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What is a Marketing Plan?
A formal marketing planning process provides structure and precision for making marketing decisions.
The marketing plan gathers and distills the knowledge of the company in one document and charts a path to achieve the company’s objectives. Specifically, the marketing plan answers the following questions:
What economic and business environment are you experiencing?
What opportunities and problems are you facing?
What business objectives do you expect to achieve?
What exactly do you sell?
Who are your customers?
Why should they buy your product or service rather than your competitors’?
How will you communicate your product or service to your customers?
Who will do what, when?
How are you going to measure your progress so you can learn from the experience?
Depending on the size and sophistication of your company, your marketing plan may be just a few pages or, with supporting material, run into hundreds of pages. However, even in the largest and most sophisticated company, the marketing plan document should be clear, concise, and state the few key strategies that the organization will be undertaking.
Your marketing plan acts as a road map for the next 12 months -- it awakens new possibilities and provides a sense of direction at the same time.
The following is a description of what a typical marketing plan covers
Your marketing plan overview is a brief description of your plan, explaining your goals and assumptions implicit in the plan, and the major actions you will take to achieve your marketing goals. This will give the reader a short preview or synopsis so they at least have a general understanding of what your plan is trying to accomplish and why.
Company Vision or Mission Statement
You will discuss the philosophy of your business, who you wish to serve, why you wish to serve them, and the manner in which you will conduct business. The Vision or Summary describes why you are in business in the first place.
This section will discuss the major marketing objectives you will accomplish through your plan in quantifiable terms along with a discussion of your budget and the major actions or marketing initiatives you will undertake to accomplish those objectives.
A Discussion of Your Market
This section talks about the identified needs of the market and how your products and services meet those needs. The more you know about the customers you hope to serve and the better your market research, the better your plan will be.
Market Segments, Market Segmentation Strategy,
Discussion of Needs and Requirements
Here you will analyze your overall market and discuss the identified market segment(s) based upon their different needs and wants. You can never understand too much about the needs and requirements of your market since they are likely to be very diverse – so the more you can subdivide your market and understand its unique needs, the better.
A sales goal is established. It is impossible to create a successful plan if you do not know what the goal is. You should set sales goals within each market segment and for each of your product/service lines.
A full discussion of each of your products and services is documented here and how each uniquely meets the needs and wants of your market. What are you selling? What is unique about it? Why would anyone buy it?
Thus far, your plan has talked about what you need to do. Now your plan must discuss how you will do it. This section will discuss how you plan to reach and communicate with each of your market segments and how you will treat each differently. Discuss how you will position your company based upon your Unique Selling Proposition. Your Unique Selling Proposition is what you do that is different from anyone else and the single most important reason you are different from any other company - how you will differentiate yourself from your competition.
A full discussion and examination of how you will deliver your products and services to your customers is constitutes this section. It would be a good idea to understand your customers' preferred delivery method and try to base your distribution on that model.
A full and complete analysis and discussion of your competition is documented here. Who are they? What do they do? How do they do it? What are their strengths? What are their vulnerabilities? Who are their customers? Why do their customers buy from them?
A Tactical Plan
A detailed plan of all the tactics you will use and all the marketing advertising tools you will use. In other words, carefully consider how you will communicate with your market. Some of the marketing tactics you might wish to include are pricing, print advertising, public relations, publicity, direct marketing, direct mail, trade show exhibiting, Web and Internet marketing, outdoor advertising, and sponsorships.
A delineation of marketing tactics you will use and budgets for each of them. You have to know how much money you have to carry out your plan so you can be realistic about the tools and tactics you will use.
Discussion of Sales & Marketing Resources Available
Carefully consider the resources you have available to you as you prepare to execute your plan. Identify the financial and human resources you will need to translate your marketing plan into a series of tactical successes. This is the place to fully discuss your sales and marketing infrastructures and make sure they can support your goals.
Here you will discuss how you will objectively evaluate the results of each step of your plan – a detailed action plan. If you cannot measure the effectiveness of your marketing initiatives you will not know how to improve your marketing. You will build pre-defined evaluation periods into your plan at which point you will measure your results and adjust your plan accordingly.
Keys to Success/Critical Issues
A discussion of the few most important parts of your plan upon which your success will depend. What are the absolute essential things your plan must accomplish and why?
I like to include a discussion about strategic opportunities in the marketing plans. You probably will not know the specifics of opportunities that will present themselves in the future, but you should discuss how you will evaluate strategic opportunities when they arise. Ask yourself what other markets might present additional growth avenues for your business. How will you know if opportunities are right for your business? A great way to accomplish this is to use your company's mission or vision as a guide as to what will define a strategic opportunity worthy of consideration. You might also discuss ways to actively seek and uncover strategic opportunities.
"If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking."
- Benjamin Franklin
Copyright ©2005 by Ken Wilson All rights reserved
About the Author
Ken Wilson, founder and CEO of Wilson Marketing Group Inc., has over 31 years of practical consulting experience in business-to-business management and marketing. A member of the Institute Management Consultants, Ken has been awarded the designation of Certified Management Consultant (CMC), a globally recognized certification of professional achievement. Prior to founding the firm, Ken held executive positions with Honeywell, IBM and Nortel.
He has also been a member of the adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Business at the University of St. Thomas for over two decades, teaching courses in strategy, product management, and marketing, and has lectured on planning and strategy at the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management. Ken has written numerous articles on planning, strategy and marketing and has authored two books: Strategic Marketing Planning and Product Marketing Management. Ken has a Bachelor of Science degree in business from the University of Minnesota and an M.B.A. from Queens University.
He would be happy to answer your questions by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 763.476.2216.
Over 25 years experience providing strategy and marketing consulting to manufacturers and business-to-business clients.
Proven experience you can trust.