The tools and practices associated with marketing seem to evolve every day. The growth marketing plan template you put together two or three years ago is almost certainly in need of an upgrade. That’s OK, even though many find the ever-shifting terrain frustrating. While the digital landscape constantly changes, the objectives remain more or less the same.
Few businesses invest in a marketing campaign merely to maintain the status quo. Retaining your existing customer base is essential, yes, but most of us develop marketing campaigns to foster growth.
That being the case, your business will be well served by developing a business growth marketing plan that can flex and stretch to accommodate newer technologies as they emerge. While allowing for all of your channels to adapt, you can’t wait around either. As you put together your marketing plan or work with a PR professional, keep the checklist below handy.
1. Executive Business Summary
Of course, you’re an expert in your niche. Undoubtedly, you’ve been at it long enough that you and your team are highly skilled and have acquired your own language and terminology along the way. You will need an overview of what you do, why you do it, and what you hope to accomplish that is 100% free of jargon.
In short, anyone — expert or newbie — should be able to read this brief overview and walk away with a high level of comprehension. They will know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your plan to engage in growth marketing. If you find that even a few people don’t quite grasp critical concepts with this brief overview, it’s a sign that your summary still needs work. Think of it as your written “elevator pitch.”
2. Goals and Vision
Again, endeavor to keep this section of your growth marketing plan mercifully brief. In this section, you will be sharing the sum total of your brainstorming sessions to date. Go ahead and paint the most positive picture of your desired results.
Think of this as your growth marketing plan template’s “I’ve got a magic wand” section. Yes, you’ll want to temper your objectives with realism, but if you aim at nothing, you’re likely to hit it every time. Go ahead and indulge in the best possible outcome, but ensure you provide goals and strategies with numbers attached to them. “Increase sales” is too vague. “Increase website traffic by 15% in three months” is far better.
3. Niche-Specific Business Initiatives
A local shoe store will likely use different ends and means to achieve measurable results than an office planning consultant. What works for one business might fall flat in another sector. The key lies in discerning where your people congregate both in-person and online. For example, most business people know that various social media channels cater to differing demographics. Additionally, demographics play a huge role in the overall tone of messaging.
What are the initiatives that line up best with your model of doing business? Are there opportunities to raise awareness of your products and services in previously neglected or ignored venues? Your growth may have hitherto been hindered simply because your messages are tremendous but inaccurately and/or inadequately targeted.
4. Evaluation of Existing Customer Base
Before you move on to going after new customers, be sure to examine the people you’re doing business with today carefully. This analysis will need to be both qualitative and quantitative. Of course, you will want numbers in a spreadsheet, but you will also want customer comments in a database. This presupposes that you have been inviting feedback and making it easy for your customers to share their good and bad experiences.
Someone needs to read every written remark provided by your customers. This is not only common courtesy; it’s also smart business. By tagging various comments, your team will be enabled to scan quickly through the accumulated data, ignoring feedback marked “Meritless Rant” while pausing to take in everything tagged “Actionable Suggestion.”
5. Evaluation of Competitors
Just as you want to gain a clearer picture of who you are selling to, you’ll also need to update your profiles of who else is selling to them. You may have done a thorough analysis of the competition a few years ago, but if you completed that analysis before the pandemic years of 2020-2022, it’s time to take another look. As consumer buying tactics have changed, so have competitor operations and selling tactics.
One key watchword for engaging customers in this era is personalization. Businesses that previously relied primarily on in-person transactions were forced to pivot to court an increasingly-remote clientele. The road behind us is littered with the wreckage of thousands of small businesses that were slow to adopt automation, customer service platforms, and other newer technologies. You want to find out what’s available and what seems to be working well.
6. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis
As the old saying goes, you can only begin to travel by being sure of where you currently stand. In the current hybrid landscape of in-person/remote workers — and customers — even a cursory SWOT analysis can help you make informed decisions as you engage in growth marketing.
What does your company do exceptionally well? Where do you wish things were going better? Are new market opportunities opening up? Which issues cause concern for the future? These four SWOT categories are open to all sorts of input.
For example, you might initially identify competitors in the “threat” category. Still, this can (and should) also include health concerns, a struggling economy, a new product or service that might supplant yours, etc. As you work on your SWOT analysis, jot down every thought that comes to mind. Save the editing for later.
7. Establishing a Growth Marketing Budget
Every other standard practice seems to have changed since 2020, and budgeting for your growth marketing template is no different. These days, it can seem like the costs associated with marketing do nothing but go up, but the truth is that there are still some media outlets and strategies that remain inexpensive or even free. The trick is to stay open as you prepare a budget.
Whatever decisions you and your team land on, ensure that every dollar is accounted for and that you collect data on ROI after the fact. Go into the budgeting process with the certainty that one or more expenditures will prove disappointing at some level. That’s OK, as long as after the campaign, you can put empirical data to both your expectations and what actually happened. This will help you make sure you only make a bad call once.
8. Overview of Strategy
Everyone on your growth marketing team should be able to accurately articulate what your company is trying to accomplish. Your growth marketing template’s strategy section provides a comprehensive listing of all the elements brought together in one place.
