What Is a Marketing Plan?

Marketing Plan Explained

Shot of a team of businesspeople having a meeting in a modern office
•••

 Cecilie Arcurs/Getty Images

A marketing plan is 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. Learn how you can use it for your small business.

What Is a Marketing Plan?

An effective marketing plan helps a company understand the market that it targets and the competition in that space; understand the impact and the results of marketing decisions; and provides 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.

What Is Included in a Marketing Plan?

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.

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.

The SWOT analysis should also highlight areas where the business will need to improve to compete more effectively.

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.

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 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.

Unique Selling Proposition and Strategies

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

Strategies are the approaches you want to take to achieve those 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 and then providing great customer service to help them get started.

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.

Before Developing Your 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.

Key Takeaways

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