A marketing plan is a detailed plan that outlines specific marketing strategies for your business, or for a particular service, product, brand, or product line. Typically, a marketing plan includes:
- Analysis of “Three Cs”: Company, Customer, Competitors
- Market Segmentation (more below)
- Detailed Marketing Strategy with “Four Ps”: Product, Price, Place, Promotion
- Financial Projections
Start by analyzing the three Cs of marketing: Company, Customer and Competitors.
Company – an analysis of your own company is a great place to start. What are your particular strengths and weaknesses (it’s helpful if you’ve already completed a SWOT analysis!)? What is your market share?
Customer – who buys your products or services? What are their reasons for purchase? To the extent that you’re able, try to understand the customer’s mentality. Who buys your products and why they buy them can help dictate where and how you should market.
Competitors – which firms or businesses sell products or services that compete with yours, either because they are the same product or because they are substitute products? How and where are they marketed? Are the switching costs high, if a customer decided to switch between your product and a competitor’s (or vice versa)?
Your next step should be to evaluate the marketing mix for the product or service in question. The four Ps of the marketing mix are Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Each of these is a set of questions, but remember that they are also decision variables – that is, you have the power to make choices about the answers of all these questions.
Product – what are you selling? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What is the perceived difference between your product and your competitor’s in brand name or quality? Is the packaging eye-catching and relevant?
Price – What is the list price? Are there discounts or bundles that entice customers? Are financing or leasing options available? How does your product’s price compare to that of your competitors?
Place – Where does your product sell (distribution channels)? Where is your product placed within a store? Is your product warehoused in a way that is convenient to you and your customer?
Promotion – where are you advertising? How much is it costing you and what is your budget? What is your break-even point (how much product do you need to sell in order to cover the cost of ads)? Is your advertising effective? As a small business you may be limited in the amount of advertising analysis you can do – but there are simple things you can do. For example, advertising in two different places using two different web addresses (both of which route to the same site) can help you determine which location is receiving more traffic – and where you should be spending your budget.
If you’re interested in advanced steps, consider the ways in which your market may be segmented. Market segments are distinct groups of people, each of whom purchases your products but in different ways and for different reasons. For example, if you sell a 12-pack of washcloths, you may know that your product is purchased both by homeowners (primarily mothers) and also by auto mechanic shops. Obviously, these two segments purchase your product for different reasons, in different places, and in different quantities. How can you leverage your understanding of these differences to enhance your marketing plan? Things to consider about each market segment include:
- Who they are
- What percentage of the product’s sales they represent
- Why they buy the product
- How they use the product
- How to reach the segment
- How sensitive they are to price fluctuations
U.S. Small Business Administration on Developing a Marketing Plan
MissouriBusiness.net on Creating a Marketing Plan
Inc.com‘s marketing section also has plenty of resources