10 Questions You Need to Answer to Create a Powerful Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a significant portion of your overall business plan and is designed to identify your ideal target market and how you'll reach it. To create an effective plan, you'll also need to answer important questions about your goals, your business vision, and your strengths and weaknesses, so you can develop a marketing plan to support your overall business mission. Below are 10 questions to help you get clear on all the areas you need to cover in the plan, along with tips on how to create a marketing plan.

Marketing Strategy: How Will Your Marketing Plan Support Your Business Goals?

Before you start developing your marketing plan, you need a clear idea of what you want to accomplish. Your marketing strategy should be directly related to your business goals and objectives. Based on what you want to achieve, you need to develop a plan that outlines what you want to do and the details on how to do it.

For example, if one of your business goals is to expand your brick-and-mortar retail store into an e-commerce website, your marketing strategy could be to introduce your products to a new national market segment. You would then break down your strategy even further into short- and long-term objectives while defining your specific marketing message.

If you don't have them already, create specific business goals to get started. Also, make sure you are attaching a specific timeline to your goals, such as a 90-day plan. Having a time frame helps you create a more targeted and realistic marketing plan.

Mission Statement: What Are You Trying to Accomplish, and Why?

Your mission statement addresses what are you trying to do and why you are doing it. You may have already created a mission statement as part of your business planning process. If so, add it to your marketing plan.

Your mission statement is the foundation of your marketing plan. Although it may not play a direct role in your marketing activities, the mission statement provides focus to help you make sure that your marketing activities support the business's overall vision and objectives. It's an effective tool to refer back to whenever you start to question if you are still on the right track.

If you haven't finalized your mission statement yet, do so now.

Target Market: Who Are You Trying to Reach With Your Marketing Activities?

Your target market is the ideal buyer for what you're offering. In your marketing plan, you describe in detail the demographics, traits, and trends of your ideal buyer in defining your target market. Understanding these people will help you create marketing materials that attract them to your business, so you need to research who these people are and what makes them buy your products and services.

The more details you include as you determine who is in your target market, the more targeted your marketing plan will be.

Conduct market research to learn about your market including its size, location, socioeconomic status, and other details you need to know in relation to promoting your business.  Other information you should gather includes:

  • Who makes up your target audience
  • Where you can find them
  • What they value as important
  • What they are worried about
  • What they need right now

Create a sketch of the person or business that makes up your ideal customer. This exercise helps you identify specifics about that customer so you can personalize your marketing messaging.

Competitive Analysis: Who Are You Up Against, and Where Do You Rank?

One of the best ways to research your target market and prepare your marketing activities is to study your competition. Know who is out there selling what you do, especially if they are selling it to consumers who fit your ideal customer profile. Take a hard look at what your competitors are doing right, what they may be doing wrong, or what they're falling short on. You want to use this information to boost your competitive advantage by doing something new, different, or better than your competition.

One way to conduct a competitive analysis is with a SWOT analysis, a strategic tool that evaluates a company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Take time to measure the SWOT of your top competitors, as well as your own business.

Conducting a thorough analysis of your competition will help you identify areas where you can beat the competition, fine-tune your niche market, and make sure you are prepared to address competitive challenges.

Unique Selling Proposition: What Makes Your Business Unique?

Once you know what you're up against in the market, it's time to identify the approach that sets you apart from your competition

A unique selling proposition (USP) outlines how your business, products, or services differ, in a better way, from your competition's. The statement identifies what makes your business the better choice, and why your target clients should choose you over the competition.

This unique selling proposition tutorial will help you craft a USP for your business.

Pricing Strategy: What Will You Charge, and Why?

If you have a traditional business plan, you already have spent a great deal of time researching the best price point for your products and services. As part of the marketing mix, pricing information, including payment details, is included in your plan. 

In the pricing section of your marketing plan, give an overview of your product or service pricing and consider how other factors can impact supply and demand, thereby impacting price. 

In most cases, you want to be able to support your price points by providing your customers with a clear idea of the value and benefits they receive in return. A high-value proposition often leads a customer to make a purchase.

If you haven't identified your pricing perspective yet, do that now with an eye toward how it can fit into your marketing.

Promotional Plan: How Will You Reach Your Target Market?

As a key element of the marketing mix, your promotional plan covers your USP, how your product or service will be sold, how you'll let your target market know about your offer, and customer service plans.

When it comes to reaching out to your market, you should combine a variety of marketing activities, such as:

  • Advertising
  • Packaging
  • Public relations
  • Direct sales
  • Internet marketing
  • Sales promotions
  • Marketing materials
  • Other publicity efforts

Don't overdo it initially on promotional tasks. Select three to five specific activities that will best reach your target market and will help you execute your marketing strategy.

For example, if one of your goals is to provide five free initial consultations within three months, your promotional plan may include focusing on targeted leads through a cold calling campaign, a social media outreach plan, and a direct mail campaign. You can get some ideas on specific activities by browsing lists of 101 small business marketing ideas, but remember, you want to keep your target market in mind when developing your marketing activities. Tweeting won't work if your market isn't on Twitter.

Complete this step at the same time as the next step since your budget affects the activities you can include.

Marketing Budget: How Much Money Will You Spend, and on What?

While there are free marketing options, many areas of your marketing strategy won't be free such as website hosting or email list provider. As a result, you need a budget part of your marketing plan that has a breakdown of all costs related to marketing.

Unfortunately, most new small businesses have limited funds when it comes to marketing, so creating a budget-friendly promotional plan is vital.

You may have an annual marketing budget, but you should also break it down into separate monthly budgets so that you can track results and modify the promotional plan to focus on the activities that provide you with the biggest return on investment.

Action List: What Tasks Do You Need to Complete to Reach Your Marketing Goals?

Once your plan is done, you need to take action on it. You need to identify the tasks you need to do to put your business marketing in motion. Your action steps help you stay on track so that you can make consistent progress without having to start from scratch each time you want to market your business.

To formulate your marketing plan action list, follow the same process for managing your daily tasks: take the end goal, and break it down into a series of single-step tasks that lead you to achieve your desired result

For example, if one of the activities outlined in your promotional plan is launching a direct mail campaign, your first few action steps may look like this:

  • Determine the budget for the campaign
  • Clarify the objective for the campaign
  • Determine the type of direct mail to send
  • Hire a designer or firm to create collateral.
  • Write copy for the direct mail piece
  • Clarify the call to action
  • Create a draft of the direct mail piece

Your action list can take a number of different forms, as long as it's created in a way that supports progress. Each action item should also include a due date that works with the timeline you created for your marketing plan. Typically, the smaller the steps, the easier it will be for you to complete tasks and build momentum.

Metrics: What Results Have You Achieved, and Where Can You Improve?

Your small business marketing plan is useless if you don't track and measure the results. You don't want to waste time and money on marketing that isn't bringing you clients or customers. You want your marketing to bring in business and give you a positive return on investment (ROI).

The way you track and measure your results depends on your marketing tactics. For example, online marketing can be tracked using analytics and other internet-based metrics, while tracking offline marketing methods requires a more manual approach.

In general, the more standardized your tracking system, the more relevant your results will be. By measuring your results, you will become much better at tailoring your marketing activities to focus on the areas where you will have the most success.

Success for Small Businesses Starts With Good Planning

Building a profitable small business results from a good plan and hard work.

Success Tip

Planning, execution, and evaluation are all parts of running a successful small business.

Create a blueprint, follow it, fine-tune it, update it, and always use it as your guide for your small business success.