A marketing plan is a roadmap to get your product into the hands of the customers who want or need it. It provides an analysis of your product, your customer, and what sets you apart from the competition and in the mind of your target customer. In its simplest form, it provides a guide on how best to get the word out about your products and services.
Your marketing plan can be short or highly detailed. The important thing is to spend the time researching, analyzing, strategizing, and getting it down on paper. It will make your marketing more effective and make the best use of your advertising dollars.
Do You Really Need One?
There is a cliché about the driver who will not stop to ask directions, driving around and around, lost for hours, failing to ask for directions.
Likewise in business, having directions is critical if you want to mount a successful campaign to get your product in front of your target market. Without one, you will waste time, energy and money.
Here is a look at the basic steps of a marketing plan for your small business.
Step One: Create an Executive Summary
This represents a few short and sweet sentences that provide a high-level overview of your marketing plan. Think of it as your “elevator pitch”.
Step Two: Identify the Challenges
Here, provide a description of the products or services (and product and service lines) your company offers. While keeping the information concise and measurable, identify the goals you want to set for each product or service you plan to sell.
Step Three: Perform a Situation Analysis
This meaty section, known as the situation analysis, involves several key parts consisting of company analysis, competitor analysis, collaborator identification, climate identification, and a SWOT analysis. Here are each explained in further detail.
Company Analysis: First, you need to know who is in the marketplace, starting with your company. Write down an overview of the purpose of your business and a list of its products and services. Check data on the growth rate of your industry, how much market share you can reasonably expect to obtain, and current trends for marketing for your type of product.
Customer Analysis: Next, think about your ideal customer and target audience. Who needs your product or service? You need to nail this so you can market to them. You will waste money if you advertise indiscriminately.
Think in term of your buyer’s demographics:
- Education level
- Area where they live
- Married or single
- Type of lifestyle
- Interests and hobbies
- Concerns and problems
Knowing this information, you’ll have a much better chance of accurately pinpointing the best media to use when you start placing ads and writing content.
Competitor Analysis: You also need to get a good idea who is your nearest competitor. List the names of competing online, local, and national businesses. Make a thorough list of the types of products and services they are offering to the same customer you are targeting.
Investigate how they are doing, the methods they use in advertising, how they get customers to buy, and how they keep them coming back for repeat sales.
With this data in hand, you need to pull it together into a USP or unique selling proposition. Why should customers buy from you and not the business down the street? What do you have that no one else offers your target audience?
Collaborator Identification: Who will help your business thrive? It could be suppliers, distributors, partners, or subsidiaries, for instance.
Climate Identification: Are there any laws or regulations that govern your products or services? Are technological advances integral to your business? How does the cultural, social, and economic environment impact your selling of your products or services? These are some of the questions and answers to include in your climate identification section.
SWOT Analysis: This handy acronym is your guide: It includes documenting:
- Strengths, such as staff skills, technology you have developed or know how to use.
- Weaknesses, such as a small marketing budget, a common challenge for small businesses.
- Opportunities, such as being the only company that offers service in your geographic area.
- Threats, such as another company offering a cheaper version of your product.
Step Four: Market Segmentation and Strategy Selection
For each market segment, include a description of the segment, along with several key components of the segment. Factors to include are the estimated percent of overall sales the segment represents, the price sensitivity of this segment, and the best ways to advertise for this segment.
After taking into account alternative marketing strategies, such as changing a price point or eliminating a particular product or service line, choose a marketing strategy.
Step Five: Establish Short and Long-Term Forecasts.
This section of your marketing plan includes projections of not only revenue and costs, but also your break-even analysis.
Step Six: End with a Concluding Summary
This is similar to the Executive Summary at the beginning of your marketing plan, but it is more in-depth. It includes specific goals and figures, such as projected revenues, expenses, and profits.
Ongoing: Monitor Results
Once you put your marketing plan into action, you need to figure out if it is working. There are a variety of ways to monitor whether or not your efforts are succeeding. Decide how you will measure your results and how you will tweak your strategy.
In conclusion, a good marketing plan gives you peace of mind. It gives you a strategy to start with and a plan of attack to get your product into the hands of your buyers. It is an ongoing process. You will learn from each step, helping you improve, sell more, and grow your business.