A marketing plan incorporates many aspects of a well thought out business plan. It differs in that it outlines your marketing in greater detail as well as your strategies for reaching customers, outmaneuvering your competitors and gaining market share.
A. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This is a summary of your marketing plan so you want to write it last. It should cover the overall essence of your plan without going into all the extensive detail. That’s right, another elevator speech. And yes, write this section last as it will be easier.
B. MARKET REVIEW
This is a compendium of the research you did on the market in general. If you already wrote one for the business plan just copy and paste it here as well. If not, start writing and try to keep it clear, objective and concise. Add data to support your analysis.
C. MARKET SEGMENTATION
You can’t be all things to all people. This part of your plan identifies your niche in the market so you know who is willing to buy your product or service. Your market can be segmented in any number of ways, according to price, quality, region, customer demographics, buying patterns, etc. Price and quality are the most obvious but look at all the possibilities so you can determine which segments are your targets. Our SizeUp tool can be a big help in segmenting your market.
D. TARGET AUDIENCE
Based on your market segmentation, describe your primary and secondary target customers. This is essential. Too often businesses try to target as wide an audience as possible and end up missing everyone in the process with a bland, generalized message. You can always expand the breadth of your marketing later, but first, you have to find those customers who are most likely to buy from you in the near term. Narrow in and focus on your targets. Once you have identified your primary audience, delve into the psychographics of why they would buy from you, what their pain points are, their spending habits, where they shop, what their social class is and their level of brand preference. Need help? You can do some of your market segmentation homework in SizeUp.
E. COMPETITIVE REVIEW
Time to look closely at your competitors. Be sure you examine your primary competitors as well as those who may offer a similar product. Describe each competitor. What are the strengths and weaknesses of their products or services? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What weaknesses can you exploit? What is their pricing structure? Where do they advertise and how do they promote their products or services? What is their advertising budget? What is their positioning? In other words, are they the category’s premium product, are they in the middle in terms of price and quality, or are they the low price leader?
F. PRODUCT AND/OR SERVICE REVIEW
Time to talk about what you’re selling. This should be relatively easy as you should know your product or service inside and out. Cover your current pricing structure, how you’ll distribute it, its position in the market, its benefits to the customer, etc. In short, why would anyone buy your product or service?
G. SWOT ANALYSIS
This is one of the most important parts of your marketing plan. It articulates all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that exist in the marketplace, something you should have uncovered during your research. This can be anything that might affect the sales of your product – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Use enough detail to explain why each item is relevant to your product or service but don’t write a book on it.
H. GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Just the facts, ma’am. This is nuts and bolts stuff, including where you are now, where you’re going to be five years from now in terms of sales goals and marketing objectives and how you’re going to get there.
1. Sales Goals.
Make them concrete and measurable in terms of dollars and units. Set a level that is challenging but not impossible. Set a timetable so you can measure your progress and adjust your plan as you meet or come up short on targets. This includes your overhead for the year, your expected gross margin, projected profit and market share.
2. Marketing Objectives.
As you work through your target market and market segment data you should be able to come up with marketing objectives that address each group. These need to be measurable and quantifiable.
For example: Say you know that 2,500 customers bought an average of 2.5 widgets last year. There is an additional market of 3,500 potential new customers who will buy an average of 2 widgets each year. You can also upsell a service contract. Your market objective for existing customers would be to increase your current customers by 20% and sell service contracts to 50% of those customers. For new customers, your objective would be to sell your widgets to 50% of that new potential market and create a buying rate within that group of 2 units per year with service contracts being purchased for half of those units.
Time for the thinking cap portion of the plan. This is where you generate ideas about what your marketing mix will be so you know where to focus your available marketing, advertising and public relations budget.
This is the perception that your target audience has of your product. You have the most control over this aspect of your strategy. Is it a niche product or does it have broader appeal? What are the main attributes of your product or service that your prospective customers would be attracted to? How does it meet your audience’s needs?
Yes, you’ve been discussing your product or service a lot already. But here you want to think about the value your customer will see in it. This includes how it is packaged, the warranties you are offering, etc. What do these say about your product/service and are they properly aligned?
Pricing is critical as it communicates as much to the prospect as your advertising. Resist the desire to sell low as it won’t necessarily generate more sales. Just look at Apple as the model for this compared to HP or Dell. Your customer may actually place more value on your product if you sell it for a higher price. Part of pricing is determined by the market and your competition, but it can also be determined by where you want to be in the market space.
Where are you going to sell your product? How are you going to get it placed there? Is it going to be widely available or more exclusive? Is it a city product or will it work better in rural or suburban areas? There’s a big difference between selling your product in Wal-Mart as opposed to Nordstrom. Try to match your desired image with the distribution channel and be prepared to adjust the channel mix as you begin to sell.
