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Marketing Plan To Copy – A Marplan Is Like A Map To Your Profits

Have you asked a Marketing Agency to quote you for drawing up a Marketing Plan recently? If, like me, you own a small business, then it is hard to justify spending the £600 a day I was asked for here in Britain. I have to watch my bottom line like a hawk, especially in the difficult-trading-conditions we seem to be in. But here is a dilemma! A Marketing Plan is a really essential tool that will show a small business owner where their business is and map out where it needs to go. It is vital in today’s competitive environment that even small business should have one.

When you overdraft or financing facilities come up for renewal and your bank manager has to justify lending the bank’s money to your business, think how much easier it would be to convince him to continue backing you with a plan laid out in neat systematic form.

It is probably the case that far too many small companies don’t have a Marketing Plan, or the owner has it locked in his head. A place of storage that is really difficult to access when you need to show it to the potential investor or the bank manager. And inevitably this event usually occurs when you are really busy and committing your plan to paper, or computer file, is added pressure that you really could do with out. I run a small retail business – an independent bookshop and a Collectables gift business on the Internet.

Recently I studied for, and obtained, the UK’s Chartered Institute of Marketing’s “Professional Diploma in Marketing” by doing a convergent learning course on the net and in four intensive workshop days in my local town. It brought home to me that what we did in our own business was fine up to a point. As the course was very practical, with the chance to use any organisation of the student’s choice in the assignments that we had to submit, I ended up formally setting down the Marketing Plan on paper, that had been up there in my head for no one to see!

So what is a Marketing Plan for?

Well, its purpose is to lay down, direct and co-ordinate all your marketing activities and events. Think of it as a map. With a map it is easier to get some place. With a marketing plan it is easier to get the business to where you want it to head. This is, hopefully, to huge profits!

Perhaps you are the owner or director of a company seeking backing or further investment? Well a good marketing plan can be really important in attracting new investment or better bank facilities.

Perhaps you need help in making choices regarding which parts of the market to focus on and how to compete in that target market (Marketing Strategy)?

Often the mere process of preparing a marketing plan will help you to develop a successful marketing strategy through the discipline and process that you go through.

A good marketing plan will describe all the marketing actions to be carried out within a specific time period. It will contain details of your company, its products or services, its marketing objectives and strategies and information on how to measure the results of the marketing activities.

It might help if I give you a framework of basic elements that a Marketing Plan should include.

Basic Elements of a Marketing Plan

So what do you need?

1.Executive Summary – introduces and explains the major features and recommendations to executives (or your bank manager).

1.1 Introduction – a brief description of your organisation, its products and or services.

The context and objectives of the plan should be described and a description of what your business activities are. You should include current revenues, customers and your market position. You can also blow your own trumpet here! Note your accomplishments and successes to date.
If it is a new market entry or entirely new markets you are going for, then here is the place to describe any experience, training or competencies that your company has.

1.2 Vision, Mission Statement and Objectives

Mission statements focus on the long-range purpose of your marketing plan.
“To educate entertain and enlighten our clients so that they become more successful Marketers.”
Company objectives should be more specific and oriented towards action.
“We will deliver a balanced range of Marketing Solution Publications to the U.K. and Europe through mail order and Internet.”

1.3 Team description

Who will deliver the plan? What are the resources and structure of the team who will do so?
Management skills and capabilities. List any Marketing knowledge, sales skills, copy-writing ability, etc.
Agencies – Include any Marketing consultants, PR agencies you are using.

If there are any gaps honestly point them out and do a Training Needs Analysis.

1.4 Main marketing objectives

You need only give a brief statement of these here to close the Executive summary.

2.1 Current market conditions

What are the trends in your market?
What are the dynamics facing businesses such as yours?
Who are your target customers?
What competition do you face?

2.2 Market trends:

You should describe the macroeconomic trends that directly affect the target market that your marketing plan is aimed at.
This is where the PEST Framework is useful to include. (Sometimes referred to as PESTEL, SLEPT or PESTE) the components are:
Political
Economic
Social
Technological
Environment
Legal

2.3 Target market

It goes without saying that you should be aiming all your marketing efforts precisely at a target market or you are heading for a disaster.

All good marketing planning should follow from a very detailed segmentation of the market.
Size? Is it growing, staying the same, or shrinking?
Customer characteristics e.g. age, sex, income level, location, marital status, number of children etc.
Habits, patterns and values of target customer.
What are their wants, needs and desires?
What are their buying habits? – How do they spend their disposable income and when do they buy and how do they buy? How many times and when?

