Marketing Plan Definition

Every business needs an up-to-date marketing plan

chef looking over marketing plan on a tablet
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Simply defined, a marketing plan outlines the specific actions you intend to carry out to interest potential customers and clients in your product or services and persuade them to buy what you offer.

A good marketing plan outlines the steps needed to implement your marketing strategy. In other words, it takes the goals you've set and turns them into measurable steps, so you can figure out how you want to get from here to there.

You can develop your plan as a stand-alone document or as part of a business plan. Either way, it is a blueprint for communicating the value of your products or services to your customers.

Before Developing a Marketing Plan

You can't develop a marketing plan without market research. Market research guides the direction of all of your marketing efforts by giving you vital information on your potential customers (your target market) and the feasibility of your products and services.

Market research should include monitoring industry and economic trends, scouting the competition to determine how you can gain a competitive advantage in pricing and customer service, and determining the best ways to reach your target market via traditional advertising, social media, and other channels.

What Goes Into a Marketing Plan

A typical marketing plan consists of the following sections:

Executive Summary

The executive summary is a high-level overview of the marketing plan. This section should provide a brief summary of the plan for those who may not read the entire document.

Business Description

This section describes what the business is all about, including the location, names of the business owners, the current business situation (position in the marketplace), the company mission statement and core values, and external factors that are currently impacting or may eventually affect the business.

Target Market

The section profiles the customers the business intends to target. This includes:

  • The size of the market and future trends
  • Demographic information such as age, gender, religion, marital status, education level, family size, ethnic and cultural background, income levels, etc.
  • Customer interests, habits, wants, and needs, and how these factors relate to a demand for the company's products or services

Unique Selling Proposition

The unique selling proposition describes how the company will gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace by supplying one or more of the following benefits to customers:

  • Providing a unique or superior product
  • Delivering lower prices
  • Providing better customer service

SWOT Analysis and the Competition

This section compares the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (known as a SWOT analysis) with those of the competition, so the company can explain to customers why they should choose its products or services over those of its competitors. It also highlights areas where the business will need to improve to compete more effectively.

Distribution and Delivery Plan

Distribution and delivery outline how the company will sell and deliver your products to customers. Methods of sales and delivery include retail, wholesale, direct to homes or businesses, or online.​

Marketing Objectives

This section describes the company marketing objectives for the near future (typically one year in advance). Perhaps the goal is to increase sales by 25% by the end of the next fiscal year or achieve 40% of the market share in the local area for a specific product or service. Included is a high-level outline of the steps needed to achieve the desired results.

Marketing Action Plan

The action plan includes detailed information about the products or services to be sold, including product descriptions, benefits compared to the competition, pricing strategies, and plans for how the product or service will be promoted, whether using traditional methods of advertising or online using social media. Also included is information on how after-sales customer support will be provided.

Budget

Lastly, the marketing budget section includes a breakdown of the cost of proceeding with the marketing plan. The cost-benefit analysis demonstrates how implementing the marketing plan should result in increased sales and revenue. 

Keep Your Plan Current

A marketing plan is an important part of your overall business plan, and every business should update its marketing plan regularly. This will help guide your marketing efforts each year, and ensure that the marketing strategy you use lines up with the goals and plans you've made for the business.