Plans, plans, plans – some love them, some hate them. What’s certain is that your new startup venture is unlikely to survive without them and a marketing plan is just as essential as a business plan, laying out the practical elements of your strategy for bringing your products and services to the buyers.
The overall aim of your marketing plan is to clearly describe the customers you’re targeting, exactly that you are selling to them, and how you’ll reach them (i.e. what marketing methods you’ll use).
Templates can be found for most business types on the internet, but the essential components for most businesses first marketing plans should include:
A detailed description of your products and services.
The demographics of your target market (age, gender, education, income/class bracket, etc.)
Your target geographic market (i.e. where are they?)
Your pricing schedule for your products and services.
How you will sell your products services (store, online, mail order, etc.)
Your marketing budget.
Your competition and your competitive edge (including details of the competitors’ products and
services, a comparison with your own, and what you offer that can be leveraged to put you ahead).
The range of marketing tools available to you (e.g. website, pay-per-click advertising, press releases,
community activities, conferences, etc.)
Naturally, you can’t conjure your marketing plan out of thin air (well, you can but it’s unlikely to be as helpful as a plan based on solid information). You’ll need to draw on various data sources; the following list is a good start.
Your catalog or listing of products and services. The results of your market research (reports and data plus any primary research you have undertaken or
commissioned to establish the market for your specific products and services).
If you have employees at this stage, ask them for their opinion of the most important and/or potentially profitable issues that should be included in the plan.
What trends are evident in the marketplace: in terms of customer demand, competitor activity, new technology/capabilities, etc.
Finally, this may be your first marketing plan but you may have been in business for a period of time, in which case, consider your latest financial and sales reports.
Before you begin to pull all this information together and create a reasoned set of objectives and planned activities, it’s useful to be crystal-clear on your overall marketing goals for the coming year. This gives you and your plan a helpful focus. A marketing plan may aim to: introduce a new product or service line, extend the market for an existing product or service, break new territory or territories, boost sales for a particular product or service, bundle or cross-sell one product with another, win contracts with new clients, raise prices while maintaining sales, and so on. The important point is to be clear on your plan’s focus and then to express that focus in the form of measurable objectives… “To sell more of product X” shows intention but is too vague; “To boost sales of product X by 25% within the next 12 months” is clear and trackable.
Which brings us to a key point: drawing up the marketing plan is only the first step. Not only must you follow through and carry out the planned marketing activities, but you must also measure and evaluate the results. This enables you to assess the accuracy and viability of the plan and amend it where necessary, taking into account what’s actually occurring in the ‘real world’ of your business.
Once your objectives are clear and precise, you can drill down into the detail of potential marketing activities and decide which tactics for which products and services are most likely to achieve your desired results. What media will you use? How will you generate fresh interest? What are your key competitive messages and how will they be heard by the right people? Who can help you? What can you do for them (is there a possibility of a marketing partnership?) This phase is the one in which you populate your plan with specific actions to be taken by specific dates – again, measurable activity – which will drive your business toward its goals.