This not only includes the messaging that you’ll use, but the tools you’ll use to spread the word. Promotion falls into six general categories: advertising, public relations/publicity, marketing/social media, promotions and events, collateral/marketing materials and your sales force.
a. Advertising. This should include the promise you are making to your audience; i.e. what are you going to deliver that they want or need? What are the statements that back up your claims? What is the tone of your message – serious, playful, funny, accommodating, sympathetic? Why is this the right approach? What research supports these statements and this tone?
b. Public Relations. This part of the plan outlines how you are going to get media coverage. Why is the public interested in your product or service? Why should a reporter want to report on it? What are you going to have to say about your product? How would you handle a media call? What are your key messages? This part of the plan involves press releases, features, interviews, opinion pieces, speeches, photos, etc. Think about what makes you newsworthy.
c. Marketing. This includes email blasts, database marketing and social media such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs. The goal is to generate inquiries and leads, build an audience, raise general awareness and actually sell the product and service.
d. Promotions and Events. This includes sales, temporary discounts, free gifts with a purchase, buy one/get one free, etc. It should include a calendar of your planned discounts, free samples, rebates, two-packs, sweepstakes, games, limited-time products, etc. Around these promotions, what events will support them? This can be a product launch, an in-store demo (Costco is the master of this), a media event or online seminar to promote the product or service; the possibilities are endless. Just remember that events can be expensive and really sap an already stretched marketing budget.
e. Marketing Materials/Collateral. This includes your sales materials, print materials, business cards and website. Identify what type of collateral you need and what each will be used for, what the messaging is, who it’s targeted to, how many you will need, etc.
f. Sales Force. Your front line of sales. Consider what kind of training the people will need and what their messaging to prospects and customers will be. You’ll also want to cover trade shows in this section if they are part of your plans.
J. ACTION PLAN AND IMPLEMENTATION
Rubber meets the road time here. This is where you’ll go through your media plan, the matrix of what you’re advertising and marketing where and how, timing, frequency, etc. and attach some budget numbers to everything.
1. Media Plan.
This includes which media you will be using, the specifics of each medium, when and where you plan to advertise and frequency. Include why you chose each one and what your expectations are for the buy in terms of ROI. Start small, experiment to see what works and what doesn’t, invest intelligently and don’t put all your proverbial eggs into one baskets. Advertise and engage where you audience is and don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Building awareness takes time; building a brand takes a lifetime.
How much is each “buy” going to cost you? What is your total available budget? Look at the industry average spent as a percent of sales for products or services that are similar to yours. See if your budget is realistic compared to what others are spending. Finally, estimate what you think your competitors are spending on advertising and marketing. Your final budget sheets should include an summary sheet showing the total marketing budget with a breakdown by strategy and by product and market segment.
Based on your planned buy and budget, you want to consider the scheduling of promotions. If the product is new, you may want to front-load your buy so that there is more advertising at the beginning of your campaign. You can also do what is referred to as a heavy-up schedule, which has specific times of the year that you advertise more heavily. This is ideal for seasonal products or products or services that are cyclical. Flighting is another option, where you do shorter periods of advertising, say three to six weeks, and then no advertising for another three to six weeks. This will help you gauge response rates to your advertising and marketing tactics. Combined with your messaging, this should give you a media calendar that graphically tells you when to advertise, where, in what and what you plan to say.
Now it’s time to assign the work. Many advertising and marketing strategies need to be begun months in advance. You don’t want to miss a critical date. Figure out who will handle these different advertising and marketing strategies. Will you engage a freelancer or an agency? Or will a staff member handle this function? Remember that marketing, public relations, social media and advertising require specialized skill sets. You don’t want to approach it roughshod or lull yourself into believing you can handle it when you’re busy spinning a lot of other plates already. Put all the activities and who’s doing them on a wall calendar or use a calendaring system on your computer so you can track your media strategy.
There’s no point in doing any marketing if you aren’t going to gauge its effectiveness. You’ll just be wasting your money. In your marketing plan, you’ll want to cover how you will measure success.
1. Lead Tracking Systems.
For each type of media, identify how it will be tracked. For instance, if you’re buying advertising on Facebook or Google, how many people clicked on the link to take advantage of your special offer or visited the special web page you created specifically for that campaign? What is your traffic like on your website? Did it increase after an article appeared about your product or service? Did leads increase as a result (assuming you have a lead generation capability on your website, which you should have)? Events are far trickier to track, especially trade shows or in-store promotions. Be sure to think of ways to measure success before you engage in a show or event.
2. Sales Reviews.
This includes a review of sales quarterly. Did sales increase? Did upsells increase? How many new customers did you gain from a campaign outlined in your marketing plan? How will you connect sales to these campaigns?
Remember, it’s easy to lose focus when caught up in the day-to-day of your business. Use the business and marketing plan to guide you and update it from time to time as your business grows and changes so you stay on course.
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