The Most Important Piece of a Marketing Plan Is Your Targeted Customer Knowing and anticipating the wants and needs of your customers shapes all the other elements of your plan.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Knowing your target customer is the single most important job of any marketer, and it's a job that never ends. While it's something you should work on every day of the year, it's critical to document what you've learned about your customer over the course of the year.
As you write out this section of your plan, and then share it with colleagues, you should focus on four key areas: the universal truths that remain true year after year, factors that are new and different for the year, what's been trending and may in fact become an important issue to consider, and what you might expect to start to take shape over the course of the year.
1. Universal truths
Start by listing out the factors you've always known to be true about your customer -- things you can anticipate that will likely never change so you have to continually bake it into your plan. Remembering the core features of your customer gives you a good base for continuing the elements of your marketing plan that are likely to continue to work.
2. New and different
Add to your base knowledge with what you've learned this past year that might be new and different about your customer. This should include things that will likely change your plan for next year because you've learned something new about what your customer is looking to gain from your brand.
It's important to also highlight what you see brewing with your customers. Recognize issues that you see have started to take shape, but perhaps have not become universal quite yet. You'll want to keep on eye on these issues so that you can course correct your plan throughout the year as appropriate.
Lastly, identify what issues you think might happen this year, and therefore you want to be tracking in anticipation of the following year. Maybe you're getting a glimmer of some activity, but you're not sure if it'll take shape. These are issues that you want to keep an eye on for the future.
Let's take a look at a hypothetical example to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Imagine that we are writing a marketing plan for a U.S. car brand. Here's how those four categories could map out in theory.
Universal truths: Cars continue to be a status symbol. Customers continue to choose cars based on the statement that they want to make to others.
Trending: Choosing more efficient cars have become a new kind of status. It's not really about how much money you spend on a car, but more about the intelligence of your choice.
Trending: More and more customers are starting to use car-sharing services instead of buying a car of their own.
Expectations: Car services such as Uber will become more prevalent and could further dampen the car market in the future, as they take hold in more and more markets.
Hopefully you can see how understanding your customer and evolving your learning over time can really help your marketing plan to take shape. As we continue this series, we will show how this learning can influence the programs you create in your marketing plan.