Marketing Plan, Creating a
At start-up stage, your bank may ask for proof that you have considered how you will identify and exploit market opportunities. This evidence is normally presented in the form of a marketing plan – a written document which sets out a systematic process for identifying your business’ (and your competitors’) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; your goals, strategies and a means of measuring success.
To write an effective marketing plan:
- Conduct a market audit
- Produce a mission statement for your business
- Analyse your current marketing position
- Formulate a marketing overview
- Write a SWOT analysis
- Use your knowledge and experience to make assumptions
- Develop clear objectives
- Broadly state how these objectives will be achieved
- Consider your human and financial resource requirements
- Decide how you will track progress and measure success
- Write an introductory paragraph and executive summary
The level of detail your Marketing Plan goes into, and the time and money spent on researching the market will depend largely on the size of your company.
Things to do
- The market audit.
Before you write your plan, have a clear idea of where your business stands. This can be done by identifying social and economic trends that may affect you, as well as developing an understanding of markets, customers and competitors, and where you fit into this framework. This audit will not appear in the final document but the data gathered will be used throughout.
- Your mission statement.
Using no more than three to four sentences, clearly explain the role of your business, avoiding clichés and buzzwords. Your mission statement should be inspirational, bold and single-minded. It should act as an ongoing reference point when making strategic decisions about your business.
- You and your marketing.
Using information gathered during your market audit, you should have a clear understanding of the current position of your business, in terms of marketing activity. If your business is in manufacturing, formalise your findings under these headings:
- product (what products you are selling, their market position, their competitors etc.)
- place (your current distribution channels compared to those of your competitors)
- price (your pricing policies and your approach to discounting and how these are dealt with by your competitors)
- promotion (what you, and your competitors, are doing to push demand)
If you operate in a service industry, you should also include:
- people (training and recruitment policies)
- processes (procedures you have in place to ensure consistent quality of service)
- physical evidence (the impressions given out to your customers by the appearance of your premises and your people)
Use the information from your market audit to summarise where you see your key markets and what you consider to be the key changes in those markets. This will help you to identify the major products and markets that are likely to bring you the best return on your investment.
Again using data from the market audit, write a concise list of the internal strengths and weaknesses of your organisation and the opportunities and threats you face from external forces. Importantly, the strengths and weaknesses are in your control whereas you cannot influence (but should be mindful of) the opportunities and threats. Read more about SWOT Analysis.
Marketing is not an exact science, so a certain amount of your planning will come down to making educated guesses. It is a good idea to note down some of your predictions so that you know to rewrite the plan if your forecasts are wildly inaccurate.
Your objectives are quantitative statements of what you want to achieve, such as increased sales volume or market share. Objectives need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) e.g. to increase sales of product x by 10 per cent by the end of the financial year. (Read more about SMART objectives)
This is where you broadly define how you will achieve your objectives. You should use your findings from your SWOT Analysis to help you choose the market segments in which you will compete, and determine how to position your firm against the competition.
In order to keep your plans realistic, it is vital that you consider how they will impact financially and what implications there are on your workforce. For example, to meet your goals, will you have to take on more staff? Can your business afford that added overhead?
- Measurement and control.
As with all planning, you will need to monitor your activities against your objectives on a regular basis. That way, if things are not going to plan, you can put things back on track before too much damage is done. If goals are not achieved by their stipulated timescale you should question if, indeed, your objectives were achievable.
Once you have pulled together all the required sections of the marketing plan, write an introductory paragraph which puts the plan in a business context, and an executive summary presenting your plan in easily-digestible bullet points.
Once you have written up the plan, proof-read it carefully to pick up on any mistakes. It is important that the document has sufficient detail to be useful to its readers but omit any out-of-date or irrelevant data.
When compiling your marketing plan, bear in mind the following points:
- Marketing plans should integrate with the plans drawn up by other parts of your business (e.g. the Business Plan). For example, if your objectives state that you need to sell 25 per cent more stock, you’ll need to check that your production people have the resources to manufacture the additional quantity.
- Always consult your staff when compiling your objectives. Whilst your strategy may make commercial sense, it is your staff who will have to implement any action points. Their practical input is invaluable.