If you think about marketing, advertising automatically springs to mind. However, marketing (or promoting) your business, is more than just advertising. It helps you to ascertain who your customers are, which customers you want to target and how to get them to choose your products above others in the marketplace.
A marketing plan will also include your existing customers – retention of customers is just as important as gaining new ones, so you need to look at continually reviewing and improving your offer to ensure you stand out from your competitors.
Here are nine fundamental tips on what to include in a marketing plan to ensure you cover the essentials…
- Executive Summary – Although the executive summary is at the beginning of the marketing plan, it should be written last. The summary will help you ensure that your plan makes sense and that you haven’t missed anything out.
The summary should include details of your business, company name and contact details; what your business is about; your key objectives and your strategy for achieving your objectives.
This helps you to ensure that your marketing plan, your marketing strategy and your overall business strategy all work together.
- Vision or Mission Statement – This is a statement that includes what your business is, who you’re selling to, what you’re selling and what is your unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from the crowd.
- The four Ps – once you know what your vision or mission is – your strategy – look at the four Ps…
Product(s) – what is it about your product that makes your customers want to buy it? Do you need to change your products in any way to meet your customers’ needs?
Pricing – how do you aim to compete with your competitor’s pricing – do you want to match it… undercut them… or do you want to charge more for a more quality product and service?
Place – where and how are you going to sell your products? Do you sell them yourself or outsource them to retail outlets?
Promotion – how are you going to let your existing and potential customers know about your products? This includes thinking about advertising, PR, direct mail and personal selling.
- Market Analysis – this is where you need to do copious research into what your competitors do and what the state of the marketplace is in relation to the products you sell.
– Who are your competitors and how well are they doing?
– What makes your competitors successful?
– Who are your customers and potential customers – what are their geographic area and income levels?
– What are your sales and distribution levels – what is your set up?
– How well have your products sold in the past?
- Your target markets – it’s crucial to know exactly who your customers are and what they’re looking for. Take time to understand what your customers want and need and understand why they buy particular products. You’ll be able to target your market more easily if you know who you’re talking to, and what their problems are. Everyone buys products for different reasons.
If you have an existing customer base, you can easily find out some of this information, by sending them a simple survey, asking them a few questions – maybe give them an incentive to reply, such as all replies will be put into a prize draw to win one of your popular products.
If you’re not sure who your target market is – try this exercise. Write a description of one of your products – for example, if you were selling mobile phones, you might say it’s small and easy to use. Then write the features – in the case of a mobile, it might be that you can use it anywhere and it’s useful in a crisis. Then make a list of who needs this product – with a mobile it might be people under 20 to keep in touch with friends and parents/people in business to keep in touch with business partners when away from home or office/ for older people it’s good to have in case they have an accident in the home or need to keep in touch with relatives or carers…. You get the idea!
Then try and decide which will be your target market and which will be your secondary markets…probably best not to have more than two or three secondary markets at most.
- Marketing objectives – In this section, you are planning the future of your business. What objectives do you want to achieve? Each objective should include a description of what you intend to achieve and should include numbers to aim for. For example you might want to sell more of a particular product, but just saying you want to sell more isn’t enough – you need to be precise, so you have something concrete to aim for, maybe sell 40% more of that product over the next 12 months. This gives you a solid objective.
Pull together a timeline of your objectives – what you want to achieve and by when. This makes it easier for you to review at a later date.
- Promotion strategies – what tools will you use to promote your business? You could use:
– Networking – join a business networking group and talk to people at
– Direct marketing – brochures, flyers, sales letters
– Online – website, blogs, articles (give advice, become known as an
– Social media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.
– Video – embedded into social media or via your own YouTube channel
– Advertising – print media, business directories, ads in magazine and
– Press releases
– Direct or personal selling
– Trade shows/markets/craft fayres
- Budget – Along with promotion strategies comes budget. You need to know what you can and can’t afford to do and plan accordingly. Can you do some of the promotion yourself or do you need to outsource it?
- Measurement – you should aim to review your marketing plan every couple of months. Look at your various promotion methods and determine which ones work best for you and which don’t.
You can survey existing customers for feedback; ask for feedback and recommendations; look at what your most popular products are and why. Then you will know what you need to do in future.
Pulling together a marketing plan isn’t something that can be done in just a few hours, it can take days – or even weeks – to ensure you have the right information and conduct the necessary research.
Now it’s time to take action!