How to Write a Marketing Plan
The Marketing Plan is a highly detailed, heavily researched and, hopefully, well written report that many inside and possibly outside the organization will evaluate. It is an essential document for both large corporate marketing departments and for startup companies. Essentially the Marketing Plan:
•forces the marketing personnel to look internally in order to fully
understand the results of past marketing decisions.
•forces the marketing personnel to look externally in order to fully
understand the market in which they operate.
•sets future goals and provides direction for future marketing efforts that
everyone within the organization should understand and support.
•is a key component in obtaining funding to pursue new initiatives.The Marketing Plan is generally undertaken for one of the following reasons:
1.Needed as part of the yearly planning process within the marketing
2.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.
3.Is a component within an overall business plan, such as a new
business proposal to the financial community.
There are many ways to develop and format a marketing plan. The approach taken here is to present a 6-Part plan that includes:
1.Purpose and Mission
3.Marketing Strategy and Objectives
5.Budgets, Performance Analysis and Implementation
This plan is aimed at individual products and product lines, however, it can be adapted fairly easily for use in planning one or more strategic business units (SBU). The page length suggested for each section represents a single-spaced typed format for a plan focused on a single product. Obviously for multi-product plans lengths will be somewhat longer.
It is assumed that anyone developing a Marketing Plan possesses a working understanding of marketing principles. If you do not, it is suggested you spend considerable time learning about basic marketing through the previous sections of the Principles of Marketing Tutorials.
Note, throughout the plan the word "product" is used. However, the information presented in the Marketing Plan tutorials applies to both products and services.
Part 1: Introduction
Part 1 of the plan is designed to provide the reader with the necessary information to fully understand the purpose of the marketing plan. This part also includes organizational background information, which may be
particularly important if the audience for the plan is not familiar with the company, such as potential financial backers.
This part of the plan contains two key components:
1.Purpose of the Marketing Plan
2.Organization Mission Statement
Some of the information, in particular the mission statement, may require the input of upper-management. The information in this part will prove useful later in the plan as a point of reference for material that will be introduced (e.g., may help explain pricing decisions). In cases in which there are separately operated divisions or SBU, there may also be mission statements for each. Purpose of the Marketing Plan
The main body of the Marketing Plan often starts with the planner providing the rationale for the plan. The tasks associated with this section are to (Length: 1 paragraph):
•Offer brief explanation for why this plan was produced
oe.g., introduce new product, enter new markets, continue growth
of existing product, yearly review and planning document, etc.
•Suggest what may be done with the information contained in the plan
oe.g., set targets to be achieved in the next year, represents a
departmental report to be included in larger business or strategic
Organization Mission Statement
For larger firms this may already exist in a public way (e.g., found in annual report, found on corporate website) but for many others this may need to be formulated.
The organization mission statement consists of a short, finely-honed paragraph that considers the following issues (Length: 1 paragraph):
•Identifies a stable (i.e., not dramatically changing every year), long-run
vision of the organization that can answer such questions as:
oWhy is the company in business?
oWhat markets do we serve and why do we serve these
oIn general terms, what are the main benefits we offer our
;e.g., a low price software provider may state they offer
“practical and highly affordable business solutions”
oWhat does this company want to be known for?
oWhat is the company out to prove to the industry, customers,
partners, employees, etc.?
oWhat is the general corporate philosophy for doing business?
oWhat products/services does the company offer?
•In developing the vision presented in the mission statement consider:
;How company started and major events of the company,
products, markets served, etc.
oResources and Competencies
;Consider what the company currently possesses by
answering the following:
;What are we good at?
;What is special about us compared to current and
future competitors (in general terms do not need to
;What do we do that gives us a competitive
;Consider the questions above in terms of:
;people, products, financial position, technical and
research capabilities, partnership/supply chain
;Consider the conditions in which company operates
;physical (e.g., facilities), equipment, political
regulatory, competitive, economic, technological,
Part 2: Situational Analysis
The situational analysis is designed to take a snapshot of where things stand at the time the plan is presented. It covers much of the same ground covered in the Preparing a Market Study tutorial, so those preparing a Marketing Plan should check this out as well.
This part of the Marketing Plan is extremely important and quite time consuming. For many, finding the metric needed in this section may be difficult, especially for those entering new markets. Anyone in need of numbers should look the Data Collection: Low-Cost Secondary Research
tutorial, which may offer ideas for inexpensively locating the numbers Marketing Plan writers may need. For those who can afford to spend to locate marketing metrics, the Data Collection: High-Cost Secondary Research
tutorial will also be of value.
