In order to get your marketing efforts off to the right start, you must first fully understand the strategic goals of your company or organization. All good marketing plans begin with a comprehensive and intimate understanding of the goals of the company. You will also be well served to review the vision and mission of the organization. All of your marketing efforts should fully support these goals and every marketing strategy and tactic should be designed with these goals kept firmly in mind.
The first step in creating a marketing plan
Marketing plans must be based upon the goals laid out in the business plan so a thorough review and understanding of the company's business plan is the first step in created a marketing plan.
Once you understand the strategic goals of the company, as a successful marketer you will also fully understand the benefits of the products and services you offer. You will also understand who can benefit from those products and services and how you will sell and deliver those products and services to them profitably. You will also seek to uncover and explore strategic opportunities that will help your business grow and increase profitability through the delivery of superior products and services to an audience that will benefit from them.
Once you have a strategy that describes your company's products or services and how your market will benefit from them, then you can create a marketing plan that will enable you to communicate with your market, sell your product or service, and reach your organization's strategic goals. You may choose to include tactics for uncovering new strategic opportunities that exist.
Critical to your marketing plan is an understanding of how people will benefit from a relationship with you so your plan must include a clear communication strategy to let people in your target market know how they will benefit from your products and services. You will also identify ways to quantify and measure your plan so you know not only if your plan is working but how well it is working.
Traditionally, marketers have talked about and taught "The Four P's of Marketing". They were: Product, Place, Price, and Promotion. It is these things, it was felt, that must be addressed in order to succeed in marketing.
In my opinion these "Four P's" were lacking a very important element and were too inward looking. What about the people we are trying to serve?
The 5 P's of Marketing
Your marketing plan should address the 5 P's of Marketing: People, Price, Product, Promotion, and Place. If you do not start by keeping people foremost in mind you are bound to fail. After all, when we talk about markets we are really talking about people and when we create marketing plans we are designing ways to effectively communicate with people.
Of course, just to keep things interesting, some feel that the "P's of marketing"--be there 4 or 5-- is an outdated concept and that the P's should be replaced by C's.
Below is an outline of a marketing plan that addresses the essential points of concern along with a brief discussion of each component in the plan. Keep in mind that every marketing plan is different but each of the below components should be discussed in your plan.
Marketing Plan Outline/Example
Your overview will be a brief description of your plan, what your goals are, the assumptions implicit in the plan, and the major actions you'll take to achieve your marketing goals. This will give the reader a short preview or synopsis so they at least have a general understanding of what your plan is trying to accomplish and why.
Company Vision or Mission Statement
This section will discuss the philosophy of your business, who you wish to serve, why you wish to serve them, and the manner in which you will conduct business. The Vision or Summary describes why you are in business in the first place.
This section will discuss the major marketing objectives you will accomplish through your plan in quantifiable terms along with a discussion of your budget and the major actions or marketing initiatives you will undertake to accomplish those objectives.
A Discussion of Your Market
This section talks about the identified needs of identifiable groups of people and how your products and services meet those needs. The more you know about the people you hope to serve and the better your market research ("people research"), the better your plan will be.
Market Segments, Market Segmentation Strategy, Discussion of Needs and Requirements
This section will analyze your overall market and discuss the identified sub-groups of people within based upon their different needs and wants. You can probably never understand too much about the needs and requirements of your market and they are likely to be very diverse so the more you can segment your market and understand the unique needs and wants the better.
An identified sales goal. It is impossible to create a successful plan if you do not know what the goal is. You should also set sales goals within each market segment and among each of your product lines.
A full discussion of each of your products and services and how each uniquely meets the needs and wants of your market. What are you selling? What is unique about it? Why would anyone buy it?
Thus far your plan has talked about what you need to do. Now your plan must discuss how you will do it. This section will also discuss how you plan to reach and communicate with each of your market segments and how you will treat each differently. Discuss how you will position your company based upon your Unique Selling Proposition. Your Unique Selling Proposition is what you do that is different than anyone else and the single most important reason you are different than any other company. Your Unique Selling Proposition is how you will differentiate yourself from your competition.
A full discussion and examination of how you will deliver your products and services to your customers. It would be a good idea to understand your customers' preferred delivery method and try to base your distribution on that model.
A full and complete analysis and discussion of your competition. Who are they? What do they do? How do they do it? What are their strengths? What are their vulnerabilities? Who are their customers? Why do their customers buy from them?
A Tactical Plan
A detailed plan of all the communications channels you will use and all the marketing communications tools you will use. In other words, carefully consider how you will communicate with your market. Just some of the marketing tactics you might wish to include are: print advertising, Public Relations, publicity, direct marketing, direct mail, trade show exhibiting, Web and Internet marketing, outdoor advertising, and sponsorships. I'll talk some more about some of these tactics on the next few pages and show you examples from actual projects I've done.
A delineation of marketing communications tactics you will use and budgets for each of them. You have to know how much money you have to carry out your plan so you can be realistic about the tools and tactics you'll use.
Discussion of Sales & Marketing Resources Available
Carefully consider the resources you have available to you as you prepare to execute your plan. Identify the financial and human resources you will need to translate your strategic plan into series of tactical successes. This is the place to fully discuss your sales and marketing infrastructures and make sure they can support your goals.
A discussion of how you will measure each and every step of your plan. If you do not know how to measure your marketing initiatives you will have no understanding of how to improve your marketing. Build predefined evaluation periods into your plan at which point you will measure your results and adjust your plan accordingly.
Keys to Success/Critical Issues
A discussion of the few most important parts of your plan upon which your success will depend. What are the absolute essential things your plan must accomplish and why?
I like to include a discussion about strategic opportunities in the marketing plans I create. You probably will not know the specifics of opportunities that will present themselves in the future, but you should discuss how you will evaluate strategic opportunities when they arise. Ask yourself what other markets might present additional growth avenues for your business. How will you know if opportunities are right for your business? In my experience, it is best to at least talk about how you will evaluate strategic opportunities before they arise. A great way to accomplish this is to use your company's mission or vision as a guide as to what will define a strategic opportunity worthy of consideration. You might also discuss ways to actively seek and uncover strategic opportunities.
Now that we have talked about creating the marketing plan and looked at a sample outline, let's explore the elements of the promotional mix that you will use to execute your marketing strategy.
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