A marketing plan outlines the specific actions you intend to carry out to impress potential customers and clients of your product and/or service and persuade them to buy the product and/or services you offer. A marketing plan may be developed as a stand alone document or as part of a business plan. Either way, the marketing plan is a blueprint for communicating the value of your products and/or services to your customers.
An effective marketing plan defines how and why the company is in business, what markets are good targets for its products, and how customers should be persuaded. With a marketing plan in place, a company uses the plan to measure how effectively corporate goals have been met.
It is important to carry out research before completing your marketing plan, by doing so it will help you to be organized, so that you can be able to achieve your goals. A thorough marketing plan will provide details on what you want to accomplish with your marketing strategy and it will assist you in achieving your goals.
A marketing plan will achieve the following objectives:
- It will enable companies to look internally in order to fully understand the impact and the results of past marketing decisions.
- Equips companies to look externally in order to fully understand its target markets and the competition available in those markets.
- Set future goals and provide direction for future marketing initiatives. The goals should be understood and supported by everyone within the company.
- Focuses on issues related to the four Ps: product, price, promotion and place.
Addressing these issues and putting them into written form can be useful for a business owner, in that it forces them to analyze their business. It can be good for employees, as the marketing plan can provide them with essential orientation and be a source of motivation.
Creating a solid marketing plan can be the difference between a successful marketing campaign and a failed one. As most people have already experienced, marketing can be an expensive and complicated endeavour. A marketing plan will help you determine your marketing strategy by specifying your objectives, defining your goals, and targeting your market in an effective, time and cost-efficient manner.
In today’s economy, it is crucial to get most of your money back after investment. A marketing plan will define what works for you and what does not, who you should target and who you should not, where you should allocate funds and resources, and where you should not, etc. But before you develop your marketing plan, you should state your Marketing Plan Objective.
Your Marketing Plan Objective is simply a statement defining the purpose of your marketing campaign.
Quick Tip: Your Marketing Plan Objective should be realistic, measurable, and time specific.
KEY ELEMENTS IN MARKETING PLANNING
- Situation Analysis: This introductory section contains an overview of your situation as it exists today and provide a useful benchmark as you adapt and refine your plan in the coming months. Begin with a short description of your current product or service offering, the marketing advantages and challenges you face, and a look at the threats posed by your competitors. Describe any outside forces that will affect your business in the coming year. This can be anything from diminished traffic levels due to construction. If you are a retailer, a change in law that could affect a new product can affect you financially and otherwise.
- Target Audience: All that is needed here is a simple, bulleted description of your target audience. If you are marketing to consumers, write a target audience profile based on demographics, including age, gender and any other important characteristics. Marketers should list their target audience by category (such as lawyers, doctors, shopping malls) and include any qualifying criteria for each.
- Goals: In one page or less, list your company’s marketing goals . The key is to make your goals realistic and measurable, so that you can easily evaluate your performance. “Increase sales of peripherals” is an example of an ineffective goal. You should be in a better position to gauge your marketing progress with a goal such as, “Increase sales of peripherals 10 percent in the first quarter, 15 percent in the second quarter, 15 percent in the third quarter and 10 percent in fourth quarter.”
- Strategies and Tactics: This section will make up the bulk of your plan, and you should take as much space as you need to give an overview of your marketing strategies and list each of the corresponding tactics you will employ to execute them. Here is an example: A marketing client of mine markets videotape and equipment. One of her goals is to increase sales to large ministries in three states by 20 percent. Together we have developed a strategy that includes making a special offer each month to this prospect group, and one of her tactics is to use monthly e-mails to market to an in house list. Your tactics section should include all the actionable steps you plan to take for advertising, public relations, direct mail, trade shows and special promotions. You can use a paper calendar to schedule your tactics or use a contact manager or spreadsheet program. What matters most is that you stick to your schedule and follow through. A plan on paper is only useful if it is put into action.
- Budget Breakdown: The final section of your plan includes a brief breakdown of the costs associated with each of your tactics. So if you plan to exhibit at three trade shows per year, for example, you will include the costs to participate in the shows and prepare your booth and marketing materials. If you find out that the tactics you have selected are too costly, you can go back and make revisions before you arrive at a final budget.
IMPORTANCE OF MARKETING PLANS
- Provides direction for all your marketing effort.
- Helps define specific tasks.
- Helps to identify prerequisites to planned activities.
- If more than one person is involved it helps you to define areas of responsibility.
- Can give you insight into new markets that may have previously been overlooked.
- Enables you to create clear guidelines for evaluating the effectiveness of different marketing methods.
- Can help raise finance for capital expenditure.
- Prevents time wasting on ineffectual marketing activities.
- Saves money by helping to ensure that the marketing budget is spent effectively
- Will generate more clients by communicating effectively.
Managers need information in order to introduce products and services that create value in the mind of the customer. But the perception of value is a subjective one, and what customers value this year may be quite different from what they will value next year. As such, the attributes that create value cannot simply be deduced from common knowledge, rather data must be collected and analyzed. The goal of marketing research is to provide the facts and direction that managers need to make their more important marketing decisions.
Marketing research is therefore the systematic gathering, recording and analyzing of data about problem relating to marketing of goods and services.
Marketing Research vs. Market Research
These terms are often used interchangeably, but technically there is a difference.
Market research deals specifically with the gathering of information about a market’s size and trends. Marketing research on the other hand covers a wider range of activities. While it may involve market research, marketing research is a more general systematic process that can be applied to a variety of marketing problems.
Marketing research comprises:
- Market research: Identification of a specific market and measurement of its size and other characteristics.
- Product research: Identification of a need or want and the characteristics of the good or service that will satisfy it.
- Consumer research: Identification of the preferences, motivations, and buying behaviour of the targeted customers. Information for marketing research is collected from direct observation of the consumers (such as in retail stores), mail surveys, telephone or face-to-face interviews, and from published sources (such as demographic).
REASONS FOR MARKETING RESEARCH
There are so many reasons for carrying out marketing research. These are:
- Introduction of New Product or Service: Any new business, or introduction of a new product or service that the company is thinking of offering, needs marketing research. Developing a good understanding of the product and developing a good business plan based on marketing research help provide a solid foundation for your offering.
- Customer Development: Next to understanding the product or service you are offering, understanding the customer who will be buying it is paramount. In a consumer based business, understanding the demographics and psychographics of a target market can be determined by looking at previous purchase behaviour or through a needs analysis. In a business which sells to other businesses, understanding their needs can be a little more difficult. However, this can be understood by doing surveys of focus groups.
- Competition Analysis: You need to understand your competitors. For most small businesses, getting a general idea of your competitors is usually sufficient. However, larger companies, larger market potentials, or more costly the product, the more detailed the analysis needs to be done.
- Marketing/Advertising Development: Doing “marketing” research to make sure that the look and feel of marketing is in order. Messaging is also another good reason for doing market research. By reviewing with your buyers on how, for example, a product package or a logo looks, you can make sure the visual image of your offering is attractive and that your customers are getting the right messaging.
- Customer Satisfaction: After your customers have purchased your product or service, following up with them to understand their satisfaction of that purchase is necessary. By understanding why they liked or disliked your offering and the reasons the customers purchased your product or service over that of your competitors can provide a basis of what could be your competitive advantage.