Writing an ECommerce Marketing Plan
An essential ingredient of your business plan, writing an ecommerce marketing plan helps you focus your customer acquisition efforts in a specific, thorough and critical manner. Keep in mind however, just like the other key aspects of your business plan, your marketing plan will grow and evolve over time, right along with your business. While your ultimate goals will always be the same—attract a strong customer base, convert them into buyers and keep them in the fold—your methods will evolve as the market and your situation changes.
Define Your Business
Your first step should be to define your business. You should have already identified your product(s) — now you need to determine what makes you different from other people selling the same thing. These differences will be your market advantage. You should specifically identify your key competitors and how they function in terms of marketing, sales, quality, pricing and distribution.
Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
As part of defining your business, you’ll need to determine what kind of budget you can dedicate to marketing, including your key (pre)marketing tool—your ecommerce store builder. You should also identify the assets you have such as contacts, sales skills and experience in various aspects of online marketing. You’ll need to delineate any limitations you have that will need to be overcome. And finally, outline any threats with the potential to have a negative impact upon your success.
Categorize Your Core Customer
Describe your target customer, the age demographic they fit into, where they live, what they need, what they want, how they tend to shop for, where they spend leisure time and what (or who) are their primary influences.
Establish some easily defined and readily measurable goals. Are you trying to get into an existing market? Are you looking to draw customers away from a competitor? Are you launching a new product? Are you expanding your distribution? Whatever it is, conveying a firm idea of your ultimate aim helps you determine what methods to employ. It’s important to attach hard numbers to your goals, whether it’s to grow your customer base by 40 percent, increase revenues by 30 percent quarterly, or improve your conversion rate by five percent. Whatever your goals, having hard numbers gives you a target by which you can measure the results of your efforts. Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable. You should also give yourself hard deadlines by which these endeavors should be achieved.
Develop Your Strategy
Lay out how you’ll create value in the minds of your potential customers. How do you want to position your product in the marketplace? How will you inform shoppers of the quality and pricing of your product? What promotion and distribution strategies will you employ to make your product attractive to your key demographic? Will your customer buy from you directly? Are you wholesaling to retailers and distributors? How will you leverage your strengths? What methods will you employ to overcome your weaknesses?
Outline Your Plan of Action
What tools will you employ to convey your key messaging to your potential customers? How will you accomplish this using the budget you have available? It’s best to focus on one or two key methods you can do really well, as opposed to 10 methods you can do with only marginal effectiveness. How will you implement this plan? Will you target key influencers? Will you employ Google AdWords? Will you market in social media via third-party tools? In a nutshell, once you’ve set your goals and developed your strategy, what method(s) will you use to accomplish them? Once you’ve attracted them, how will you convert them into buyers? When you’ve converted them, what will you do to keep them?
Measurement and Adjustment Strategies
List the metrics you’ll employ to gauge the effectiveness of your strategies. You’ll also need to define specific targets to give you a baseline against which to measure. Once the plan is implemented, keep an eye on your progress. If you’re hitting your goals easily, it’s time to stretch them out a bit farther. If you’re falling short, take some time to evaluate your situation and determine where adjustments need to be made to give it another go.
Once you’ve completed all of the above, distill it into a short, simple executive summary in which you’ll briefly cover each aspect. Even though it will appear first in your finished document, it’s easier to accomplish after you finish writing an ecommerce marketing plan.