While marketing should not be expected to guarantee sales, it is essential to business success as it will increase awareness of your business and help to create long-term relationships with customers. A marketing plan can be a key factor in a successful marketing strategy as it explains how and when you will implement your strategy.
What is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a document that describes your business objectives and explains the actions you will take in order to achieve them. The document can help define where your business currently stands in the market and explain how you will get to where you want to be.
How can a marketing plan help my business?
A marketing plan can help you to decide exactly who your target market is and how you can best communicate with that market segment in order to gain business. It can also help you to review your objectives as time passes.
Should my marketing plan cover a certain timeframe?
Your marketing plan should give a schedule for you to follow to ensure you are meeting your objectives. It should be reviewed regularly as both the market and your company progress and change.
What should a marketing plan look like?
The structure of marketing plans is very similar to that of business plans. Marketing plans should contain the following sections.
Both marketing and business plans should begin with an executive summary. This should be a brief section describing the main content of the plan. While it is the first thing to appear in the document it should always be written last to ensure you have covered all relevant points.
The marketing plan should be introduced with a reminder of your business mission and an outline of your objectives. It should also give a brief overview of the strategy you will use to succeed.
Internal and external analysis
This section should describe the environment your business operates within. There are various models that can be used for analysis, but the most common methods of analysis are PESTEL and SWOT. PESTEL analysis examines the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal issues that are likely to affect your business. SWOT analysis identifies your business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Business owners should always aim to set themselves objectives using the SMART model. This model will give you the opportunity to assess your objectives and if they are unrealistic, adjust goals accordingly.
Specific – you should always know exactly what you are aiming to do
Measurable – you must be able to check whether you have achieved an objective
Achievable – your objectives must be within your reach using the resources you have available to you
Realistic – it is unlikely that a new business will, for example, receive a million page views on their website in the first month
Timed – businesses should always set themselves deadlines to ensure action is taken
Strategy and Tactics
After you have described your objectives you should describe your strategy in detail. This can include how you will approach different market segments, how you intend to expand into new segments and how you will position yourself in the market.
You should then explain how you will implement your strategy. This should be done by concentrating on the seven Ps. Traditionally businesses only used the first four Ps, but using the three further Ps can provide further detail.
- Product – what you offer and if it meets customer needs
- Price – whether you will price your product similarly to competitors or differentiate
- Promotion – channels you intend to use
- Place – how you will communicate with your audience
- People – whether your employees are knowledgeable about your product
- Processes – whether your service is appropriate for what your business does
- Physical evidence – how your premises and employees look can alter customer perception
In order for your marketing plan to help you implement a successful strategy it should give deadlines for each stage of the plan. It should also describe the resources required, costs and how you will control the progress of the plan.