Making Marketing Plans That Work
It is critical for every business to have a plan or strategy not only for the purpose of the success of daily operations but for the longevity of the business cycle or life of a company. Much stress has been placed in business or corporate plans and far more so on marketing and sales strategies. Though often short term, the results of effective sales and marketing plans themselves are often the reasons behind why a company is still in business and how it stays in business.
Effectively maintaining sales through a marketing plan that works provides stability in terms of fluidity of finances in a business. Bottom line: Without money coming in as a result of sales and marketing plans, a business is stuck facing expenses here and there without any ability to pay them.
What Is a Marketing Plan?
Much has been said about how critical a marketing plan is to a starting or growing business and how it can be of great help to the growth and success of the business. But what really is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a document that outlines advertising and marketing activities needed to accomplish specific goals in a set duration of time. A marketing plan aims to grow your business and increase awareness of your company’s business or brands.
Creating awareness for your company brand increases the generation of leads that can be further converted into clients.
Importance of Marketing to the Success of a Business
The success of your day-to-day operations is reliant upon your marketing efforts. Effective marketing benefits most, if not all, aspects of your business. It includes advertising plans, public relations, promotions, and sales. The process of marketing introduces and promotes your products to possible or potential clients thereby giving clients knowledge of your products which may lead to potential sales.
Being known in the industry or community where your business operates is the first and foremost target of marketing. Marketing helps get your products and your company across to potential consumers or buyers. Without marketing, your products or services will not be known or given a chance to develop and succeed.
Marketing creates product or brand awareness and thus helps spreading news of your products or services to a further multitude of people giving you the opportunity to increase your client base.
Marketing efforts include active involvement with community programs which can effectively communicate your products and services to the community. Any company would bank its success to rest on its prominent reputation perhaps in quality with the products they are selling being of very good quality.
Achieving what it promises, a company or business cements its place in the industry or community it is on and is further remembered so with its marketing efforts to engage with the community where it is serving.
With your products and company gaining good reputation, more prospects are made aware of your and your product’s presence, which should effectively raise your opportunities for sales. Satisfied new customers will themselves spread the word about your products and services which should translate into more sales. And the rest is history. Marketing does that and more.
Product Quality and Healthy Competition
With marketing in a certain industry, word gets out quickly and other competing companies would certainly gather wind of a new player in their turf. This ignites the need for each competing company to get a better quality product out to handle the competition.
This is not only helpful to consumers but also to the competing companies as well since it also gives a chance for new emerging businesses to get a shot at a slice of what the business has to offer rather than for a single company to monopolize the business.
Let’s admit it. Competition always brings out the best in each of us which also helps us grow as individual businesses.
Having said all these, let me reiterate what has been said for the nth time—marketing holds a vital role to the survival of any business. However, marketing is also said to be a double-edged sword that can cut both ways if not properly handled. Marketing for the most and early part can account to a business yearly expenses of as much as 30%.
So better keep that trigger-happy finger of yours at bay in connection to marketing activities and expenses and think twice, long, and hard before approving any budget. Because as effective a marketing tool any marketing plan is, it can bite you right back in the a$$ faster than you can say “What?”
Essential Components of a Marketing Plan
It is perhaps true when you say that no marketing plan is ever the same for two businesses. This is because each business has a different set of requirements and circumstances. However, it is equally true that all marketing plans hold essential components that should be present in all cases:
1. Situational Analysis
Also called as market analysis, this includes your SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats)—and your competitor analysis. Detailed information such as market segments, forecast, needs, and customer information are contained in the situational analysis portion of your plan.
2. Market Strategy
States your mission statement for the particular plan, your aims or goals, and detailed strategy per market segment including how you will plan to position your product.
3. Forecast on Sales
Particulars on how sales per month would be tracked are shown as well as follow up plans regarding results from actual figures. Forecast plans include product specific sales figures which are further classified by market segment, industry, channels, or other classifications.
4. Marketing Budget
This report would include detailed monthly expenses regarding any marketing program launched, incentives, sales, promotions, and other activities relating to marketing.
Marketing Plan Checklist
There is no definitive list in making a marketing plan. However, the following contain key segments that should be checked in making your marketing plan.
- Outline the market, as well as the size and characteristics of each segment.
- Research market trends and what customers consider important, whether it’s product features, quality, or customer service.
- Make a comparison in terms of the channels used in getting to the customers, such as direct or online sales.
- Do a competitor profile analysis and find what they are offering in contrast to your business.
- Do a SWOT analysis of your company and determine other factors influencing your industry.
- Review previous marketing campaigns and their impact in relation to sales.
- Determine sales potential for each market segment, products, marketing activity, and different customers.
- Set specific goals (i.e., smart goals) to achieve such as customer retention or producing new clients.
- Decide on specific target area and which products to drive or push.
- Agree on specific product or service pricing.
- Make a sales and distribution method.
- Direct plans in promoting products, services, and improving customer service to increase over all customer satisfaction.
- Verify other factors involved in your plan and how it can affect your plan such as product and training requirements.
What Should a Detailed Marketing Plan Contain?
A detailed marketing plan should set realistic and clear goals that can be measured or quantified with corresponding due dates, budget allocation, and persons responsible for each task.
Marketing Goals or Aims
This part of the plan should contain how the business can stay on top of other competitors which should include increasing sales per product and region, increasing sales value, increasing number of clients, enhancing company image, improvement of customer service, introducing competitive pricing and new products.
The goals set have to represent a corresponding figure that can be measured or tracked in gauging the performance of the plan.
Defining the Target Market
Divide the market into smaller groups based on geography, demographics, lifestyle, or buying conditions, and target factors like customer demand, competition, and profitability.
