- If you want to find business opportunities and generate consistent customer interest for your trade business, then creating a marketing plan is an absolute must.
- Word of mouth marketing is still important, but you need a well-rounded marketing plan that factors in your competitors, buyer personas and your customers' buying cycle.
- While it may seem like a lot of work, we've broken it down to help you create a functional marketing plan that will give you measurable results.
An electrician wouldn’t show up to a job without the proper tools.
A mechanic wouldn’t start repairs without the right parts.
A paramedic wouldn’t administer care without the appropriate training.
Whatever trade you work in, you know firsthand the importance of preparation — and you should apply that same logic to marketing your business. Word-of-mouth marketing still carries weight but, in our increasingly digitized world, it’ll only get you so far.
In order to ensure that your trade business gets the broadest possible reach, you need a strong marketing strategy — and a strong marketing strategy starts with a solid marketing plan.
Why Do I Need a Marketing Plan for My Trade Business?
The average person is pulled in so many different directions that it can be challenging to capture — let alone hold — their attention. In order to give your trade business as many opportunities as possible to generate customer interest, you need to have an integrated marketing plan that will reach people across multiple channels — think email, social media, online ads, Google search results and more.
Whether you work for a larger company or run a one-person operation, have been in business for one year or 20, have prior experience with marketing or none at all, you need a functional marketing plan that will help lay the foundation for measurable results.
How to Create a Marketing Plan for Your Trade Business
There are three key steps to building and rolling out your marketing plan:
- Do your homework
- Structure your plan
- Execute your strategy
Step 1: Do Your Homework
Remember how we talked about the importance of preparation? We really meant it — so much so, that we even recommend that you prepare before building a marketing plan. Although it might sound like a major undertaking, all it requires is a little bit of research. This is what you need to do to get started:
- Check out the competition
- Perform a SWOT analysis
- Build buyer personas
- Learn your buyers' buying cycle
- Nail down your budget
1. Check Out the Competition
When it comes to marketing, it helps to know what you’re up against; you can learn a surprising amount from your competitors, both good and bad. To get the lay of the land, follow your competitors on social media, sign up for their newsletters (if they offer them), and find out what type of content they’re creating. For more in-depth advice, the search engine optimization experts over at Moz offer a great breakdown on how to conduct competitor research.
2. Perform a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis involves identifying your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and is a great way to figure out where you stand in the market, what your goals are and what your unique selling proposition (USP) is. If you’re having trouble identifying your USP, Fizzle has a great guide to help you get started.
3. Build Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is basically a profile of your ideal customer. It should include everything from what demographic they belong to and what level of education they’ve completed to what challenges they typically experience and where they like to spend their time. Creating buyer personas makes it easier to figure out who your target audience is and to tailor your marketing campaigns to that audience. For help building out your buyer personas, we highly recommend this list of 20 buyer persona questions from HubSpot.
4. Learn Your Buyers’ Buying Cycle
Once you’ve created a few buyer personas, the next step is to figure out how they think and, ultimately, what motivates them to choose one company’s services over another’s. HubSpot condenses the “buyer’s journey” into three stages:
- Awareness — The buyer realizes they have a problem that needs to be solved (e.g. a homeowner realizes they have a leaky pipe in their bathroom)
- Consideration — The buyer creates a shortlist of options to resolve their problem. (e.g. the homeowner looks up plumbers in the area who can fix the leak)
- Decision — The buyer decides which product or service to purchase (e.g. the homeowner chooses which plumber they want to work with)
Each of these stages presents an opportunity for your business. By targeting the right buyer with the right information — that is, valuable content about the problem they’re trying to solve — at the right time, you increase the likelihood that they’ll become a customer.
5. Nail Down Your Budget
Running a trade business can come with a lot of overhead costs, so it’s important that you figure out early on how much you can afford to spend on marketing, as this will help you determine which objectives to prioritize. A little can go a long way, so don’t be afraid to start small and scale over time.
Step 2: Structure Your Plan
Once you’ve completed your research, you’re ready to start building out the framework for your marketing plan. We’ve outlined the 14 sections that every trade business marketing plan should include below:
- Business information
- Competitive analysis
- Target market
- Buying cycle
- Marketing channels
- Search engine marketing (SEO)
- Key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Tactical plans
1. Business Information
This section should include general information about your business, including where you’re headquartered, your mission statement, who will be on your marketing team and so on.
