Marketing Plan Definition
Every business needs a marketing plan
A marketing plan outlines the specific actions you intend to carry out to interest potential customers and clients in your product and/or service and persuade them to buy the product and/or services you offer.
The marketing plan implements your marketing strategy. Or, "the marketing strategy provides the goals for your marketing plans. It tells you where you want to go from here. The plan is the specific roadmap that's going to get you there. "
A marketing plan may be developed as a standalone document or as part of a business plan. Either way, it is a blueprint for communicating the value of your products and/or services to your customers.
Prior to Developing a Marketing Plan
You can't develop a marketing plan without market research. Market research guides the direction of your marketing plan, 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/or customer service, and determining the best ways to reach your target market via advertising and/or social media, etc.
What Goes Into a Marketing Plan
A typical marketing plan consists of the following sections:
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.
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 affecting the business now or may do so in future.
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 product(s) or service(s).
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 strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (known as 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 outline how the company will sell/deliver your products to customers. Methods of sales and delivery include retail, wholesale, direct to homes or businesses, or online.
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 percent 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/services to be sold, including product descriptions, benefits of the product/service versus the competition, pricing strategies, and plans for how the product/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.
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.
Examples: While a marketing plan is an important part of your business plan, every business should update its marketing plan regularly.