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Marketing plan

A marketing plan is a written document that details the necessary actions to achieve one or more marketing objectives. It can be for a product or service, a brand, or a product line.

A marketing plan may be part of an overall business plan.

Need for a Marketing Plan

The Marketing Plan is generally undertaken for one of the following reasons:

  • Needed as part of the yearly planning process within the marketing functional area.
  • Needed for a specialized strategy to introduce something new, such as new product planning, entering new markets, or trying a new strategy to fix an existing problem.
  • Is a component within an overall business plan, such as a new business proposal to the financial community.
 

Components of a Business Plan

Business strategy and Objectives

It's a good idea to introduce the main body of the plan with a reminder of your overall business strategy, including:

  • what your business is about (your business mission)
  • your key business objectives
  • your broad strategy for achieving those objectives

External and internal analysis 

A PEST analysis helps you to identify the main opportunities and threats in your market:

  • Political and legal changes such as new regulations
  • Economic factors such as interest rates, exchange rates and consumer confidence
  • Social factors such as changing attitudes and lifestyles, and the ageing population
  • Technological factors such as new materials and growing use of the internet

You also need to understand your own internal strengths and weaknesses. For example, the main strengths of a new business might be an original product and enthusiastic employees. The main weaknesses might be the lack of an existing customer base and limited financial resources. A SWOT analysis combines the external and internal analysis to summarise your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Your marketing objectives

Your marketing objectives should be based on understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and the business environment you operate in. They should also be linked to your overall business strategy.

Objectives should always be SMART:

  • Specific - for example, you might set an objective of getting ten new customers.
  • Measurable - whatever your objective is, you need to be able to check whether you have reached it or not when you review your plan.
  • Achievable - you must have the resources you need to achieve the objective. The key resources are usually people and money.
  • Realistic - targets should stretch you, not de-motivate you because they are unreasonable.
  • Time-bound - you should set a deadline for achieving the objective. For example, you might aim to get ten new customers within the next 12 months.

Marketing Strategy

 

If you understand the market well, you can probably break it down into different segments - groups of similar customers. For example, you can break the business market down into businesses operating in the same sector and/or of a similar size. For more information, see our guide on how to segment your customers.

For each segment, you need to look at what customers want, what you can offer and what the competition is like. You want to identify segments where you have a competitive advantage. At the same time, you should assess whether you can expect high enough returns to make the segment worthwhile.

 

Marketing Mix

 

Once you have decided what your marketing objectives are, and your strategy for meeting them, you need to plan how you will make the strategy a reality.

Many businesses find it helpful to think in terms of the four Ps:

  • Product - what your product offers that your customers value, and whether/how you should change your product to meet customer needs.
  • Pricing - for example, you might aim simply to match the competition, or charge a premium price for a quality product and service. You might have to choose either to make relatively few high margin sales, or sell more but with lower unit profits. Remember that some customers may seek a low price to meet their budgets, while others may view a low price as an indication of quality levels.
  • Place - how and where you sell. This may include using different distribution channels. For example, you might sell over the internet or sell through retailers.
  • Promotion - how you reach your customers and potential customers. For example, you might use advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.

 

Implementation 

 

The good marketing plan should include a schedule of key tasks. This sets out what will be done, and by when.

It should also assess what resources you need. For example, you might need to think about what brochures you need, and whether they need to be available for digital distribution (by email or from your website). You might also need to look at how much time it takes to sell to customers and whether you have enough salespeople.

The cost of everything in the plan needs to be included in a budget. If your finances are limited, your plan will need to take that into account. Don't spread your marketing activities too thinly - it is better to concentrate your resources to make the most of your budget. You may also want to link your marketing budget to your sales forecast.

 

Control

 

As well as setting out the schedule, the plan needs to say how it will be controlled. You need an individual who takes responsibility for pushing things along. A good schedule and budget should make it easy to monitor progress. When things fall behind schedule, or costs overrun, you need to be ready to do something about it and to adapt your plan accordingly.

 

Useful links

Sample Marketing Plans

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