What Is a Marketing Plan?

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Think of a marketing plan as a roadmap for introducing and delivering your product or service to potential customers. It does not need to be long, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money to complete, but it will take some research and effort. Putting in the work to create this marketing plan can help ensure a company's success later down the line.

An effective marketing plan will help a company understand the market that it targets and the competition in that space, understand the impact and the results of marketing decisions, and provide direction for future initiatives. Although marketing plans can vary depending on the industry, type of products or services, and the goals you want to achieve, there are certain essential elements that most plans include.

Summary and Introduction

This is a quick overview of the main points of the marketing plan. It should be a synopsis of what you have done, what you plan to do, and how you are going to get there.

Situation Analysis

Your situation analysis details the context for your marketing efforts. In this section you will take a close look at the internal and external factors that will influence your marketing strategy. Many companies do a SWOT analysis, which combines the external and internal analysis to summarize your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Business Objectives

An effective marketing plan will help support the overall business strategy and goals. In order to reach this sort of alignment, marketers must be clear on what these business objectives are and which aspects of them they can affect.

Marketing Goals

These goals will tie into the overall business objectives, but they'll focus only on the portions of the business that marketing can influence. For instance, if an overall objective of a company is to increase revenue from repeat business by a certain percentage in the next year, then the related marketing goal might be to get a certain amount of customers to sign up for a rewards program each month.

Target Market

The concept of target markets is one of the most basic, yet most important aspects of marketing. It is unrealistic to think that you can attract everyone, so you need to identify your ideal customers. What do they like? What don't they like? How old are they? Where can you find them? Getting specific about your target market and segmenting it into even smaller groups for specific promotions can help you decide where to commit resources and what kinds of tactics and messages to use.

Strategies

Strategies are the approaches you want to take to achieve your marketing goals. For instance, if you're trying to get a certain amount of people to sign up for a customer rewards program each month, your strategy may be to introduce new customers to the rewards program with personalized invites that highlight rewards that they may be interested in.

Tactics

These are the specific actions you will take to execute the strategies that you set. So, if your introduce new customers to the rewards program with personalized invites, then one tactic you could use is sending out emails that address each new customer by name and let them know about some specific rewards that they can get, along with a link to easily sign up for the rewards program.

Messaging Guidelines

The right messaging can help establish your brand's position in the market, help it stand out from competitors, demonstrate value to potential customers, and reach specific audiences. You can set some general messaging guidelines in your overall plan, then use them as a starting point to craft more specific messages for each campaign and different segments of your target market.

Budget

You must know what you can spend on your marketing campaigns and how much money your company is willing to put into different types of marketing efforts.

Tracking and Evaluation

This section of your plan should include plans and procedures for tracking each type of marketing activity you are using. Tracking helps monitor the effectiveness of each marketing activity and is especially helpful with your overall program evaluation. If you are not tracking and measuring your efforts then you are not marketing effectively.