Don’t cram a lot of detail into this section. Keep it simple. For example, you might include a statement such as “use social media” without providing any further explanation. A strategy section should be simple enough to commit to memory. Whether you require your employees to memorize it is entirely up to you!
9. Preferred Channels (and Alternates)
Broaden the meaning of the word “channels” to include as many things as you can brainstorm. Are you getting your company logo and web address imprinted on giveaway pencils? That counts as a channel. Ordering and installing new signage for your store locations? That counts, too. Social media accounts are another obvious inclusion here.
As you give the green light to any channel, ensure you build in accountability and have a backup channel waiting in the wings should your first choice fall flat. In the example above, you could set up a unique URL on your website to track how many people bother to type out the link you imprint on promotional giveaways. Your ability to track ROI on your marketing growth investments is truly only limited by your imagination. When a specific channel performs beyond expectations, accurate tracking helps you make that success repeatable.
10. Anticipated Customer Journey
Every growth marketing plan template should include a requirement to chart out how you expect prospective customers to first learn about your business. From there, you’ll want to take an educated guess as to how the customer will leave a “trail of breadcrumbs” as they convert from prospect to customer.
The customer journey will vary widely from one market niche to another. If your team has never constructed a map such as this, now’s the time. There are plenty of online resources to help you get started. The point is not to systematize what your company’s map should look like but rather to evaluate both your fulfilled expectations and take special note of the surprises. Pinpointing where expectations went sideways or succeeded will prove valuable next time you budget.
11. Risk Assessment
Before committing dollars or personnel to any growth marketing plan, conduct the most thorough assessment of possible outcomes. You already broke out the magic wand in Step 2, where you dreamed about desired outcomes. While not nearly as much fun, you now need to seriously consider the question, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
For this section of your growth marketing plan template, it will help enormously to read up, yes, but also talk to people uninvested in your efforts. Insurance agents, lawyers, industry leaders, agencies, and other people unafraid to be direct with you will prove invaluable.
Few people were asking the right questions in the months leading up to widespread restrictions on walk-in traffic in 2020. As you conduct your risk analysis, give at least some consideration to the “unlikely…but still possible.”
When will the campaigns associated with your growth marketing plan commence? Is there a specific time they will end? The time frame section of your plan should contain those two obvious milestones, but really any activity that has a date or deadline associated with it should show up here. As you plan, factor in the unpredictable, such as widespread supply chain issues.
Your timeframe should include the four subsections listed below. These can consist of little more than a bulleted list sorted by date or the equivalent of a printed production schedule you might post in the conference room.
- Relevant History: Dates and important events that brought you to where you are now.
- Current Quarter: What do the next few weeks and months look like?
- This section likely contains the majority of entries and associated content.
- Immediate Future: What’s coming up in the next few years?
- Long Range Planning: Where do you hope to be five, 10, or even 20 years from now?
13. Strategic Partnerships
As you put together your growth marketing plan template, evaluate the partnerships to date that have proved mutually beneficial. Are there other opportunities you may have missed? Any person or company essential to your ongoing success should show up here. From there, look outward to see if this list can be expanded or needs to be tightened up a bit.
The key here is to view anyone or anything that helps your company do what it does best as a “partner.” Angel investors are great, sure, but your employees can also meaningfully be considered partners, as can your trusted suppliers. Many business people are surprised to find that when they consider how to help any partner thrive, they tend to uncover ways that they can prosper as well.
14. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Measurement Criteria
As mentioned above, numbers and hard data rule. The need for empirical facts doesn’t eliminate the need to have inspired, entrepreneurial types acting on hunches from time to time. However, meaningfully working toward continuous improvement and growth means that someone somewhere has to be collecting, capturing, and analyzing hard data.
What are the measurement criteria you will use to evaluate the success (or lack thereof) as part of your growth marketing plan template? If you’re not sure, you’ll struggle to draw meaning and direction from your marketing efforts.
Just like customer journey maps, there are plenty of resources available online to help you evaluate the usefulness of your current KPIs and make any additions or adjustments you may not have previously considered.
15. Formal After-Action Evaluation
Obviously, your marketing team will be required to adjust and track as your marketing growth plan is unleashed on an unsuspecting world. There will be plenty of ad hoc meetings and hallway conversations that take place as spur-of-the-moment decisions are required.
That’s all fine and well and 100% necessary. However, you will also want to schedule at least one formal after-action review session open to a much wider audience, perhaps even including anyone in your company who has an interest.
The feedback you get from sales figures, spreadsheets, online reviews, and peers should all be considered. Oftentimes, however, nothing beats anecdotal evidence from a real, live human being. Your tactics, messaging, channels, and everything else about your growth marketing plan template may need tweaks you might never have considered otherwise.
One Size Does Not Fit All: Adopt, Adapt, and Improve
As you work to put together your first growth marketing plan template or tweak the one you’ve been using for more than a decade, not everything listed above will necessarily apply. That’s OK; just maintain an awareness of the tried-and-true categories well worth your consideration.
Don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed, either. Tackle one category at a time. Should you hit a stumbling block, you can choose to work the one of the best growth marketing companies to help guide you.