The marketing planning process for online businesses is a step by step process that outlines what a business wants to achieve, how it will achieve it, by when and who will launch and manage it.
Whatever the business sector or industry, an online plan is helpful and it guides the business towards real profitability. Here are 6 main steps of the planning process:
1. Digital Marketing Research
Research is an important part of the digital marketing planning process because it informs all other parts of the plan. So you should research your target customers, competitors, the business environment and features to include in your products and so on.
There are two types of research: primary and secondary research. Secondary research is also known as desk research and it is about looking for information that already exists about your target markets, competitors and others. So, this is research that already exists and that would have been collected in the past for another purpose. If there are any gaps in the secondary research, then primary research will be necessary.
There are tools that can help you research online including keyword tools like the keyword planner, surveying tools, search engines, competitor websites, shopping comparison engines and so on.
2. Market Analysis
From the information you gather in your research, you can now carry out a SWOT Analysis to identify the most important Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that are applicable to your business. Your strengths and weaknesses are internal to your business and the opportunities and threats are external and you have to manage these well to ensure that your business survives and thrives.
3. Marketing Objectives
Your objectives are targets that you want to reach with your digital marketing plan. They should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time related (SMART), while ensuring that you are meeting the needs of your target audiences.
4. Marketing Strategy
The strategy describes all the tactics that you need to implement to achieve your objectives and business mission. Your strategy should include product, price, place and promotion tactics which form the 4 Ps of the marketing mix. These are applicable in an online context and your planning process should describe how they work towards achieving your objectives.
5. Promotional Tools and channels
Promotional tools and channels fall under your strategy and they are the tactics that you use to advertise, promote and communicate your products and brand. There are many online channels to choose from including search engine marketing, social media, email marketing, online PR, affiliate marketing and many others and the hundreds of tools that are available for each of these channels.
6. Budgets and Control
Finally, you should set your budgets to help you implement your marketing strategy and achieve your objectives. Your budget should be sufficient for all tactics that you include in your plan and should be continually revised as you action your plan.