Doing marketing and having a marketing plan are not the same thing. In this blog post, you will learn concepts and best practices that will help you create an actual marketing plan designed to help your business grow.

This is the second part of the digital marketing “essentials” series. Each blog post in this series covers some of the questions a business owner or entrepreneur “should” ask if they want to do digital marketing effectively. The first blog post in the series answers a few foundational questions on How to Get Started With Digital Marketing.

In this post I present the next four questions to be considered. Because this is a series, the questions below have been numbered as 5-8, since the previous post discussed questions 1-4. You can click the links below, to shoot straight to the portion of this post that discusses the related topic. Or, just scroll down and read everything from the beginning.

  1. How Do I Develop An Online Marketing Plan?
  2. What’s the Difference Between Marketing Goals, Strategies And Tactics
  3. What is a SWOT Analysis And How Do I Do It?
  4. How Do I Be Better At Marketing Than My Competitors?

5. How Do I Develop An Online Marketing Plan?

In many situations, those who actually have a plan are more likely to succeed than those who don’t. The same is true with marketing. And having a marketing plan involves more than just deciding to do a marketing activity of some type. Later in this blog post series I’ll go into greater detail on some of the aspects of creating a marketing plan. But for starters, here’s what you should know and do:

Marketing Plan And Strategy

Elements to Creating A Marketing Plan

  • Identify your goals. What exactly is it that you want to get as a result of your marketing?
  • Decide on a reasonable marketing budget. Many businesses don’t invest as much as they should on their marketing. As a result, they limit their growth. There are some best practices you can follow, to help you set an appropriate marketing budget. You can learn more about this in our blog post titled How to Set a Marketing Budget for Your Business.
  • Determine your strategies and tactics. There are many marketing activities that will enable you to accomplish your goals. However, you’ll need to select the strategies and tactics most appropriate for you and your budget.
  • Develop a timeline. Part of having a great marketing plan is creating a timeline for when specific activities will be done. This is one of the most essential steps in creating an effective marketing plan. In fact, coming up with the “when” will increase the chances of you being successful by about 30%. So, don’t forget this step.
  • Plan to review and revise. Creating a plan and then not reviewing performance will limit your opportunity for improved results. Plan to review it. Then, plan to revise your marketing plan based on the results. If you’re not sure what metrics to look at, to determine if your marketing is working, take a look at this blog post: Popular KIPs for Digital Marketing Channels

Common Marketing Mistakes

A common mistake associated with marketing planning, is that a business owner will simply plan to do a marketing activity, and consider that to be sufficient as a marketing plan. For example, they might say “I’ll update my website this year. That’s my marketing plan!” That’s a good tactic, but how exactly does it help with the goals? What’s the specific timeline for implementation and what does success look like?

If you haven’t included the five elements listed above as part of your marketing plan, then you’re likely missing out on effectiveness.

A Piece of Marketing Advice

If you just read the section above, and you believe this applies to you, then set aside some time to sit down and actually write out your goals, strategies, tactics, budget, timeline for implementation, and key metrices of success to review. If you already have a marketing plan, pull it out and see if it needs to be updated. At Joshua Lyons Marketing we review our marketing plan on a quarterly basis, and actually look at it every month, if not more often.

Having a marketing plan involves more than just deciding to do a marketing activity of some type. #MarketingTips #JLM Click To Tweet

6. What’s Difference Between Marketing Goals, Strategies And Tactics

Goals, strategies and tactics can often be confused for synonyms of the same thing. However, each one of those words has a specific and unique meaning. They are also important to understand, as you work on creating your marketing plan. Here’s what you should know about each of those words:

  • SMART Goals ConceptGoals: Your marketing goals are the outcomes you’re hoping to experience as a result of the marketing activity you do. These should be measurable. For example, you may want to increase sales by 10% year-over-year (YOY). That’s a common goal. Or, you might try and increase the number of leads acquired YOY. Another goal would be to increase website traffic by a certain percentage, YOY. Once the goals are decided, then you should focus on the strategies. Here’s a related blog post that talks in much greater depth about setting goals.
  • Strategies: Your marketing strategies are the activities you’ll use in order to accomplish your goals. For example, let’s say you have the goal of increasing website traffic by 200% over the next year. That’s a great, and potentially aggressive, goal. But, what will you do to actually make that goal become a reality? There are many strategies you could use. Perhaps you’ll decide to run Google Ads, do search engine optimization, boost your email marketing activity and start doing social media marketing. Those are all popular strategies used to accomplish this goal.
  • Tactics: Your marketing tactics are the specific activities you will do to execute your strategies and accomplish your goals. Let’s say you have a goal to increase website traffic by 200% over the next year, and one of your strategies is to do search engine optimization (rank well on Google without paying for ads). Your tactics might include doing keyword research, publishing great content on your website, and generating backlinks from other high quality and relevant websites.

