Six Steps for Creating an Effective Marketing Plan for Your Practice

By Barbara Kotlyar, Senior Marketing Manager on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

I’m often asked questions about how to build a marketing plan, and how that differs from creating a business plan. First, let’s look at a business plan. It lays out what your business is all about, what services you offer, and what your major goals are. A business plan  includes information on many  areas that are not covered in the marketing plan,  such as staffing, financing, partnerships, and of course, your company vision. In short, the business plan spells out the environment in which your marketing plan will exist.

The marketing plan, on the other hand, is the specific plan that formulates how you will promote your services in this business environment, in order to generate and cultivate leads, acquire and retain customers, and grow your business.

Before delving into the specifics of the marketing plan, it’s important to note that these two plans should be consistent. Furthermore, when creating a marketing plan, be sure to get other people at your firm involved for idea generation and for feedback (depending on the size of your firm). Follow these six simple steps to build the ideal marketing plan:

Step 1: Narrow your market focus/define your target market. Try to describe your ideal customer in the narrowest and most detailed terms possible. For example, if you focus on a niche such as doctors or Gen X, or if you focus on one geographic area, you want to make this clear in your marketing plan.

Step 2: Position your business. Figure out what you do best and what your target market wants. For example, if you focus on the Gen X market, you may know that they expect most of your services to be communicated online, maybe even in a client portal. Or if you focus on single mothers, you will want to change your messaging to speak about their pain points, such as financing their children’s education. If you don't know what their pain points and aspirations are, call up three or four of your clients and ask them why they work with you. Or use an online survey to reach out to a larger group of clients asking for feedback. Use this research to create a core marketing message that allows you to quickly differentiate your firm from the competition.

Step 3: Create educational marketing materials. Recreate all your marketing materials, including your website, to focus on educating your target market. Make sure your marketing materials speak about your core message and are directed at your target market. For example, if you focus on one geographic area, you can create a newsletter that educates your target market about events in the area such as fundraisers or trends in the local real estate market. Alternatively, if you focus on Baby Boomers, you can create educational material about tips on retiring, or how to draft a will.

Step 4: Use your educational materials to earn media attention. Leverage the materials you’ve created in order to position yourself as the expert on your target market. You should promote the materials and advice using different media such as Twitter, your website, your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, and by submitting your articles to other people’s blogs and websites. You should also create a list of journalists who cover your community, and the investment space. Use this list to reach out and build relationships in which you serve as a reliable source of information.

Step 5: Build a referral plan. Referrals are the best way to get new business. Make it easy for clients to refer you by communicating with them on a regular basis about business and about their personal interests. In order to communicate with your clients effectively, you must track their information and create a system for reaching out. One way to do this is to use a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) to track your client and their family’s interests. In the CRM, you can have a separate profile for each client, so you can add their hobbies, places they are planning to travel, and ages and names of their spouse and children. Use this information to keep in touch—by sending birthday cards, books about the places they are going to travel, and articles about their hobbies. You can also use this system to match prospective clients to existing clients, so you can invite them both to the same event.  Or you can ask your existing client for an introduction to the prospective client, allowing him or her to do the selling for you.

Step 6: Live by a calendar. After you complete steps 1 through 5, determine what you need to do to put them into action. Then create an annual marketing calendar, noting the required monthly, weekly and daily appointments necessary to move your plan forward. Revisit your marketing plan at least once every quarter. Are you on target? Do you need to revise it? This plan is a living, breathing document, so don’t be afraid to make revisions when needed.

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