Definition of a Marketing Plan
According to The Marketing Plan Handbook, by Marian Burk Wood, marketing plans are comprehensive documents that summarise marketplace knowledge and the strategies and steps to be taken in achieving the objectives set by marketing managers for a particular period.
What A Marketing Plan Is Not
A marketing plan is not a spreadsheet of activities. It’s not an editorial calendar. It’s not a list of campaigns. It’s not a budget or set of goals. It’s not something you think you have in your head.
Below are the four essential topics that must be covered in your marketing plans before you proceed with any specific marketing activities, including content marketing, social media, email promotion, websites, or any other “next big thing” emerging on the marketing landscape.
- Assess the current situation:
- Determine what resources you have available.
- Analyse and summarise your market space(s).
- Analyse your business’ internal strengths and weaknesses.
- Analyse external opportunities and threats.
- Assess the competition and competitive environment.
- Assess the macro environment in terms of social, economic, political, and technological opportunities and challenges.
- Identify critical issues to be addressed in your marketing activities.
- Your business mission and vision
- Your overarching business objectives
- Your marketing objectives
- A description of your target market and customers (i.e., buyer personas)
- Your unique positioning statement
- Your unique value proposition
- Your product messaging
- Your pricing strategy
- The channels you will communicate across
- Your promotion plans
- Budgets and resources
- Critical success factors
- Key performance indicators
- Your preferred technology solutions and platforms
Describe Your Target Audience
Developing a simple, one-paragraph profile of your prospective customer is your next step. You can describe prospects in terms of demographics—age, sex, family composition, earnings and geographic location—as well as lifestyle. Ask yourself the following: Are my customers conservative or innovative? Leaders or followers? Timid or aggressive? Traditional or modern? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what I offer? In what quantity?
If you’re a business-to-business marketer, you may define your target audience based on their type of business, job title, size of business, geographic location or any other characteristics that make them possible prospects. No matter who your target audience is, be sure to narrowly define them in this section, because it will be your guide as you plan your media and public relations campaigns.
List Your Marketing Goals
What do you want your marketing plan to achieve? For example, are you hoping for a 20 percent increase in sales of your product per quarter? Write down a short list of goals—and make them measurable so that you’ll know when you’ve achieved them.
Develop The Marketing Communications Strategies and Tactics You’ll Use
This section is the heart and soul of your marketing plan. In the previous sections, you outlined what your marketing must accomplish and identified your best prospects; now it’s time to detail the tactics you’ll use to reach these prospects and accomplish your goals.
A good marketing program targets prospects at all stages of your sales cycle. Some marketing tactics, such as many forms of advertising, public relations and direct marketing, are great for reaching cold prospects. Warm prospects—those who've previously been exposed to your marketing message and perhaps even met you personally—will respond best to permission-based email, loyalty programs and customer appreciation events, among others. Your hottest prospects are individuals who’ve been exposed to your sales and marketing messages and are ready to close a sale. Generally, interpersonal sales contact (whether in person, by phone, or email) combined with marketing adds the final heat necessary to close sales.
To complete your tactics section, outline your primary marketing strategies, then include a variety of tactics you’ll use to reach prospects at any point in your sales cycle.
To identify your ideal marketing mix, find out which media your target audience turns to for information on the type of product or service you sell. Avoid broad-based media—even if it attracts your target audience—if the content isn't relevant. The marketing tactics you choose must reach your prospects when they’ll be most receptive to your message.
Set Your Marketing Budget
You’ll need to devote a percentage of projected gross sales to your annual marketing budget. Of course, when starting a business, this may mean using newly acquired funding, borrowing or self-financing. Just bear this in mind—marketing is absolutely essential to the success of your business. And with so many different kinds of tactics available for reaching out to every conceivable audience niche, there’s a mix to fit even the tightest budget.
One last point: Creating marketing plans is not just an exercise to be done once and then put on the virtual shelf. These are living, dynamic documents that should be referred to on a regular basis and updated as conditions or situations change.
Have you got your marketing plan?
How nimble is it?