If you think that developing a strategic marketing plan is something only big, fancy corporations need to do, think again. You need one, too! It’ll help you better understand your business, your customers and your strategy for success.
Most people fall into the trap of thinking that “marketing” just means advertising, PR or promotion. But marketing and a marketing plan is so much more than that, and includes everything from understanding the market to which you’ll sell your products and services, to choosing specific tactics you’ll use to reach that market (which is actually where things like advertising come into play – they’re tactics!).
Here’s the marketing plan sections you’ll be writing:
- Overview or Summary – no longer than one page, the summary should briefly describe your business and the major points of your plan (so write it last)
- Situation analysis – a detailed and brutally honest assessment of your market, your competitors, and the opportunities and challenges for your business
- Marketing strategy – your specific business revenue goals, as well as a strategy for tackling the market opportunities you identified in the situation analysis
- Marketing tactics – your action plan for executing on the strategy you outlined in the previous section
- Marketing budget and timeline – the projected costs and timeline related to your marketing tactics
Simply put, your situation analysis is the foundation of your marketing plan, and gives a clear “lay of the land” for your market and business. Remember all of that market research and competitive analysis you did for your business plan? The good news is, you get to use it again! For your situation analysis, clearly define:
- Your potential customers, including current market size and projected growth
- Your competitors, including current and projected market share, and product or market segment focus
- Your realistic assessment of your own business, including both strengths and weaknesses, with a summary of your plan to overcome the weaknesses
When you decided to start your business, you undoubtedly found an unmet or underserved need in your target market, and felt that you could address that need. The marketing strategy section is where you actually spell out how your business is going to do just that, by setting goals and high-level strategies.
Start by setting the goals for your business, typically for at least one year. Make them realistic, achievable and measurable. No sense in setting yourself up for failure right out of the gate. State them in simple, straightforward terms – for example, “ABC Widgets will achieve $100,000 in sales of Widget A by the end of this year.”
Wrap up the strategy section of your marketing plan by outlining the particulars of your business offering – in marketing parlance, you’ll be defining what are known as the “four Ps” for your business:
- Product – description of your product or service, including features and benefits
- Price – initial pricing strategy
- Place – distribution channel for your product or service, i.e. where you’ll sell
- Promotion – the methods and channels used to reach customers and let them know about your product or service
To take your marketing plan to yet another level of detail, you’ll dream up some tactics to actually meet the goals you set in the previous section. Common marketing tactics include advertising (print, online, radio, etc.), trade show or event attendance/participation, public relations, grassroots and viral marketing campaigns and email marketing.
As you choose your tactics, summarize what it is, why you should use it, what you expect to get out of it, and how much it’s going to cost. Finally, set a timeline for each tactic and pick a team member to champion getting it done.
Marketing budget and timeline
Wrap up your entire marketing plan with a bow by summarizing your costs and timelines from the previous section. And then measure, measure, measure. Check your marketing budget at least monthly, and determine whether you’re getting the return you expected from each tactic. It’s never too late to make some changes to your marketing plan.
Your marketing timeline can help you understand if your tactics are driving any sales. Compare sales during timeframes when you’ve done some marketing activities and check for any growth to see if there was an impact.
Writing a marketing plan should become at least a yearly ritual for your business. Not to mention that it’s probably a good idea to revamp your marketing plan when you are releasing new or significantly changed products or services. Just remember that writing a marketing plan is time well spent for any sized business, because it’s the process for thinking honestly and thoroughly through how you’re going to connect with your customers.
Donna Marcella is a freelance writer for StartupNation.
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