What is it that you hope to achieve with your marketing strategy? Even if you don’t have a definitive answer to that question, it’s a good idea to jot down a few possible goals at the top of your marketing plan to help give it some direction. Aim for two main goals, and three to five supporting ones. Most importantly, make sure your goals are realistic, attainable and measurable.
3. Competitive Analysis
This is where you’ll share any key findings from your competitor research.
4. SWOT Analysis
Similar to competitive analysis, this is where you’ll share any key findings from your SWOT analysis.
What makes your business stand out from the competition? Why would a prospective customer choose to work with your business rather than someone else’s? It’s important to define your USP and emphasize it as frequently as possible, including on your website, in emails, in ads and so on.
6. Target Market
Who is it that you’re trying to reach? Don’t forget to refer back to your buyer personas to fill out this section.
7. Buying Cycle
How, when and where do your customers typically buy? Again, refer back to your research for this one.
How do people currently perceive your business? How would you like to be perceived? When it comes to branding, consistency is key — for example, if your website content reads as casual, friendly and relatable, but your marketing emails sound stuffy and formal, prospective customers will take notice. For more tips on how to ensure brand consistency, check out Vital's article on how to create a content style guide.
You only get one chance at a first impression, so it’s important that your website — assuming you have one — is both nice to look at and easy to use. As the home to your marketing content — think, blog posts, case studies, eBooks and so on — your website will play an integral role in your overall marketing strategy. When filling out this section of your marketing plan, try to think about what improvements could be made to your website design in order to make it more effective.
What kind of content do you plan to create? In this case, content is just the written words used to convey your brand and engage with your target audience; it can be anything from blog posts and website copy to emails and newsletters.
When creating content, prioritize informing your audience over selling to them. Although that might sound counterintuitive given that the whole point of marketing is to turn prospects into customers, you’re more likely to build trust with educational content than content that is purely promotional. Google also typically ranks informative content above sales-y content.
You’ll also want to create different types of content for different stages of the buying cycle — for example, eBooks and blog posts are best for buyers in the Awareness stage, whereas case studies and product comparisons are better for those in the Decision stage.
11. Marketing Channels
Which channels will you use to market to your target audience? Email? Social media? Through your website? A combination of the above? The best way to approach this is to keep your target audience in mind — for example, if your target audience spends a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram, it might make sense to invest in a pay-per-click ad campaign. If your target audience tends to avoid social media, email marketing might be the better bet.
12. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Which terms or phrases is your target audience most likely to search for when trying to find a solution to their problem? For example, if you’re a carpenter, it could be as simple as “carpenter near me” or “carpentry services.” It’s important to define these keywords and incorporate them into any marketing content you create, as it will help boost your search rankings and, as a result, increase traffic to your website.
13. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
What metrics do you intend to use to monitor your progress? The saying “You can’t improve what you don’t measure” (and variations of it) gets thrown around a lot, and for good reason. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether your marketing efforts are successful if you don’t have something concrete to anchor to. Figure out which KPIs you want to use, monitor them closely and report back on a regular basis to see what’s working and what isn’t.
14. Tactical Plans
This essentially involves creating a plan for your plan. What we mean by that is: You need to decide which marketing campaigns to focus on and create a tactical calendar for them. For example, let’s say you decide to do what those of us in the business call a lead nurture campaign — basically, a series of emails designed to gather information about a prospect and guide them through the buying cycle. You don’t want to send all of these emails at once and risk alienating a prospective customer, so it’s important to schedule them out over the course of weeks, or even months. You’ll want to define that schedule and include it in your tactical plan.
Step 3: Execute Your Strategy
With your marketing plan complete, you’re ready to put your marketing strategy into play. We hope this guide has been helpful and encourages you to remember that your marketing plan is a guideline, not gospel — feel free to tailor it according to your trade business’ unique needs and update it over time.
Now, go forth and prosper, friends.
About the Author
Chris Getman is responsible for the strategy and execution of digital marketing tactics for Vital Design's diverse client roster. Over the years, Chris has consulted on digital marketing strategies for some of the biggest brands in the world. He has been a featured speaker at marketing conferences and events such as the University of New Hampshire’s Digital Marketing Symposium, the UNH Digital Marketing Conference, and New Hampshire UXPA. Chris has also contributed as a guest writer on some of the top marketing websites around, including HubSpot and Convince & Convert.
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