The situational analysis covers the following key areas:
•Current Target Market
•Current Distributor Network
Analysis: Current Product(s)
May be able to skip this section if plan is for a new product and no related products exist.
Provide detailed analysis of the company’s product(s). (Length: 1-2 pages).
•Describe the company’s current product(s) offerings in terms of:
;Describe the main product features, major benefits
received by those using the product, current branding
;Describe pricing used at all distribution levels such as
pricing to final users and to distributors, incentives
offered, discounts, etc.
;Describe how the product is made accessible to final
users including channels used, major benefits received
by distributors, how product is shipped, process for
handling orders, etc.
;Describe promotional programs and strategies in terms of
advertising, sales promotion, personal selling and public
relations, how product is currently positioned in the
;Describe support services provided to final users and
distributors before, during and after the sale
Analysis: Current Target Market(s)
Examine in detail the company’s current target market(s). Obviously to do this
section correctly takes a great deal of customer-focused research. (Length: 2-
•Describe the target market approach:
oWhat general strategy is used to reach targeted customers?
Generally approaches include:
;mass market – aim to sell to a large broad market
;segmentation approach – aim to selectively target one
(niche) or more markets
•Describe demographic/psychographic profile of the market: oProfile criteria may include:
;gender, income, age, occupation, education, family life
cycle, geographic region, lifestyle, attitudes, purchasing
•Describe the following characteristics of targeted customers: oNeeds/benefits sought by market
;Consider answers to these questions related to
customers using the product such as:
;who is using the product?
;why do they use the product?
;when do they use the product?
;how is the product used?
;Evaluate how customers perceive the product in relation
to competitor’s products or to other solutions they use to
solve their problems
;What is the target market’s attitude regarding the
;What is the target market’s attitude regarding the general
;i.e., exam the general attitude regarding how
products from all companies serve the target
•Describe the purchasing process:
oHow does the target market make their purchase?
;What does the decision-making process involve?
;What sources of information are sought?
;What is a timeline for a purchase (e.g., impulse vs.
oWho makes the purchase?
;Does user purchase or is other party responsible (e.g.,
parent purchasing for children)?
oWho or what may influence the purchase?
•Provide market size estimates:
oKeep in mind these are estimates for the market not for a
;Provide size estimates for the potential market
;What is the largest possible market if all buy?
;Provide estimates of size for the current target market
;What percent of the potential market actually
;Provide estimates of future growth rates
;At least through the timeframe for the plan (e.g., 1
year) but most likely longer (e.g., 3-5 year
Analysis: Current Distributor Network(s)
This may not apply if company does not use distributors.Evaluate how the
company’s product(s) is distributed. Clearly marketing plans for a service
company may not have much detail here but this section will most likely have
some relevance even for service firms (e.g., package delivery services, online
legal service, etc,). (Length: 2 pages).
•Describe the channels/supply chain employed to sell and deliver the
product: (Note: internal sales force discussion should appear under
company promotion in Current Product Analysis above.)
oOptions may include:
;direct to customer
;indirect via a distributor
;combination of both
•What are the needs/benefits sought by distributors?
•Describe the product’s role within the distributor network:
oHow is this product used within the distributor’s business?
oHow important is product within the distributor’s strategy?
oHow is product positioned?
;e.g., how does distributor view product in relation to
oAttitudes and perceptions about company's product(s)
oHow does distributor network make their purchase?
oWho or what influence distributor’s purchases?
oWho makes up the distributor network?
Analysis: Current Competitor(s)
Examine the main competitors serving the same target market. For much more detail on analyzing competitors see the Preparing a Market Study
tutorial. This section may also benefit from the use of comparison tables. (Length: 3-4 pages).
•Describe direct competitors in terms of:
oTarget markets served
oDistribution including the distributor network
•Discuss competitor’s strengths and weaknesses:
oMay need to consider much more than just marketing issues
;target market perception
;R & D capabilities
•Discuss competitive trends:
oMay need to include discussion of future competitive threats Analysis: Current Financial Condition
Much of this information can be handled within a graphical format, such as tables and graphs, though a paragraph explanation of each is generally required. Make sure to include total dollar (or other currency) amounts as well as percentage market share. For more detailed marketing plans or for plans for seasonal products, providing monthly or even weekly sales figures may be required. Provide a spreadsheet-style layout showing detailed breakdown of marketing revenues and expenses. (Length: 2-4 pages).
