay attention to for each channel? This will help you narrow in on what your focus will be and track the success of your ecommerce marketing objectives.
- For email marketing, common KPIs are open rate and click through rate.
- For content marketing, typical KPIs are through your analytics platform and track page visits, bounce rate, time on page, organic traffic, and conversions.
- For referral marketing, KPIs might include number of referrals or percentage of referrals converted into customers.
- For social media marketing, you can focus on number of lead conversions generated, number of customer conversions generated, and percentage of traffic associated with social media channels.
4. Situation analysis.
What is your general situation for your company? What does your market share look like? What is the outlook in the next five years? Where is your revenue coming from?
Questions similar to these should be the backbone to your marketing plan and can give your team perspective on the landscape for your business and overall industry.
5. Target market.
Who do you WANT to target (not who are you targeting right now).
This focuses on your ideal customer — what’s their demographics, job, etc. answer who you want to focus on and why that person appeals to your company.
You can’t market to everyone, so it’s vital to understand who you want your target customer to be and what causes them to buy.
In short, the more specific you can be and the more personalized your marketing efforts are, the better.
6. SWOT analysis
A SWOT analysis stands for: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats.
SWOT analysis’ give insight into how your company ranks up against competitors. It helps to answer questions like the following:
- What’s the landscape look like for your business?
- What are you good at and what can you be better at?
- What are your competitors doing that you can consider adding to your ecommerce marketing plan?
- What are your customers looking for in the future?
7. Buyer personas.
Buyer personas are mock personalities for shoppers who will be buying your products. This can get a little fluffy but coming up with characters for your consumers gives you a great idea of who is actually purchasing from you.
These can help tie into your content and overall marketing strategy. We like to focus on the following:
- Bio: Age, industry, title, gender, story of who they are and what they do.
- Head: What do they think? What do they need to know?
- Heart: Why do they care? What motivates them? Where are their pain points?
- Gut: What do they fear? What are possible barriers for them?
- Feet: When are they looking? What would spur them to action?
- Always: One thing we must always remember?
- Never: One thing we must NEVER do?
8. Promotion/Distribution strategy.
An overview of your strategy for promotion and distribution.
What channels will you be using, how often will you be publishing or sending out content and what kind?
This section should be a breakdown of your entire traditional and digital marketing efforts such as channels (paid vs. organic, online vs. offline), content strategy, social media, email, direct mail, etc. Be specific here on what you want to focus on and where you want to grow.
Six Examples of Awesome Marketing Plans
Outside of a template, it’s helpful to get an idea of what other companies are coming up with.
Taking a look through examples that relate closely will give you a better idea of how to proceed, especially if you’ve never created one before. Here’s our top six.
1. Network Jungle
Network jungle has a concise marketing plan example.
Cengage put together a simple marketing plan with descriptions of all sections.
Nerdy mind has an “internet marketing plan” with a $2,500/month budget and time periods.
4. More Business
More business defines a marketing plan and all the sections of one.
Buffer has an extremely detailed example marketing plan.
6. SJ Weaver
Forming Your Ecommerce Marketing Strategy
Forming your ecommerce marketing strategy will take some serious research and consideration into your current strategy and what you’d like to change. Here’s an outline of eight steps to begin forming your strategy.
1. Start researching.
You need to know what is worth improving and tracking before starting your marketing plan.
Do a social media, marketing, and overall content audit to see where you’re lacking and where you can improve.
Take a look at your SWOT analysis to see what your competitors are doing well on and what similar opportunities there are for you in that area.
Once you’ve gathered all your research, take the time to analyze it and use it to set your business goals.
2. Set your goals.
Set your goals for the marketing plan, what does your team want to achieve or learn by the end?
These goals should be both realistic and achievable in order to be the most impactful.
Using the SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely) goal strategy is a great way to set goals that your team can meet. An example would be X% in traffic increase in 6 months.
3. Set a time frame.
Goals won’t mean anything if you can’t reach them in a timeframe that matters.
Your timeframe should be soon enough to be reachable, but far enough away that you have time to put in the work to complete the goal.
4. Set a budget.
Most of the time, marketing will cost some amount of money to start and keep running.
This could be an actual budget you have going with paid media or a project budget you have with an agency to update your website. Whatever it is, make sure it’s documented.
5. Find your metrics/KPIs.
Which metrics or KPIs will you be using to measure the success and completion of your goals?
It could be anything from visitors to site, average order amount, customer service resolution time, etc. Whatever it is, make sure to have it tracked and documented.
6. Assign your teams.
Assign which teams will be working on what for the period of time in your test. This will help keep your team accountable for their goals and know who to check in with for updates.
7. Keep track of progress.
Track your progress in sections.
One third of the way through a test may be a good time to look and see how your marketing plans have been coming along.
Track your progress and set your goals in a spreadsheet to keep everyone updated on the progress and show the status of your marketing plans.
For example, if your goal is to increase site traffic by 10% in the next six months, having a 5% goal in the next three months is a measurable way to see if you’re on track.
8. Team review.
Don’t just look at the numbers yourself, share them with your team.
Doing a team review makes sure everyone is still on the same page and gives the team a chance to step back to see if there are any goals or campaigns that need to be adjusted.
There are so many benefits to having a marketing plan for your ecommerce store — from driving online sales, to improving your overall business strategy, to enhancing your brand awareness.
If you take the time to create and document your marketing strategy, your whole business will be better because of it and you’ll be leagues above your competition.
It really is a no-brainer.
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