A marketing plan is a comprehensive document or blueprint that outlines a company’s advertising and marketing efforts for the coming year. It describes business activities involved in accomplishing specific marketing objectives within a set time frame.
Every successful business has a good marketing plan and it is a crucial component that is just as important as a business plan. The following steps are a guideline on how to create a successful marketing plan for your business.
Begin with a snapshot of your company’s current situation. You first need to define the following:
- Your business
- Your products and services
- How the benefits of your business set you apart from your competition – you should have a clear understanding of what your competitors are offering and be able to show how your product or service provides a better value to your customers.
Your situation analysis should be very comprehensive and include a detailed overview of the characteristics of your business as well as outside factors. Characteristics of the business include the business’ strengths and weaknesses. When determining your business’ strengths consider what makes your products or services superior to others. Outside factors include any potential opportunities and threats. When describing external opportunities and threats, remember to include any external threats to your business’ ability to gain market share so that succeeding sections of your plan can detail the ways that you will overcome those threats.
2)Target Audience and Market
It is essential to understand and define your target audience. Your target audience is the particular group of customers at which your product or service is aimed at. Develop a simple profile of your prospective customers. When describing prospective customers, it is best to use demographics such as age, sex, family composition, earnings, geographic location and lifestyle to create your profile. Your target audience profile can even be taken a step further by asking questions such as- Are my customers:
- Conservative or innovative?
- Leaders or followers?
- Traditional or modern?
- Introverted or extroverted?
- How often do they purchase what I offer and in what quantity?
Defining your target audience is essential because it will help guide you as you plan your media and public relations camp gains as well as other marketing endeavours. Defining your target audience also involves understanding your market, thus sufficient research must be conducted into the market in which your business fits into.
3)Set Your Marketing Goals
The aim of the marketing plan is to help you achieve your marketing goals. Without goals to work towards, any plan is fairly useless. Goals need to be realistic and measurable (so that you are able to determine whether you achieved them or not). It is important to set both short and long-term goals and continually revisit them so that you always know what you are working towards.
4)Outline Marketing Strategies and Tactics
Previously having identified your best prospective customers and outlined what your marketing must accomplish, you now need to develop the strategies you will use to reach your customers and achieve your goals. Developing the marketing communications strategies and tactics you’ll use is the heart and soul of your marketing plan. In this step you will develop the strategies and tactics that your business will use in order to achieve your goals that you previously set.
A good marketing program targets prospective customers (prospects) at all stages of your sales cycle. You must consider both warm prospects (those who have previously been exposed to your marketing campaign and perhaps even met you personally) and cold prospects (those who have not previously been exposed to your marketing campaign). Warm prospects will obviously respond best to permission-based email, loyalty programs and customer appreciation events, among others.
Your hottest prospects are customers who have been exposed to your sales and marketing campaigns and who are on the verge of purchasing your product or service. Generally, interpersonal sales contact (whether in person, by phone, or email) combined with good marketing adds the final heat necessary to push that customer over the edge and close the sale.
In order to complete this section you need to outline your primary marketing tactics which can be used at any point of the sales cycle. You are not limited to selecting one tactic and it is encouraged to try a combination of different approaches. However, your choices should be based on your target audience and what would be the best way to reach them.
5) Marketing Budget
A budget is another crucial component of any business as it is a plan on how money in the business is going to be spent on marketing initiatives. A portion of the projected gross sales will need to be devoted to your annual marketing budget. When starting a business, funds may be limited so you need to consider the following:
- Using newly acquired funding
Marketing is absolutely essential to the success of your business and the appropriate amount of money should be budgeted for it. As you begin to accumulate costs for the businesses marketing initiatives you outlined in the previous step, you may find you’ve exceeded your budget. Simply go back and adjust your tactics until you have a mix that is affordable. However, marketing is a crucial function for the business, therefore a workable budget should be established. Adopt marketing initiatives that your budget will allow for, even if they are small, as your business grows more can be allocated to your marketing budget.