You have been told often enough that marketing is one of the most important business tools that you have.
In such a highly competitive business world, a good marketing strategy is one of the elements that can set your business apart from the rest.
Of course, you should be aware that business is not all about Marketing, but also about efficiently coordinating and managing all other business functions, such as production, Purchasing, Customer Service, and so forth.
That being said, a lot of people don’t know how to do a good marketing plan. Sure they know they need to have one, but we are rarely ever told how to actually do it. Therefore this section is all about sharing with you, how you can do a business plan for your business
So what is a marketing plan?
Surely for you to able to do a good marketing plan you must first understand what it is. I am going to be very, very simplistic here so that you fully understand this concept.
A marketing plan is merely a document that predominantly contains a list of actions that you are going to take to promote your business and its products.
It`s all about, What, you are going to do about promoting your business and How, you intend to do it. Putting that information on paper gives you your marketing plan. This is obviously the basic focus of a marketing plan.
However, your marketing plan will need to contain a bit more flesh. For you to be able to make decisions about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it you will need to have information about other aspects of your business. Let us look at these factors in turn.
Goals And Objectives
What do you want to achieve with your marketing plan? You have to have a specific goal which can be measured, which you are trying to achieve.
By having a specific objective you will be able to analyze much more effectively if or not your plan has been a success.
For example, a good objective may be that: A marketing campaign must enable us to sell 100,000 units this year. On the other hand, a bad marketing objective may be that:
We want to sell a lot of products this year.
If your marketing spending is specific, why should the effects of that spending not be?
Your Marketing Strategy
So now that you know what you want to achieve this year, you would be thinking of how you will be able to attain those objectives. The strategy is all about methods. How will you sell 100,000 units this year?
Clearly outline the specific actions that you intend to take in order to achieve those goals. A good strategy may be that:
You will employ 4 sales reps you will Shoot a 45-second advert and place it on YouTube.
Distribute Flyers Door to Door
Get a table on 4 trade shows now the list of actions is endless and it will all depend on the nature of your business and the budget you have available.
This example gives you an idea of how you can outline the actions that you want to take within a Marketing Plan. You will obviously need to have as much detail as you can about your actions.
This is because if you are vague, you may not be able to effectively implement the intended actions. For instance, If you say in your action plan that you want to employ 4 sales representatives as outlined in the example above, you may also need to give details of how you intend to use those reps to achieve your goals.
You could say that each specific rep, will be given a specific target market, will be given a specific weekly target goal, Will be given such and such support, and so forth. In business, as you will quickly find out, the devil is always in the detail.
As you add more detail, you may suddenly realize that what seemed simple and straightforward is not as clear-cut. Obviously, you will need to have only the detail you will need and not go mad with excessive unimportant detail that can be ignored.
The Importance Of Information
You will find that one of the most important business tools that you will need to have when defining your marketing plan is research information.
That is why you will need to set up an effective information gathering framework when you start your business.
You will need information about your customers. After all, they are the ones you are trying to reach with your marketing plan and hence it is essential to know everything there is to know about your customers.
If you are having difficulties with gathering such information, read our articles: How to Identify Your Target Market and also How to do market research.
Again you will need as much information about what your customers are doing to promote their businesses and how they are doing it.
Knowing this will give you tools that you can use to design and implement an effective marketing plan. Information about your competition may also influence the level of aggression in your marketing strategy and plan.
More so, the content in your marketing communication may also be dependent on what your competitors are communicating to customers.
You will need to outline in your marketing plan what products you want to promote. This is essential because different products may have different marketing strategies and different budget allocations.
Certain products may have a loyal customer base and so the marketing spending for such products may be more for the purposes of maintaining that base.
Other products are more sensitive to competitors` behavior than others and so your marketing plan will need to reveal such details.
Your marketing plan will also need to clearly show your business, Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Your strengths and weaknesses will indicate to you what limitations there are and also what advantages you can harness within your marketing plan.
Your marketing plan will also need to outline specific opportunities that are available to your business and how you will take advantage of these.
On the other hand, you will also need to take into consideration the threats that your environment presents to your business.
For example, you may realize that there is a geographical location where potential customers are not being effectively reached by your competition and hence you could decide in your marketing plan to exploit such an opportunity.
Alternatively, you may be aware that a previously weak competitor has recently been acquired by a global giant and so that may mean that their marketing budget will now be big enough to blow you out of the water.
Projected Marketing Financials
This section of your marketing plan is where you make decisions about your marketing financials. Your action plan outlined in your marketing strategy section will now need to be costed.
This is where you decide the budget for your marketing plan. How much will each element of your marketing plan cost? Where will the money come from? How much will that marketing plan potentially generate for the business?
This is where you justify or remove marketing spending by matching specific spending on potential revenues. High expenditures with low resultant revenues will be removed while the opposite will also be true.
It will be highly helpful for you to consult marketing experts about your marketing plan. Remember you have to do as much work on your plan as you can yourself in order to reduce costs.
However, there is no substitute for an expert eye cast on your work. Get them to appraise your Marketing plan and give you nudges in the right direction. Trust me you will be glad you did it.
Your marketing plan should have the capacity to provide you with feedback. It should enable you to measure the effectiveness of the strategies implemented at any given time.
The feedback will also allow you to analyze deviations from the original plan and the causes of such deviations. In other words, your feedback framework will act as a control mechanism for your marketing plan.
So how much detail must be in the marketing plan?
This can be very tricky. The best answer I can give you is that it needs to have sufficient, relevant marketing information that can help make a difference to your marketing plan and consequently your overall business.
Every bit of detail that you include in your marketing plan, must add value to it. If it doesn’t add value to your plan or makes no difference, then maybe it shouldn’t be there.
Don’t create a marketing plan that is 100 pages long when you are only going to use 20 pages and ignore the rest.
It`s not about the size of the document but the content. Bearing that in mind, a 5-page marketing plan is unlikely going to have sufficient detail to effectively promote your business and products.
Therefore, in a nutshell, your marketing plan has to be detailed to the extent that it provides optimum, sufficient guidance to achieving your Business Objectives.
Take Your Time
Do not rush. If you are serious about succeeding in business then you will need to take your time and do a good and effective marketing plan.
Of course, a lot will depend on your information gathering framework. If you have information gathered already then it will take you less time.
However, whichever your case may be, first time marketing plans will take at least 3 weeks to a month to draft. If you do yours in a day then that’s fine, but I doubt it will be as good and as effective as that of your competitor, who took 2 months to do theirs.