The vast majority of entrepreneurs and business owners understand the importance of having a business plan. However, many do not realise that a marketing plan is equally as necessary. A marketing plan details how a business will win and keep its customers, creating a strategy complete with statistics, projections and facts. A marketing plan will include all of the tactics and tools that will help to grow the business and achieve sales targets.
The marketing plan describes what will be sold, who the target market is – and most importantly, how to connect with the target audience to generate leads and ultimately make a sale. Typically, a marketing plan is only used in-house, meaning that it does not need to be lengthy or elegantly written. In fact, it is more suitable if it is clear, concise and straight to the point.
The Essential Elements of a Marketing Plan
All marketing plans should have the following five components, no matter the industry, business or scale.
- Company Position – This component describes the business’s current financial position, from which it is possible to analyse past strategies – plotting them against the relevant financial results – in order to find areas of success and failure.
- Strategy and Aim – The marketing plan must list the goals and aims of the business, as well as the strategies that will be implemented. The goals that are laid out in this section will guide the company, particularly with decisions that concern how resources will be distributed
- Opportunities – The plan should include an assessment of both existing and emerging market opportunities, describing how they might be harnessed in both the short and long term.
- Target Market – Defining the target market for each product and service is an important part of a marketing plan. After each group has been defined, the company can then perform in-depth research into their needs, preferences and demands.
- Budget – The final step in any marketing plan is the creation of a realistic marketing budget, complete with dates and deadlines for implementation.
Completing the Marketing Plan
There are many other supplementary bits of information that can be included in a marketing plan, including SWOT analysis, message mapping, the company mission and/or values, and the division of labour. Furthermore, it is important to keep the plan up to date, amending it as time passes and the business situation changes.
SWOT analysis is designed to investigate a company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). By doing this, a business gets an understanding of the likely and possible situations that could/will arise in the market. For further information about SWOT analysis, please refer to the embedded PDF.
James Hopkins, founder of QV-Marketing, understands the impact and importance of messaging – both as a vital element of a marketing strategy, and an essential part of building a brand.
A message map starts with an XYZ statement – which describes what the business does, who the business serves, and how the business benefits its clients – before adding other important messaging that relates to the products, services and clients. The messages that come out in this exercise can then be included in the company’s marketing materials.
Writing a mission statement is a powerful exercise for business owners and entrepreneurs, as it clearly expresses the values of the company to its customers, suppliers, colleagues and employees. The mission statement should be truthful to the company’s past actions and future plans and should be present in all business dealings.