The Marketing Plan: everyone will tell you that you absolutely have to have one. Few of the people who say that, however, are able to tell you what exactly a marketing plan consists of. Creating a marketing plan for your small business shouldn’t take you a few hours. Ideally, it should take you at least a few days to do the research and have the necessary discussions — potentially even a few weeks depending on factors like the size of your market and the uniqueness of your product line(s). The following article may help you in developing your marketing plans.
- The Executive Summary. A high-level summary of the marketing plan as a whole, and a paradox on paper: this is the last section that you should write, but the first section that should be in the finished report. It’s best to keep the Executive Summary as short and sweet as possible — just a couple of sentences to sum everything up. While writing it, imagine that you’re going to present this summary “elevator pitch” style. Once you’ve finished it, read it out loud. If it takes you longer than ten seconds to read it all, it probably needs to be simplified even further.
The Challenge. This section should contain a brief description of the product(s) and/or product line(s) that your company offers. With each description, include goals that you want to set for each product and product line (sales figures, strategic and company-wide goals, etc.). Keep the number and complexity of your goals at a maximum of three per product/product line, and remember that they need to be concise, measurable, and moderately easy to achieve.
Situation Analysis. This section contains a snapshot of your company, your customer base, and your market at large. It should be divided into six subsections:
- 1. Company Analysis:
- Long and Short-Term Company-wide goals.
- The focus of your company (should fall directly in line with your mission and vision statements).
- Analysis of the culture of your company (is your company a fast-paced shark tank, or a laid-back ping-pong table environment?).
- Strengths of your company.
- Weaknesses of your company.
- Your company’s estimated market share.
- 2. Customer Analysis:
- Estimate size of your customer base (i.e. how many people could potentially purchase any of your products. “Anyone” is not an answer).
- Key Demographics of your customer base (age, social class, gender).
- Value drivers (what about your products and/or services provides true value to your customer base?).
- 3. Competitor Analysis:
- Market Position (are your competitors fully invested in the market, or do they only play in specific segments? Are they big or small?).
- Market shares.
- 4. Collaborators: – People and companies that are key to continuing what you do.
- Subsidiaries, joint ventures, distributors, suppliers, etc.
- 5. Climate: — “PEST” Analysis.
- Political and legal environment (are there any specific regulations or laws governing your products?).
- Economic environment.
- Social and cultural environment.
- Technological environment (are cutting-edge techs integral to your products? are there any projected updates?).
- 6. SWOT Analysis:
- Your company’s internal strengths (what does your unique structure and/or unique employee team help you be the best at?).
- Your company’s internal weaknesses (in what areas do your unique structure and/or unique employee team hold you back?).
- External opportunities for your company (what’s out there that you could easily take advantage of for your betterment?).
- External threats to your company (what’s out there that can potentially destroy your business if you’re not careful?).
- 1. Company Analysis:
- Each market has its own different segments. Understanding the relevant segments for your product(s) in your market is important, for they allow you to adjust your “marketing mix” (the “Four P’s” discussed lower) to better adapt to the different needs of each segment.
- Segments should be measurable, accessible, different from other segments in response to a marketing mix, durable (not constantly changing), substantially large enough to produce a profit, and homogeneous.
- Inside your marketing plan, listing your segments should follow a clear and predictable form, like the one listed below:
- Name of the Segment:
- Percent of your overall sales this segment accounts for.
- What, exactly, this segment wants and needs.
- How this segment uses your product.
- What sort of support this segment needs.
- The best ways to advertise to and communicate with this segment.
- The price sensitivity of this segment (are they largely price elastic or price inelastic?).
- Repeat this until you feel that you have identified all of your major segments.
Alternative Marketing Strategies: Write down details about any alternatives that you and your team considered before arriving at your current strategy. These may include eliminating a particular product or line, changing the price point of a product or line, etc.
Selected Marketing Strategy: Explain the strategy that you and your team have developed and agreed upon. Why did you choose this strategy? Why do you feel that it’s the best possible strategy for the near future? Once that’s on paper, put your “Four P’s” down for each product. Each product should have its own “Four P’s” – you can follow the format below:
- Branding/Brand Name.
- Intended quality of the product (is it a $1 plastic toy firetruck, or a $30 metal one with real flashing lights and a siren?).
- Scope of the product line.
- List price.
- Payment terms.
- Leasing options (if applicable).
- Place (Distribution)
- Distribution channels (do you sell this product yourself, ship it to retailers or warehouses, etc).
- Channel Motivations (what sort of margins should your distributors expect, if applicable?).
- Criteria for evaluating your distributors.
- Logistics and Supply Chain.
- Advertising (what types? how much of each type? what type of advertising channels — TV, print, internet, etc. – do you plan to use?).
- Public Relations.
- Promotional programs.
- Budget, including your break-even point.
- Projected results of this promotional program (impact to customer loyalty, new customer acquisition, etc.).
Short and Long-Term Projections. This section should include forecasts of revenues and expenses, your break-even analysis, and any changes or adjustments that you predict you’ll need to make in the future.
- The Conclusion This is an expanded version of your Executive Summary. You should include all specific numbers (projected costs, revenues, profits, etc.).
- Remember to integrate the needs and ideas of every department (and every employee, if you feel comfortable with it) into your marketing plan. It’s also highly important to make sure that this plan integrates and meshes seamlessly with your business plan and your mission, vision, and core values statements.
- Include any charts, graphs, etc. that you may have completed as a part of creating your Marketing Plan, as well as all charts, graphs, etc. that are necessary to explain or expand upon any of the sections above.