A marketing plan should clearly outline the marketing goals, strategies and tactics you’ll need to implement, in order to get the highest possible return on investment from your marketing.

Your marketing plan should clearly outline the marketing goals, strategies and tactics you'll need to implement. #Marketing #JLM Click To Tweet

Common Marketing Mistakes

Some business owners will decide to start doing marketing of some type, without actually making sure it fits into the overall marketing strategy. For example, they might decide to join social media. But, they don’t think about why they’re joining social media. They will often do it just because every other business they know of is on social media. Like the expression goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” I don’t want you to fail, so don’t just do marketing for the sake of doing it, or because of marketing peer pressure. If you’re going to do marketing, then plan it out strategically.

Marketing Advice Concept

A Piece of Marketing Advice

If you start doing social media (or any other form of digital marketing), make sure it’s a strategy which supports a measurable goal you’ve already identified. Also, make sure the specific tactics you spend your time or money on are in alignment with your goal(s), and follow best practices. For example. If you sell commercial real estate, then don’t post something on your company Facebook page about having a great lunch with a friend of yours. That doesn’t align with your goals and wouldn’t be a best practice. However, if talking about a great lunch with your friend is in alignment with one of your goals, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re strategic and there’s a reason behind everything you do.

Go through your marketing plan. Read each goal, strategy and tactic. Make sure they all integrate smoothly and logically with each other. If something doesn’t fit, remove it. If something needs to be added, then make that adjustment. This activity will help you put your time and money in the activities that will generate the greatest results, which is what you want.

7. What is a SWOT Analysis And How Do I Do It?

The “SWOT analysis” is not a new concept, and it’s not unique to digital marketing. But it’s a very popular and important element of creating an effective digital marketing plan. It also helps you keep your business goals and marketing goals in alignment with each other. And to be clear, business goals and marketing goals aren’t the same thing. A SWOT analysis is an activity that centers around identifying your (S) strengths, (W) weaknesses, (O) opportunities and (T) threats. This can be done on a personal individual level. Though it’s typically done on a company level.

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Strengths & Weaknesses

When you focus on the strengths and weaknesses portion of the SWOT analysis you want to think about the elements of your business you can actually control.

Strengths: Make a list of the greatest strengths your company possesses. Here are some examples:

  • Strong network that’s consistently growing – You can make a conscious plan to actively grow your network.
  • Known for provide great quality – You can largely control the quality and perceived quality of your offerings.
  • Exceptional pricing – You have a lot of control over the pricing of your products or services.
  • Experienced team with specialized skills – You can hire experienced professionals for any skillset you need.

Weaknesses: What are the weaknesses that need to be overcome? Here are some examples:

  • Increased workload is making it more challenging to maintain quality. You can make needed adjustments to control the workload and quality.
  • It’s difficult to grow our team, due to the level of experience and skill required. You can look for new ways to grow your team or supplement skills.
  • We lose prospective clients because we are perceived as low quality, due to our great pricing. You can provide solutions to convey your high quality, despite the low costs.

List all the most important strengths and weaknesses that apply to you. They should theoretically all be something you have some amount of direct control over. That’s a common characteristic of strengths and weaknesses. However, opportunities and threats don’t share that characteristic.

SWOT Analysis Concept

Opportunities & Threats

Next, write out the most important opportunities and threats that apply to your company. While strengths and weaknesses can be controlled by you, that’s not the case for opportunities and threats. These are external factors that impact your business. Let’s take a close look at this.

Opportunities: What opportunities might you be able to take advantage of? Here are some examples:

  • Collaborative opportunities with newly opened businesses that are related and not competitors.
  • Tradeshows or conferences taking place nearby or virtually.
  • New trends or governmental regulations that will increase demand for your product or service.

Threats: What threats could potentially, or definitely, cause challenges for your business? Here are some examples:

  • Increase of direct competitors in your market.
  • Competitors launching specific products, services or campaigns that will take business from you.
  • A global pandemic that prevents or limits the amount of foot traffic you receive.

Write down the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that apply to you and your business. Then, adjust your marketing goals and strategies so they help you seize the opportunities, address the threats, overcome your weaknesses, and capitalize on your strengths.

