What It Is
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 the “Three Cs”: company, customer, competitors
- Detailed marketing strategy with “Four Ps”: product, price, place, promotion
- Action Plan
Why It Matters
It is tempting to market as you go, but the exercise of putting together a marketing plan clarifies who the customer or client is and what the goals of marketing are. This discipline can be translated into a marketing roadmap that takes your marketing budget further and makes execution easier.
Begin by getting clear on the unique space your organization fills 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 Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats 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)?
Next, bring the analysis down a level to think through some of the variables your organization has control over through the “four Ps.” 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 to say, you have the power to make choices about the answers to 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.
As you answer core questions about your space in the market and how you go about filling it, begin translating the analysis into goals. Based on your analysis, identify the best ways to address your customer base and opportunity. Set reasonable high-level goals to aspire to with your marketing budget.
Now, create a project plan. Based on the goals you’ve identified, what are the core activities that will enable your organization to achieve its marketing goals? When do these activities happen? Are they ongoing or specific events? Put them into a calendar format. Identify any core tasks and staff members that should be involved and obstacles of which to be aware.
Check in on goals as you go. Was an activity worth it? Did it help achieve stated goals? What would you change going forward? If any metrics are available to inform the success of the activity, record them and refine your plan accordingly.
Resources for More Information
- 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
Marketing plans help organizations spend marketing budgets more effectively and streamline their execution.