2.4 Competition analysis

In the micro environment analysis of a Marketing Audit you will hopefully have identified your present and potential competitors. What are their key products / services? How do they differentiate them selves? You should briefly explain the actions that you will take to oppose or overcome your competitor’s offerings.

I highly recommend you use Professor Michael Porter’s Five Forces Model for this and the four other threats he identifies. Space does not allow me to go into detail here although I have written a more comprehensive report in which I include a diagram of the Five Forces Model available from my own website.

2.5 Issues analysis

You should briefly list such key external issues as government legislation affecting your business, or new technological development that impinges on your product.

3.1 SWOT analysis

Strengths
Weakness
Opportunities
Threats

A major component of any marketing plan is the SWOT analysis. Strengths and weaknesses are born of internal elements while opportunities and threats come from outside.
When opportunities and threats are recognised they can then be examined from the point of view of your product strengths and weaknesses.

What could we change or improve about our product to make it easier for the customer?
What are our customers’ wants and desires? – We may possibly find new opportunities by thinking about such questions.

It is worth remembering that a threat can also be an opportunity to you, while a strength may also be a weakness depending on your point of view!

A business offering a vast selection of products may see this as one of their strengths. But for the customer, confused by the bewildering array of options as they try to find what they need, sees it as a weakness.

4. Positioning Strategy

Decide how you want your clients to perceive you in your marketplace.
Lowest price?
Best service?
Highest quality?
This is all part of the differentiation process.

5. Differentiation

You want to ‘stand out from the crowd’ so you need to make some decisions on segmentation and the positioning of your business. Combine this with your competitive analysis and you should be able to differentiate yourself from the competition.

6. Key messages

Thinking about differentiation should also help you to decide on your ‘Key messages’. Be warned that it usually takes time for these to make an impact, to ‘sink in’, as it were. This means it is important to keep repeating your consistent messages throughout any marketing campaigns.

7. The Marketing Mix

The 4 P’s.P is for:

Product – List your companies products and services. Include their key features. Is there something unique about them? If you are launching a new product or service include it here.

Price – There are many ways to set a price, some more scientific than others are! Remember that pricing is an integral part of the marketing strategy. Ask yourself is the customer willing to pay the price proposed and will it give you any profit? Some prices may be set on a cost-plus basis – adding a profit on to the costs of producing the goods or services. A better way is the ‘market-based’ price because it takes into account what your competitors are charging.

Place – where do you sell? Direct, through an intermediary? Bricks and mortar or virtual outlet?

Promotion – what activities are you going to use to create awareness of your product or service to generate sales? This is also referred to as Marketing Communications and includes direct selling, corporate events, brochures, web-sites, advertising. You should be warned that many inexperienced marketers think that the promotional plan is the entire marketing plan. It is, as you can see, but one component of the marketing plan.

7a. Integration of Promotional activity

Have you got a consistent look and feel to all your marketing mix? It is wise to make sure all your communications, brand positioning, propositions, messages, etc are derived from a single brand position so it is not confusing to the consumer by being fragmented. Also are there cross selling opportunities for you to exploit?

Only 4 Ps? – Funny, I thought I heard there were 7!

Before leaving the marketing mix I need to tell you about the Extended mix, which adds People, Process and Physical evidence to Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

If you are a service, or a not-for-profit organisation, then the extra three Ps are most important for you. But don’t just assume that because you are not, that they don’t apply!

People oriented organisations have to consider how their personnel make the marketing activities more, or less, effective when dealing face to face (or on the phone) with their public.

Process makes it easy for you to deal with the organisation. If it is a charity, for example, today people expect to be able to go on-line, set up direct-debits, pay by card and not just put money in the street collectors tin.

Physical evidence is expected to result from paying for a service or donating to a charity. You expect to see some physical evidence of the use your money has been put to.

8. Marketing Budget

You need a detailed budget for the next year showing the budgeted costs for each of your promotional items.

9. Measurement

Results and feed back must be gathered each month and compared with the marketing plan. When they are going astray you need to take corrective action.
Another tip is to ask your customers how they found you so that you can monitor what parts of your communications plan are working. Note this and include this in your measurements.

10. Milestones

It is a good idea to announce in the plan some marketing milestones you will strive to achieve. When you pass them celebrate!

So there it is a step by step process to create yourself a professional Marketing plan.