Consider your SWOT analysis while working on your marketing plan. #MarketingPlan #SWOT #JLM Click To Tweet

Common Marketing Mistakes

I believe many business owners never really do a SWOT analysis. They may occasionally think about some challenges they’re faced with. Or they might recognize some core strengths or weaknesses they possess. But, seriously doing a solid SWOT analysis is an important activity for any business owner or entrepreneur. Doing this will help the business invest their marketing budget in a way that will bring forth the best possible results.

A Piece of Marketing Advice

The marketing advice related to this question is simple. If you don’t do a SWOT analysis you will likely fail to recognize opportunities for growth and will find it more challenging to overcome challenges. So, sit down and create a SWOT analysis. If you have a leadership team, ask them join you as you talk this out. At Joshua Lyons Marketing, we do this same thing. We will discuss our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and then we plan our strategies based on the results of the analysis. And they change every year. So, make sure to repeat this process at least once a year.

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8. How Do I Be Better At Marketing Than My Competitors?

Competitor Analysis Written on Cork BoardThis is one of my favorite questions. The person who asks this question is usually rather serious about their marketing and they expect it to take some real effort. Their mindset is in the right place. And what excites me about this is that they are likely going to see some phenomenal results.

If you want to do better than your competitors, it’s a good idea to do some research.

Practical Tips on Doing Competitor Research

  • See what your direct competitors are doing well. 
    • Review their website and identify the areas in which they are doing better than you. Make notes to revise your website accordingly, so it’s better than theirs.
    • Review their social media activity to identify the following:
      • Which social platforms are the on?
      • What type of content are they posting that generates the best engagement?
      • What’s their posting frequency like, and does that seem to impact their engagement?
    • Review their email marketing. If they have a subscription option, join it. This way you can see what they’re putting out, and decide if it would make sense for you to replicate.
    • Review any other form of marketing your competitors are using, and determine the areas in which they are doing better than you. Then, make notes on how you can improve in those same areas, so you are better than them.
  • See what your would-be competitors are doing well. 
    • Aside from looking at your local competitors, take a look at those would-be competitors who are too far away to actually be considered a competitor. For example, Joshua Lyons Marketing is based in Pensacola, Florida. But, we looked at competitors in Atlanta, Miami and Chicago. What are the digital marketing agencies in the most challenging markets doing? If we treat those would-be competitors as if they are our actual competitors, then we should definitely be able to out-do the local competition. When you do your competitive research, look at your would-be competitors in large markets and get inspiration from them.

Common Marketing Mistakes

  1. Don’t do more than you should do. Often times a company will do competitor research and decide they should do some specific activities, because their competitors are doing them. That’s not bad. But, make sure the activities are in alignment with your goals. Also, make sure you can afford it. If they’re attending a tradeshow or convention that costs $10,000, and you have a total annual budget of $10,000, it may be better to hold off on attending that same event until your marketing budget is larger.
  2. Doing too little on too much. It’s common for a business owner to try and do too many activities, because their competitors are doing them. But, because there are so many activities, they don’t have the budget or time to do those activities really well. For example, they may decide to get on social media for their business. That sounds good. But, they end up not posting for months, or even years, because they don’t have the time. This doesn’t look good.
When you do your competitive research, look at your would-be competitors in large markets and get inspiration from them. #MarketingStrategy #JLM Click To Tweet

A Piece of Marketing Advice

Identify the areas you can outdo your competitors in marketing, while staying in budget, and doing the related marketing activities extremely well. Once you’ve identified these activities work them into your marketing plan. Also, make sure to benchmark your results from these activities, in comparison to your competitors. You may find that after a year, you will be better than your competition in every area you decided to focus on. Then, in the following year, you may be able to add on additional activities you weren’t able to initially do well, due to budget.

Summary Thoughts On Planning for Digital Marketing Success

The four questions above are all related to each other. As you work on creating your marketing plan, make sure to include measurable goals, strategies and tactics. Take your SWOT analysis into consideration as you create your marketing goals. And do competitor research on direct competitors and would-be competitors, as a way to identify marketing opportunities and inspiration for dominating your market.

If you need help with your digital marketing, we would be very happy to have a conversation with you. We enjoy the strategy involved in creating a great marketing plan, and also like to help our clients follow best practices, overcome challenges and see results. You can connect with us via the contact form below. Or, you can reach out to us through our contact page.

Good luck with your marketing and I hope this was helpful.


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As the founder of Joshua Lyons Marketing, Josh Lyons primarily focuses on business development. He has studied and practiced marketing since 2008 and launched his first company (a marketing agency in Pensacola, Florida) in 2015. When he's not writing blog posts, recording podcasts or consulting, he enjoys spending time with family and friends. He loves listening to audiobooks and checking out different coffee shops. He also enjoys fire juggling, amigurumi, travel and swing dancing; which is how he met his wife.



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