•Current Sales Analysis
oOverall industry sales and market share (for at least the last
;total market sales
;total for company’s product(s)
;total for competition
oBy segments/product categories
;total for segments/product categories
;total for company’s product(s)
;total for competition
oBy Channels of Distribution
;total for each channel
;total for company’s product(s) by channel
;total for competition by channel
oBy Geographic Region
;total for each region
;total for company’s product(s) by region
;total for competition by region
;For highly detailed plans break out into categories as
shown above in the Current Sales Analysis section. oMarketing Expenses
;Direct – those expenses that can be tied to the
;Indirect or Proportional – generally administrative
or broad marketing expenses that may be
assigned to a product based on some established
criteria (e.g., a product’s percentage of overall
company sales) Note: not all companies follow this
;For highly detailed plans break out into categories as
shown above in the Current Sales Analysis section.
Analysis: External Forces
Describe trends, events, conditions that are external (usually uncontrolled by
the company) that may impact the company’s product(s) or the market.
(Length: 1-2 pages)
•Areas of consideration:
osocial and cultural
olegal, regulatory, ethical
In an effort to provide an easy to visualize summary of the product(s) consider using one or more of the following commonly used product/market analysis tools. (Length: 1 page)
• Planning With the Product Life Cycle
• Boston Consulting Group Growth/Share Matrix
• General Electric Market Attractiveness Matrix
Finally, summarize all information in the Situational Analysis. (Length: 1 page)
•Provide a SWOT analysis for the company’s product(s) that includes:
Part 3: Marketing Strategy and Objectives
Those reading a marketing plan need a clear picture of the direction the product will take. Also, they want to see that some accountability has been built into the plan so that the plan is not just fluff but results in measurable actions. The best way to provide this information is through a section devoted to identifying the key strategies and objectives for the product(s). This section consists of three major issues:
Identify Marketing Strategy
In this section identify the general marketing strategy under which this plan is being developed. It is very possible that a product will follow more than one strategy (e.g., sell more of same product to current customers but also find new customers in new markets). Plan developers may get some guidance and also rationale for strategy by examining results from the Situational Analysis. In particular, planners may look to strategies that are suggested within the scope of Product/Market Analysis Tools. Additionally, planners should refer to the Mission Statement in Step 1 to insure strategies are in line with how the company views itself. (Page length: less than 1 page)Strategies generally fall under one of the following (or in some cases more than one) ideas:
•Market growth (see ansoff matrix)
oHigher market penetration
;Sell more to same market (i.e., get current customers to
buy more or buy more frequently)
;If overall market is growing this may not
necessarily mean a growth in overall market share
;If overall market is not growing this means a
growth in overall market share
oFind new markets
;Sell to markets or market segments not previously
oDevelop new products for existing customers
oDevelop new products for new customers
oTechniques to keep the status quo
;Primarily used in times of economic decline or market
;Generally requires the taking of market share from others
in the industry
oTechniques to contain costs or operate more effectively
;Can work in combination with market growth or market
oTechniques to depart a market
Determine Financial Objectives
For many organizations the ultimate goal of the marketing plan is the effect it will have on the bottom line. Measures reflect income statement items and common ratios. (Page length: less than 1 page)
oby volume and growth percentage
oby volume and growth percentage
ouse common financial ratios and other metrics associated with
marketing in the industry
Determine Marketing Objectives
Marketing success can be measured on several non-financial market metrics. These measure are important since these often shed light on underlying conditions and circumstances facing the company that are not easily seen within financial measures. For instance, a company may report strong sales for a product but market share information may suggest the product is losing ground to competitors. The marketing objectives section will indicate targets to be achieved across several marketing decision areas. To add additional strength to this section include marketing metrics where possible. (Page length: less than 1 page)
•Target market objectives
;rate of purchases
;size/volume of purchases
olevel of brand/company awareness
;(e.g., store traffic, website traffic)
;(e.g. sales promotions, product demonstrations)
;(e.g. cycle time, cost per call, closing rate, customer
oorder processing and delivery
;correct order rate
•Market research objectives
Part 4: Tactical Marketing Programs
This is the heart of the marketing plan. It contains descriptions of detailed
tactics to be carried out to achieve the objectives and goals established in
Step 3. It is typically the longest section of the plan, often representing 50% or
more of total page count.
In this section details and timetables are presented for six key decision areas: