Your marketing plan is an important document, it will help convince others that your business is viable, it will show that you have a plan to grow your business and it will give you a framework in which to build your business.
Writing a better marketing plan
Most people can write a basic marketing plan. The difference between an average and exceptional plan is constantly thinking about differentiation. That is focusing on what makes your product stand apart from your competitors in a way that is relevant to consumers. Product or service differentiation is key to business success so it must be your watchword.
Here is a step by step template covering how to develop a strong marketing plan:
Stage 1 – Background research and viability check
- Before you do anything else you must research how viable your business idea is.
- They key to this is understanding whether or not you have a market and how big that market is.
- You will need to understand your competitor products and what their benefits are
- You will also need to work out why your product might be preferred over others – this is called differentiation. Find out how different your product is and ask is it different enough to engage consumers?
- And remember, it’s not what you think, its what your market thinks that matters most.
If you are getting the wrong answers at this stage then take a step back. You may need to rethink your product or service. Assuming your product is vaiable, you move to Stage 2.
Stage 2 – Developing your marketing plan
- Part 1 – Your Introduction
- Summary of what your product or service is
- What makes it different?
- What makes it viable?
- Explain why there is a market opportunity
- Summarise your objectives
- Summary of what your plan contains
- Part 2 – Statement of objectives
- Your plan will be far more compelling if you can say where you are going
- What is it that your product or service will achieve over the next three years?
- Can you state an objective like “to be used by 50% of SMEs by 2021”?
- Can you state supporting sales objectives?
- Can you state any financial objectives?
- Can you provide a timeline?
- Part 3 – Your Situation Analysis – Most companies use a SWOT analysis at this stage:
- A SWOT analysis is a goof platform for this stage
- Strengths – Present / Internal – what are your strengths in the market relative to other players?
- Weaknesses – Present / Internal – what are your weaknesses in the market relative to other players?
- Opportunities – Future / External – what are the opportunities before you (these could be be market, technology, regulatory etc
- Threats – Future / External – what are the threats before you (these could be be market, technology, regulatory etc
- be honest with yourself here – it’s better to identify threats now than later
- A SWOT analysis is a goof platform for this stage
- Part 4 – Market and Buyer Research
- You need to use research to prove you have a market and that will buy your product or service
- There are a number of tools you can use to survey market attitudes and buyer intention
- Survey Monkey is a great tool that allows you to create an online survey, email it and track responses
- If you have budget you can look at other forms of qualitative and quantitative research.
- This is an incredibly powerful way to support your business case
- Other sources that can help you estimate market demand include Google keywords search and Google trends
- In order to forecast revenue you will need to make an assessment of how many people will purchase your product and at what frequency.
- Part 5 – Your Target audience segment definition and market sizing
- Your research in Part 3 above will help you to define your target audience
- Who is your target audience and how can they be defined? Criteria here could include:
- Demographics (women aged 25-44)
- Life stage (have young children under 12 years)
- Demographics (e.g. ACORN or MOSAIC)
- Geographical location
- Is the market growing or declining?
Stage 3 – Your Marketing Mix -putting the Ps to work
Here we apply the four Ps model of the marketing mix (7Ps in the case of services) to develop your marketing activity plan
- Marketing Mix P1 – Product
- Describe the product, its attributes, features and benefits
- State exactly why is it different.
- What advantage does it have over competitors and why?
- Research your product versus competitors and detect product feature / benefit opportunities.
- Identify the key features of the product that confer advantage (the grinder is smoother, the casing is cooler etc)
- Identify the benefits provided by these features – for example:
- the grinder is smoother so (benefit) your coffee tastes fresher
- the cool bag casing is cooler so (benefit) your sandwiches stay fresher for longer
- Marketing Mix P2 – Price
- Price is a powerful tool for marketers
- Price can be used to convey quality (higher pricing) or it can be used to grow market share by undercutting competitors.
- Price can drive volume – the lower the price the higher the volume and the higher the price the lower the volume
- Determine what price your competitors charge and what price your target audience will pay
- Examine whether or not you can charge a premium for quality / product attributes
- Show how you will use pricing to help grow sales.
- Marketing Mix P3 – Place
- Place means distribution – where will you sell the product or service?
- How will you sell the product or service, online or via retail, offices etc
- Can you partner with other companies to sell your product (concessions)
- Do you need an eCommerce website
- If you sell via eCommerce how will you deliver the goods?
- Have you considered the costs o distribution?
- Marketing Mix P4 – Promotion
- What is the promotional proposition or positioning of your product?
- Your proposition is your statement of competitive consumer benefit
- The proposition has to be qualified by supporting facts – and these have to be differentiating facts
- Once you have your proposition and you can refer back to your target audience and link the two together
- Now you know what you are saying and who you are saying it to – this forms the foundation of your promotional platform
- You can now examine potential channels, partnerships and message development
- These can be arranged into a budget plan which can be used in your overall financial forecasts
- If you are building a digital direct marketing plan you will need to apply a sales funnel model which covers budget, audience, response or click, conversions (sales), customers and customer value.
- Your sales funnel model (usually expressed as a spreadsheet) can show budget in and lead and sales out.
Stage 4 – Financial forecasts
- You will now be in a position to make an assessment of revenue and costs and these will form the basis of your financial forecasts.
- You will be able to estimate the number of customers and the average spend per customer
- Once you have revenue and costs you can make a forecast of profit
- You can also make forecast of cash flow – this will help if you need a loan for the business.
Stage 5 – Timelines
- You will need to demonstrate how long it takes to deliver the different stages in your plan
Stage 6 – Marketing Control
- You will need to demonstrate that you have a methodology to control your business
- This will allow you to see when you are drifting off plan so that you can refocus
- Typically this will be based on your financial forecasts and timelines (4 and 5 above)