Current Market Position Analysis
Your present market position is determined by three factors namely the industry, customers, products and services.
Industry. Determine the size of the domestic and export market, your existing share of the market and potential market share.
Customer. Define what comprises your customer base or potential ones and why they are in business with you. What are their characteristics? Determine the effective methods used in dealing with your customers and gauge the quality of your service. What are the main factors being considered by your customers in choosing or with their decision making?
Products or services. Make a description of your products and how they are competitive and differ from competitors. How do your products satisfy your clients? Is it because of the quality or appearance? Find out the cost in producing and distributing your products and the details pertaining to the time it takes in producing the product.
Pricing. Determine what other benefits you are offering and how clients see value in your products or services as compared to competitors. Find out competitor pricing. List different choices to take in cases of price changes or variations and the impact it makes on sales volume.
Product or customer group marketing strategies.
- List the items or products included in your product offering
- Present plans for better product introduction, labeling, and packaging
- Create branding for product recognition and possible product launches
- Propose ways in dealing with customers to reach new heights in your standard of customer service
- Review warranty and guarantees to be given to clients
- Assess budget for such activities
- Propose a target duration for your return on investment
- Review pricing strategy to attract more clients
- Present ideas on keeping or improving profit margins
- Device a system in distributing your products or the framework of your product distribution
- Explain where the business needs to be located
- Define the budget needed for such proposition
- Define venues for advertising, direct marketing, sales promotions, sponsorship programs, public relations, and social media
- Enumerate the communication methods with customers and potential customers
- Plan out how premises and staff will appear in cases of promotions and the corresponding budget involved during promotions
Course of action. Enumerate the steps or actions that need to be done and when it needs to be done along with the corresponding person responsible for the action item.
Tracking, evaluation, and management.
- Provide methods on tracking and monitoring results or evaluations.
- Assign responsible individuals for such a task.
Steps in Creating a Marketing Plan
It is important to take note that the effectivity of a marketing plan lies not only on the plan itself but also in the execution of the plan. It is therefore imperative and equally important to execute a well made plan properly and consistently for the plan to work and give the results that was intended for it to make.
As explained above, defining the target market always takes precedence and understanding the needs of that market helps in the actual development of your marketing plan. Some organizations use and review all their transactions and other records to show or formulate how a client thinks or decides and what factors are involved in making the final decision of choosing a product or service.
In formulating your marketing plan, follow the basic outline shown below.
Formulate a mission statement. In a few sentences, describe what the nature of your business is, the products or services it offers, and the industry or market it serves.
Enumerate your target markets. Come up with a list and describe your target market group or customers. Different segments within the target market are then identified such as types of roles in a company. Some segments are also based on age groups, by profession, or company size.
Services offered. Having done research on the target market, you can now match the products and services you are offering that the target markets require. You can additionally offer new products or services that may be potentially needed by a target market or segment. Requirements needed to meet the demands should also be shown such as costs or staff involved in order to serve the need.
Outline your marketing strategies. Different marketing strategies work well with corresponding target markets and therefore different strategies are required in order to carry out a successful marketing plan or campaign which can target a single market composed of different segments. It is important then to understand each segment and take note of consumer or buyer behavior in order to adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. Here are a few basic marketing strategies that may be helpful in coming up with your own:
- Direct marketing is the most common type of marketing involving sending out of brochures, leaflets, or flyers to potential clients. This also is done repeatedly to the same potential customers.
- Networking relies on discussions with a number of people from your target market. Or if done electronically, being involved in online discussion groups for an intended target market.
- Closely linked to marketing, advertising in media is done often for short term or immediate responses to create clamor or interest in your product to get fast results or sales. Advertising needs to be continuous as well to create the desired effect like direct marketing does.
Direct or personal selling involves on site discussion at a potential client’s office or place. Direct sales often is costly as it only targets a specific individual at a time.
- Publicity in the form of press releases through newspapers, radio, or television is another common and costly marketing strategy.
- Trade shows offer additional venue to showcase products or services.
- Devising training programs that help increase awareness of your product is also another effective way for marketing your products.
Positioning. By understanding competitors, you can position yourself where your strengths are emphasized in relation to the competition. Determining how you can hold a unique position in the market in terms of value for product, price, service or any combination is key to successfully achieving your marketing goals.
Establishing marketing goals. Once you have a clear understanding of where you stand in the market and the market share that you hold, it is important to set marketing goals that can be measured and understood in figures. This can include any number of new clients that you are targeting or sales figures you want to achieve.
Being practical and realistic in consideration of the market and competitors is key to establishing attainable goals. Carefully study budget requirements involved with the strategies that you have come up in consideration of all available skills and resources at your disposal to come up with the correct and effective plan.
Carefully monitor your results. By tracking your results, you are able to find out which of your marketing strategies are a bust and which ones are actually contributing or working. This in turn can help you in formulating more plans to generate leads and land more sales. Another evaluation method used by most is using survey questionnaires and interview questionnaires to regular users of the product or service. Knowing the client better helps in addressing the requirement and could also introduce ways in which to further obtain other product sales.
Some interviews can even be made as marketing tools in the form of testimonials providing again more leverage for your product or service.
Finally, for all those just beginning to formulate and find their rhythm in making marketing plans, the following should prove to be quite useful and fast tips to follow:
- Focus on clients that provide constant and repeat business.
- Focus on your target markets.
- Be persistent and consistent in the execution of your plans.
- Do not fear failure. Part of the natural learning process is coming up short of a target.
- Revise your plan accordingly from learning what works and what does not.