Amy KennelYour written marketing plan is the instruction manual for the marketing aspect of your business. It ensures that you’re putting all of the pieces together correctly to construct the business that you want. It prevents you from wasting your time and money doing the wrong things to meet your goals. Here are four steps to creating a written marketing plan for your business:

1. Start with the end in mind. The first step in creating your marketing plan for the year is to focus on your end goal. What do you want to accomplish with your marketing in the coming year? Do you want to find new customers? Increase customer retention? Boost first-time customer sales? Generate more repeat business? Capture a greater number of referrals? What is the dollar amount you’re shooting for in terms of individual product sales? It’s ineffective to try to determine what type of marketing to employ if you haven’t identified the specific reason for your marketing effort.

2. Revisit the past. Once you’ve established your marketing goals for the current year, evaluate your past marketing efforts. What has been successful? What seemed to be a waste of resources? Is there something you need to tweak? For example, you may have found your print ad in the local newspaper hasn’t been as effective as you think it could be. Why is that? Do you need to rethink your message? Is your call to action clear? Would a change of ad size or placement enhance your response rate?

3. Consider something new. Next, think about the marketing tools you could be using. Take a look at your competitors. What marketing strategies seem to be working for them? How could you incorporate similar efforts into your business? Also take into consideration market research and information you’ve gathered from seminars or training sessions. How can you utilize technology to help you bring down your marketing costs and increase your return on investment?

4. Put your plan in writing. Finally, write it all down. You don’t want to try to keep all of your marketing goals and your 12-month strategy in your head. Writing things down forces you to focus and reduces clutter. It makes you get specific, instead of drowning in vague generalities, such as “Get more sales,” which won’t induce action or results. Give it the thought it deserves, and then get it down on paper. You’re much more likely to end up with the business you want at the end of the year.

Amy Kennel is the owner of Insurance Marketing Concepts, based in Des Moines, Iowa. She is a communications consultant who specializes in insurance, financial services, and retirement planning. You can contact her at (515)289-6413 or via e-mail at aakennel@gmail.com.