Writing a marketing plan

Designing and implementing a strong yet flexible marketing plan is the foundation of a successful business. A marketing plan must include a mix of different tactics based on an analysis of what has worked in the past and which activities did not yield the expected results.

A business usually defines its market as a particular group of buyers and before the marketing plan is conceived, the first step is to identify the target market, niches within the target market and understand its different needs for your product or service. This begins with market research to understand its expectations in order to devise strategies to meet them.  Although businesses set long term goals, detailed marketing plans are usually finalised for one year based on the year’s goals and budget.  A quarterly assessment shows any changes that must be made in the focus of the plan.

Here is a sequence of actions to write an effective marketing plan:

  • A mission statement stating the nature of the business, its services, its target markets.
  • A description of the target market, its size, its segments and user profile
  • A detailed description of products and services being offered
  • The budget required to reach the products and services to the market. This includes staff, services, logistics and other marketing and promotional costs
  • A break up of marketing and promotional tactics proposed to be used for different target market segments and the time frame for monitoring these activities. This includes keeping track of industry trends and forming strategic business alliances. Marketing strategies can include online and offline networking, direct marketing in the form of sales letters, email marketing, flyers, online advertising focused on specific target markets, campaigns to increase product awareness, online article marketing, direct sales, mobile marketing, social media marketing, brand building, trade shows, etc. Through constant monitoring and evaluation, tactics that work can be repeated while those that do not work must be dropped.
  • Competitor analysis. This is an on-going exercise and a part of the market plan in order to achieve the right positioning. This involves a SWOT analysis where you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats vis-à-vis the competition. In general, competition revolves around a combination of price, product and benefits. This will help create your own Unique Selling Proposition (USP), which is the message that will go out in your marketing communication.
  • Quantifiable marketing goals. This covers what you want to accomplish in twelve months, the markets you plan to reach and how you plan to cover them and your revenue goals.
  • Monitoring and tracking results to see which strategies generate leads and sales, the customers’ response to these strategies and what appeals to them.

While evaluating the marketing plan periodically, it must answer the following questions:

  • Were the goals reached?
  • Were the marketing campaigns successful?
  • Did it achieve the expected return on investment?
  • Did it result in conversions as expected?

In the course of the assessment, if new markets emerge, the planning team looks at ways to explore and reach these markets.

In summary, the marketing plan must set clear and realistic targets that are measurable, specify clear deadlines for meeting these targets, indicate the budget for each market activity and also allocate accountability to the people responsible for each aspect of the plan.