Why Do I Need a Marketing Plan?

First, you will need to have a strong desire to be successful because all successful companies have a well planned and executed marketing plan. Many components comprise their marketing plans and they may vary depending upon whether you are a B2B company, B2C company, a manufacturer, a retailer, a service company, a reseller, a non- profit or other specialty business.

Marketing Research will be the first component for your marketing plan. You may be doing this in house or you may elect to hire a top marketing agency, a marketing consultant, or maybe a specific marketing research firm. You need to obtain and capture all data about your business along with your products and services to help you properly facilitate any potential marketing problems. You may also be able to get some marketing data from an industry trade association or from other businesses within your specific industry.

Most of your marketing research will fit into 5 or 6 categories: Surveys, Focus Groups, Interviews, Observations, Secondary Research, or Experiments/Field Trials. We will not go into specifics for each research category on this particular blog.

Regardless of the marketing research methods that are used, you need to uncover who your customers are or will be, you need to uncover what the demand is for your products or services, you need to know every competitor in the marketplace, and you need to know the market share for each company in your industry categories.

Once you have completed your marketing research, you will then be ready to start developing your marketing plan. We will discuss marketing plan components that will fall more general in scope as opposed to focusing on a specific niche category for a business.

You will need an Executive Summary to give a brief synopsis to summarize your marketing plan contents.

You will need to define your goals and objectives. We always encourage companies to make their goals S.M.A.R.T. which means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive with dates attached. Most goals are calculated on an annual basis. However, the more ambitious owners or executives will look ahead at 3, 5, and 10 year goals as well. And if you are in Japan, you will be setting 100 year goals.

You will need to develop or define important information about your company. In your business plan, you should have developed a Mission Statement, a Vision Statement, and a Culture Statement. If you did not develop these three items, you must create them immediately before continuing onward. It is vitally important that everyone knows about and buys in to these three company statements with all employee staff so that every person inside the business will communicate these items correctly to all external people outside of the business. You want their belief and confidence as high as the owners or top executives.

You need to know everything obtainable about your customers. This list will get you started. You will need their age, sex, marital status, income levels, education levels, geographic locations, where they shop, if they go to church, if they have kids, ages of children, political affiliation, what they like about your company, what they don’t like, why they shop with you, what they value about your products/services, what they like the most/least about products/services, and whether prospects are unaware of your brand or products/services. Customers want you to know certain things about them and if you do, they will remain loyal to you as you take time to know them.

You must know your competition in and out. Keep your friends close, but keep your competitors closer. You need to know all the things that you learned about your customers except fill in the blank for each competitor on all of those above items. Learn how you are the same/ different. Learn the similarities/differences about each product and service you offer. Learn how they sell or promote their products /services.

You need to define your location with a description of all advantages and disadvantages. I would include the operating hours and scheduling in this section.

You must develop a unique selling point for your business. You will need to provide details about every product/service that you provide and give their features/benefits/values.

You need to itemize your budget with breakdowns for advertising and promotions. Include any design, development for needed materials to facilitate the marketing. List the media outlets that will be used to execute your marketing plan and break out the online, social, e-mail marketing, e-brochures/e-catalogs, TV, print, radio, PR, tradeshows, sponsorships, philanthropic partnerships, direct-mail, telemarketing, and other outlets. I would also identify which components that will be completed in house and whether you will have an outside agency to help with your media buying and planning.

You will need to develop your pricing strategies for all of your products and services. Do you want to be higher or lower versus competitors? Do you plan to include labor/overhead/materials in costs? Be sure to list your pricing strategy for each product or service

A comprehensive marketing strategy will ensure your success because it will tell you how to obtain and keep customers, how to compete in your marketplace, and what resources you will use to achieve your goals and objectives.

How to Make a Marketing Plan

A successful business always makes a marketing plan before launching a marketing activity which can help in understanding the impact of various marketing decisions on its performance. Apart from analyzing current and past marketing decisions, this plan also provides direction for prospective marketing endeavors. In order to make a successful marketing plan, appropriate feedback is required from different departments of an organization such as finance, supply chain, and manufacturing department.

This feedback is necessary in order to identify that whether a plan will become successful in the future or not. Carrying out a successful marketing plan also requires gathering relevant data. Data collection is necessary to congregate information about various market changes. You must have data related to budget, sales figures, profit/loss, and current products or services.

After gathering adequate information to make a plan, you are required to make an executive summary that involves what should be done and how it should be done. Specify your marketing objectives as well in this plan. These objectives should be very concrete for example if you have illustrated that your plan will increase your sale then you should give concrete figures of this increase in sales as well.

In other words, you should define your objectives in quantitative terms. Using quantitative terms help in clarifying your goals and objectives. You are also required to become specific when you are depicting time period of making that plan till its implementation. The end results should also be made very clear and specific. Specificity in expressing your goals, objectives and results is necessary because it contributes in reducing ambiguity and vagueness of a this plan.

An analysis of the external and internal environment is also necessary to carry out a marketing plan. A SWOT analysis is one of the successful means of exploring strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats. An investigation of various opportunities present in the environment actually helps an organization in capitalizing them. However it is not possible for a firm to exploit every single opportunity from the environment, however a company must look into its strengths. The SWOT analysis also helps in deciding how to deal with various threats present in the market.

Defining target market is one of the important aspects of a marketing plan. Defining a target market involves various factors such as demographic variables and psychographic variables etc. The four Ps of marketing involve product, price, place and promotion. When making a marketing plan, it is also necessary describe that how these 4Ps will be designed to carry out a plan. Firms use various marketing activities to promote their product such as advertising and public relations. In the end, you will discuss how you are going to evaluate the success of your marketing plan.

How to Make a Marketing Plan

Marketing plans can vary in size and some of the largest companies on the planet will have plans that are quite detailed. There are no extremely right or wrong ways to make a marketing plan, as long as it is created in a professional manner.

Also the plan does not have to be completed in one sitting. Take as long as you need. Some companies might have taken months to make the appropriate marketing plan when they first got started. However, it does not really matter the length of time it takes to make it, but rather what are the essential components you would like to put inside of it.

When you are writing your company’s marketing plan, the plan should be allowed to cover at least until the next projected sales year. This will give your company time to evaluate how effective the plan was and make any changes for the upcoming year. Therefore, aim to have your marketing plan compiled and ready for the start of the new fiscal year. This way any issues that need to be changed, can be done right at the beginning. As you modify your plan, you can allow it to become more advanced by inserting a section that outlines where the company would like to be within the next three to five years. What this does is sets a goal that the company can work towards.

Keep in mind that it is essential to have it readily accessible to all of the key decision-makers of the company. This can mean having it bound or placing it within a folder. Once you have made your plan, it is essential to review it to see if the company is sticking to the key objectives that were listed and outlined within the plan. It will also be essential to use it to monitor how well the sale of the product is happening.

Keep in mind that writing a marketing plan is one of the key elements of your company’s future and should not be taken lightly. This is considered one of the areas of “advanced” marketing. Therefore, when compiling your strategy, also consider the challenges that your company can face if there is a sharp turn in the economy. This information should be clearly outlined, so that everyone knows what and how the solution is to be done.

It is vital to remember that a company should spend some time in producing a marketing plan. Some companies only produce a business plan, but fail to look at the relationship between marketing and the success of the business. Even though the marketing plan is just one area of the business plan, it should not be overlooked. This is the plan that you make that will be used to see the goals within your business plan come reality.