Preparing a Marketing Plan: Introduction
Careful planning increases the chances of successfully accomplishing what you set out to achieve. The principles of good planning can be applied to almost any project and remain the same irrespective of the task. However, the outcome of planning, the plan, can differ according to the nature and purpose of the task.
There are three stages in the process of preparing a marketing plan.
- The first involves reviewing your overall strategy to confirm the definition of your target customer and decide on the positioning strategy you want to adopt. Positioning is generally concerned with how you differentiate your products and services from those of your competitors.
- The next step is to determine the impact of your targeting and positioning decisions on your strategy for the marketing mix. The marketing mix deals with such issues as product specification and development, pricing policies, delivery systems (place) and promotional activity, and is sometimes referred to as ‘the 4Ps’. By this point you will be making decisions that indicate the need for specific action to be taken which, in turn, have implications for the operational resources you will need.
- The last step is to review these needs and prepare an action plan that states, using ‘action orientated’ statements, what will be done and when - preferably with allocated responsibilities for each task.
When you have formulated your marketing plan it can be helpful to produce a written document. Actually writing out the plan and including justification for intentions will help crystallise your thinking and ensure that you have covered all the important points. If you will be seeking external finance to support your marketing development, any potential backer will insist on a written plan - possibly as part of an overall business plan.
If you take another look at the figure above you will see how the core elements of a marketing plan fit together. They 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 may be helpful to incorporate here, or possibly as a separate section, a description and analysis of your chosen market including market size, market structure, competitors and market trends.
- Definition of your target customers, including an explanation of why you believe they will buy your 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 (see below) stating what you will 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.
Just as for any planning exercise of this nature, you will also need to cost your plans and produce a set of 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.