9 Tips for Writing Effective Marketing Plans

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David Landreth talks marketing plans

On September 28th, we hosted a workshop, Marketing Plans as Roadmaps to Success with our professional development coordinator and artist, David Landreth. Here’s some info based on some of the topics that were covered in that talk…

Marketing plans are one of the first daunting hurdles artists and professionals in the music business face when launching their careers, often as part of a funding application. What is a marketing plan exactly? A marketing plan is a document that you use to outline your marketing objectives. It looks at a brief history of your company (organization, band, etc.) as well as its current state, it projects goals and objectives, and sets forth a blueprint on how to achieve them. It may help to think of it as a two-part document: a branding statement and a marketing plan. Here’s a handful of tips to help you wrap your head around putting together a smart and useful road map that you can use to grown your career and inform funding juries.

1. Invest the time into making a solid marketing plan

Too often, artists rush through marketing plans in order to satisfy requirements on grant applications. If you don’t take the time to really dig into creating a thorough and well-conceived plan, you’re not only taking away from the strength of your grant application, but you’re missing an opportunity to build a very important guide that will help build your business. The process of developing a comprehensive marketing plan is a huge step in professionalizing your career. Developing the kind of planning skills that are required to organize your objectives and figure out how you plan to achieve them are the cornerstones of great business acumen. It’s worth your time and effort to build those chops now.

2. Start with a great template

Starting with a strong template is a good way to kick-start the process. FACTOR has a really great marketing plan guide that anyone can use to get started. It breaks down into sections that will help you focus your strategy into topics that are specific to the music industry. 

3. Understand the difference between marketing and branding

A marketing plan is really a branding statement and a marketing plan. It’s important to understand the distinction between the two and the different roles they play in a growing business.

Marketing is the “push” behind your business plan. Put (very) simply, it is the act of creating demand for your product. It can be handy to think of in terms of the four P’s:

Product – What are you selling?
Price – How do you price it to be competitive and still maximize profit margins?
Place – How do you distribute your product? Where is it sold and how does it get there?
Promotional Strategy – How do you push your product into the world and drive demand?

Marketing and branding work side by side. They are the intrinsically linked. If marketing is the “push”, then branding is the “pull”.

Branding is a communication of the core values, attributes, and characteristics of an organization, a product, or a service. It’s often thought of in terms of aesthetics, but it exists in a broader sense as the “tone” you use when you communicate. It’s reflected in visual aesthetics and design, but also in language: verbal and written, and most importantly, through the music you make. Marketing says: “Buy me”. Branding says: “This is what I am. This is why I exist. If you agree, if you like me, you can buy me, support me, and recommend me to your friends.”[1]

All of your marketing objectives should be preceded and informed by a solid understanding of what and who your brand is.

4. Start with your long term goals and work your way back

Start with the big picture stuff and work your way backwards. Dream big, have reasonable and attainable expectations. These are you five- to 10-year goals. What do you want to get out of your career in the long-term? State these in your plan.

Next, narrow them down to short term goals that you’ll strive to reach in the next six to 18 months. These goals should help you get closer to your long-term goals. State these too.

Now narrow them down even further by breaking them down into the various activities that your business takes part in. Again, this is where that FACTOR marketing plan guide is a great resource. It suggests a bunch of topics to begin with, which you’ll want to add to and expand on.

Explore each of these topics through the lens of your newfound understanding of marketing and branding. Use that perspective to expand on your actions in each one of these activities. These actions that you plan to take, in conjunction with all of the other activities that you take part in, should help you towards achieving your short-term goals.

5. Create clear objectives in each section, and decide how you’ll define your success

Take it all a step further and create goals in every section of your marketing plan and decide how you will measure your success. These become useful benchmarks that you can turn to in the future to get an objective look at whether you’ve managed to achieve what you set out to. If you did, you can look at what is working, if you didn’t you can analyze your plan to look for new opportunities to revamp your strategies.

Here’s a real-world example of how you might approach that in your marketing plan: You have a section in your marketing plan called “Social Media”. Within it you have detailed and expanded on how you use various social media platforms to communicate with fans as well support your marketing objectives, which include pushing your album release and upcoming tour dates. A micro-goal for this section of the plan might be to increase engagement on Facebook. You would then decide how you would measure your success in this category. You land on a quantifiable marker: getting 300 likes on a single post.  

6. Stay focused, quality over quantity

A marketing plan will cover a lot of ground, but should be distilled to its most core elements. Get right to the good stuff and avoid the fluff. You’re going to try and condense the entire working plan for something as enormous as your entire career into just a few pages. You don’t have any words to spare. Editing, re-editing, and editing some more will help you whittle down to the essentials.

7. Stay factual, attainable, and true

Resist the urge to embellish any of your information. Stay factual and realistic. For your purposes this keeps your strategies grounded and achievable. If you are using your marketing plan to support grant applications then it will communicate the fact that you have a firm understanding of the industry you’re working in and that you have reasonable expectations.

8. Don’t make spelling and grammar mistakes

Errors in spelling and grammar will distract from the points you are trying to make and will remove credibility from your presentation. Proof reading is important. When you’re editing you should proof read top-down for content and bottom-up for spelling. When you read sentences one at a time, from the bottom-up, the lack of context makes spotting the errors much easier.

If you are a notoriously poor speller, send your work to someone you trust for a once-over.

9. Include an Executive Summary

Make room at the very top of your marketing plan for a section titled: Executive Summary. It should be one of the first things you present, but in actuality will be the final piece of plan that you write. It is, as its name implies, a summary of everything that you are presenting. It serves as a place for you to connect all of your ideas, and sum them down to their most essential parts. Place prominently at the beginning of your document it serves as an excellent intro. Also, if someone who is looking at it is pressed for time, it means that you will have managed to communicate the most important parts of your vision, even if they don’t read through to the end of your document.

[1] Heaton, J. The Difference Between Marketing and Branding, Retrieved from: http://www.tronviggroup.com/the-difference-between-marketing-and-branding/

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