The export marketing plan
This is the start of the next major phase of your export development. It’s time to pull together everything you have done so far and set out in detail how you are going to turn your intentions into reality - the marketing plan.
Based on the information you have been gathering you have selected a market that you feel represents a viable opportunity and have a fairly clear view of what you will be exporting. You have looked at the options for establishing a route into your export market and short-listed one or two that seem appropriate. This gives you the starting point for your export marketing plan.
What is an export marketing plan?
The core elements of an export marketing plan are:
- Description of the products and/or services you intend to sell - what they do, how they work, the customer benefits they offer and how they differ from those of the competition. It will be useful if you incorporate here, or possibly as a separate section, a description and analysis of your chosen market, including details on market size, market structure, competitors, and market trends.
- Definition of your target customers including an explanation of why you believe they will buy the products/services - the benefits they seek and the reason why they are likely to choose your products in preference to those of your competitors.
- A section dealing with each element of the marketing mix stating what you intend to do and why.
- An assessment of the resource implications of your plan - additional people, equipment, etc - noting why you need them and the costs involved.
- Summary action plan timetable.
You will need to fully cost your plans and produce financial projections to test viability and enable you to assess the sensitivity of your plan to fluctuations in sales volumes, prices and critical cost areas.
As you prepare your export marketing plan, think logically. Addressing the venture strategically and making concrete plans will encourage you to:
- look realistically at what you are aiming to do;
- indentify any flaws; and,
- pinpoint any hidden opportunities.
The marketing plan can be used as a viability exercise on a practical level, to assess your plans and determine how they will work within your existing business framework. Issues such as product pricing and increased production may have more of an impact on company finances than you had originally predicted, and making some realistic calculations at this stage will enable you to pin down those areas which may need re-thinking.
Although you need to include as much detail as possible it is important to be flexible at this stage. You won’t necessarily be able to make all the right decisions, or foresee all the potential problems and opportunities until you have progressed significantly with implementation of your export project. The marketing plan is very much a guiding reference tool. It will help you monitor who is doing what and when, giving you a direction and a set of goals. You should not regard it as being rigidly prescriptive nor be averse to going back and making any necessary amendments - or even drastic changes - as your familiarity with, and experience of, your market grows.
Producing your export marketing plan is a crucial stage in the export development process. It is the point at which your preparation work to-date is combined to create an action plan with the aim of taking those first important steps towards establishing a presence in your new export market.