Developing a marketing plan
Your marketing plan is an essential part of your overall business plan. When you start a business or introduce new products or concepts, the plan will help you:
; Assess the needs of your customers and develop a product or service to meet those
; Communicate the attributes of the product or service to the customer
; Establish distribution channels to get the products/services to the customer Developing your marketing plan will, first and foremost, help you think of all aspects of marketing; aspects which you could otherwise overlook. To produce a sound business plan you will need to outline things such as the nature of your customers, and how and why they will buy your product or hire your services. Secondly, your banker or lender will want to see the marketing section of your business plan before considering lending you money. You can purchase software to help you write your marketing plan and your business plan as a whole. Such software may include sample plans, marketing scenarios, and the ability to perform calculations. Equally, you can choose to write your plan in any word processor; even a pencil and paper can suffice for your first draft.
Styles, markets, and goals change and so should your plan. Your marketing plan should be readily accessible to consult, revise, and update. You should update your plan regularly, adjusting it according to business activities and predictions of new trends. 1. Before writing your marketing plan
Before you develop your marketing plan, you must first research the potential market for your product or service. Use the numbers, facts and findings of market research to back up statements in your marketing plan. The following articles can help you conduct research.
; Guide to market research and analysis
Discover how market research can help your business succeed and learn how to
conduct a variety of market research activities.
; Market research methods
Find out how to use popular research methods to do market research for your
; Designing a questionnaire
Get advice on how to design a survey questionnaire in order to gather market
; Types of survey questions
Examine different kinds of closed and open-ended questions that can be used in
; Online survey design guide
Get tips and guidelines on the design and implementation of web-based surveys. 2. Sections of a marketing plan
Executive summary — What is my overall plan?
The executive summary is an overview of the key points contained in your marketing plan and although it is written last, it should be positioned at the front of the plan. This summary is usually the first section that a potential investor or lender will read. You need to give proper attention to this important part of your marketing plan. The executive summary should:
; Include highlights from each of the other sections to explain the basics of your
; Be interesting enough to motivate the reader to continue reading the rest of your
; Be short and concise
Identify yourself — Who am I and what are my values?
If you haven't already done so in your overall business plan, you'll want to clearly describe who you are, what your business is about and its goals, and what has inspired you to start, buy or grow a business. For example:
; Include the company name, address, phone number, and names of owners/partners
; Indicate the business' vision, mission statement and beliefs (this should align with
your target market)
; Indicate the core values and goals of the business and its owner(s)
Describe the product or service — What need do I meet?
Detail how your product or service is unique or how it is better than models that already exist. If the product or service is not unique, maybe the location is ideal or a large market allows room for competition. Provide numbers, facts or the steps you took to come to these conclusions.
Identify your target market — Who are my customers?
Through research, identify the age group, gender, lifestyle and other demographic characteristics of the people who have shown interest in your product or service. Also from your research, provide statistics, analysis, numbers and supporting facts that show the reader that there is a demand for your product or service.
Who is your customer?
Before you begin selling something, you need to know who you are selling to. If you haven't determined who your target market is, you are likely to try to be all things to all people and end up with a product nobody likes or a service that doesn't meet anyone's needs.
When developing a general profile of your customers, you might want to define them by their demographic characteristics, such as:
; Age, usually given in a range (20-35 years)
; Marital status
; Location of household
; Family size and description
; Income, especially disposable income (money available to spend)
; Education level, usually to last level completed
; Interests, purchasing profile (what are consumers known to want?)
; Cultural, ethnic, racial background
For example, a clothing manufacturer may consider a number of possible target markets —
toddlers, athletes, grandparents, teenagers and tourists. A general profile of each of these possible markets will reveal which ones are more realistic, pose less risk and are more likely to show a profit. A test market survey of the most likely target groups, or those who buy for them, such as parents for babies and toddlers, can help you separate real target markets from unlikely possibilities.
Once you have defined your target customers, you must learn about their needs and preferences.
; What challenges do they have that could be solved with your product or service?
; What are their needs and expectations regarding this product or service?
; What types of things do they desire?
; What do they spend their money on?
; Where do they shop?
; How do they make spending decisions?
Those are just a few of the many things you might want to learn about your prospective customers.
To develop a profile of your customers and understand their needs, you will have to do some market research.
; Conducting market research
Learn more about market research, how it can improve your business decisions, and
how to conduct a market research campaign.
Know your competitor — Who else can woo my customers?
Most businesses must compete with others. Even if you are now the only player, before long you will most likely have competition. The trick is to know with whom you are competing and their competencies. Figure out what you do better and make sure your customers know about
it. You'll want to compare your own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) with those of your competition.
Detail your distribution and delivery channels — How will I deliver my product to my
Traditionally, customers shop at stores to find the products they want. Similarly, we often assume that we need to go out to a specific location for services such as a massage or a haircut. However, there is nothing that dictates this is how you should serve your customer. What is important is that you detail who the middle players are and how much they will cost. For example, you could decide to:
; Sell through a retailer, wholesaler, professional sales agent
; Sell through kiosks in schools, offices, public places, events
; Go to the customer's home or place of business
; Take orders from a catalogue or through the Web
Group your marketing activities — How will my message reach potential customers?
Create a table or chart and provide your estimate as to how much of your total marketing budget you plan to spend on each media type. In another table or chart, detail how much of your time you plan to spend on each. You could break down each group by specific media. Some suggestions are:
; Advertising (TV, radio, print publications, online publications, websites, billboards,
; Publicity (signs, stationary, branding, testimonials, referrals)
; Listings (business directories, telephone directories, online listings, association
; Sponsoring (research, community events, local charities, sports)
; Networking (get feedback from existing and potential customers and other industry
players; reach out to the public through online social networks; provide advice on
blogs and by speaking at public events; meet industry players at business events)
; Promotions (mail outs, samples, freebies, discount coupons, sales, displays)
; Internal marketing (employee rebates, sales incentives, referral incentives)
; Public relations and media relations
Learn how to spread the word about your business.
Outline how to overcome potential marketing challenges — What can I do about them?
Like any aspect of running a business, preparation helps you face a challenge. No matter how meticulously you've planned your marketing strategy, something unexpected can come your way. What you can do is brainstorm some possible surprises that could happen and write down what you could do about them. When the time comes, you'll be happy you were prepared.
The following are some marketing challenges for which you could plan:
; Regulations for new packaging/labelling/claims
; Shift in trends and buyer preferences
; Environmental issues related to your business
; Negative business image or perceptions
; Changes to the economy and disposable income (yours and that of your target
; New competition
; Marketing, advertising and sales regulations
Attracting new customers to your business is essential. But you need to follow a few
rules along the way.
How much should I charge? Indicate your price or pricing strategy —
Determining the right price is yet another aspect of marketing. If your price is too high, you may alienate customers, and if it's too low, you may give the impression that your product or service is cheap and below standard. Some businesses purposely charge a very high price so that their customers feel that they are getting a better product or service. Some sell at a slightly higher than average price in order to be able to offer exceptional customer service. Project where you will be in one, three, and five years — What are your long-term goals?
If you start out small and want to remain small, be clear about this in your plan. If your long term goal is to expand over the years, gain an international market or sell franchising rights, be clear about this as well. Detail the steps you plan to take to grow your business and how you will adjust your marketing activities to reach these goals.
; Planning for business growth
You've decided it's time to expand, but there's plenty to consider before you begin.
These resources will help you make sound decisions that work for your business.