Having a marketing plan can shape the success of your business. Marketing is a critical function that attracts customers and makes them aware of your business. Seth Godin wisely explains that: “Marketing is a contest for people’s attention”.
Winning that contest requires planning. As the old adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. And this brings us to the need for an effective marketing plan.
And there is a lot to plan, so making sure that you are aware of the essential ingredients that comprise a good plan is a very important activity. But what are the most important elements that make up a good marketing plan? A lot of it is based on background information and research, so you will need to make sure that you have that to hand before you start on the marketing plan, otherwise your plan may be built on false assumptions. In fact, Entrepreneur magazine suggests that you should have a number of items to hand before you start. These include sales people opinions, demographic and other data about customers, your company’s financial reports and information about your products and services. With all of this in hand you’ll be ready to start. Here are the ingredients you should consider including in your plan:
1. Market situation – this is an understanding of the size and geography of the market that you are planning to sell to, as well as an overview of competitors. You might want to consider including comments on how effectively you have been able to sell in this market in the past too. Are there gaps that are currently unfilled or unexploited in the market? These are worth putting into this section too. There are many sources of information on this, and no matter what your market a good search on Google should bring up some reliable and helpful statistics on market trends.
2. Opportunities – these might be areas in the market that you can exploit or open up to your benefit. For example, a competitor might not have quite the same strengths that you have and you can market these. There may be a new industrial estate opening up with businesses moving in that you can sell to. There may be a change in the law allowing you to sell your products and services in a different way. Brainstorming should identify the options.
3. Threats – there are a range of different threats in the market that can work against you. The most obvious is competitors, but there are others too. For example, are there new substitute products that customers can buy? These may not be exactly the same as your product but might do the job in a different way. Is there legislation forthcoming that might work against you? Are there threats in your own organisation, such as employee turnover? All of these factors should be weighed up here.
4. Positioning statement – this is just a fancy way of saying how your product is different from others in the market. When writing this consider how your product adds value. Is it cheaper? Better quality? Does it offer features or benefits that others do not? How are you positioning this with your customers?
5. Target market – from your information that you gathered on demographics and geography you should be able to narrow down your target market. Some companies say that their products or services are “for everyone”. This is not effective targeting, and makes it hard to market your product as you don’t really know who you are marketing to. It might be men over the age of 40, or women aged 18-25 who live in a certain neighbourhood. Whoever it is, make sure you know your market and what they want, and include this in the plan.
6. Goals – if you don’t have goals then you won’t be able to measure how you are doing. Set realistic goals that you can achieve, but that are a little stretching so that they aren’t just downright easy. After all, you want to push yourself to do better than last year, don’t you? How many more customers do you want to acquire? This could be a good goal. Don’t forget to track and measure success of the goals as well, to evaluate how you are doing and amend the plan.
7. Timeframe – goals, and your marketing plan more generally need a timeframe. Set a clear timeframe for the delivery of each of your goals and also delineate how long your plan will run for.
8. Channels – these are the means by which you market. Will you use social media? Internet advertising? Television? Whatever you plan to use, include the details in your marketing plan.
9. Budget – all good marketing plans have a clearly defined budget that shows how much will be spent and on what. Otherwise it is very easy to get carried away and spend too much.
10. Executive Summary – this is an at a glance summary of what your marketing plan contains, so that anyone can pick it up and understand what is within.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.