Developing A Simple Marketing Plan

If your intention is to do any type of marketing activities in order to grow your business, a must is to start with a so called marketing plan. In this article I am going to lay out important steps for creating highly tactical marketing plan that can produce meaningful results for your business.

Why in this case length doesn’t matter and why simplicity always beat complexity

If you’re thinking about developing a marketing program, you need to begin with a basic marketing plan. Having been professional services industry for more than a decade, I have seen my share of marketing plans. Some are short and to the point, others are hundreds of pages thick and cost thousands of dollars to produce. Seldom, those expensive and monumental, outperform those concise and well structured. What I have found is that it is not the complexity and length that matter, but rather simplicity, commitment and implementation that make or break your marketing intentions.

The harsh reality and the painful, to some degree, irony

The irony is that many of the expensive marketing plans end up on a shelf and rarely get implemented. Business people like simplicity and non-technical jargon. They could not be bothered to commit to something fuzzy and abstract. Therefore,to prove the point, simpler the plans are, if researched and implemented effectively, impact and results they produce will be the greatest.

Regardless of the expectations of your marketing plan, you must be clear in mind that it is a continuous improvement process and not something that you are going to do once in a lifetime. Circumstances change, markets shift, preferences, tastes and technologies are varying almost daily. Every successful to be structure, needs to start with a well conducted thorough research about the environment, competitive position, and all the things it will bring to the table. State your reasons, intentions, what are you good at, what are your unique selling/competing proposition and so on. Keep in mind that if you are not absolutely clear with yourself your chances compete successfully reduce dramatically. Then clearly determine what you need to know, what additional skills you need to obtain, where are you going to find the missing information. Keep it simple and don’t overload yourself with things you don’t need in this early stage. Your plan should focus on your most important thing which is to get you and your business off ground and to keep your revenue model going so that you have financial resources to fund your next activities. You should always be willing to enhance or redirect your plan based on what proves successful. Simply saying – KEEP WHAT’S WORKING AND ABANDON (after careful consideration) EVERYTING ELSE!

Back to basics

Your Current Marketing Reality

Clearly establish where are you NOW. And I mean it literally. Where are you relatively to your marketing and business goals. What is working, what is not working? Why is that so? What results would be ideal? What is necessary for you to move forward? What is your next step?

Collect, organise, and write down data about the market that is currently buying the product(s) or service(s) you will sell. Some important points to consider:

  • Market dynamics, patterns including seasonality
  • Customers – demographics, market segment, target markets, needs, buying decisions
  • Product – what’s out there now, what’s the competition offering. Where you can become ultimate choice. The best provider of services, goods etc. Where you can build on what someone else already did so that you can wipe out the years of research, development and marketing efforts.
  • Current sales in the industry – in other words is there a need currently present?
  • Benchmarks in the industry – who are the main players? Why is it so?
  • Suppliers – vendors that you will need to rely on. How can you obtain favourable terms and conditions?

Your Ideal Customer

What are their problems, pains, needs, wants, desires? You need to articulate why YOU are the best solution for their issues? Why only you can do things that your big claim is about? What is your motivation to help them? Find niche or target markets for your services and product and describe them. Assign benefits of working with you! Keep in mind that people buy emotionally, they seek help for emotional reasons as well.

Your Solution

Describe your service, product, offer. Be specific. How does your product relate to the market? What does your market need, what do they currently use, what do they need above and beyond current use? CAN YOU CREATE WOW EFFECT with your intended offers?

You need to discover in your business some hidden assets, potentials, strengths that if combined and leveraged could possibly propel you and your business to the AUTHORITY Position!

YOU NEED TO BECOME TREND SETTER and avoid FOLLOWER mentality!

Competition

Describe your competition. Develop your “unique selling proposition.” What makes you stand apart from your competition? What is your competition doing about branding? What can you learn from your competition?

Setting the Scene with powerful and engaging Mission Statement

Write a few key points that state:

  • Key market – who you’re selling to
  • Contribution – what you’re selling
  • Distinction – your unique selling proposition
  • Solution – your intention, service, offer

Market Strategies that will keep you going

Write down the marketing and promotion strategies that you want to use or at least consider using. It is as simple as that. Don’t confuse how to do with what to do it, Strategies Vs. Tactics. Strategies are broader while actions are specifics. So to help you here, strategies to consider:

  • Networking – go where your market is
  • Direct marketing – sales letters, brochures, flyers
  • Advertising – print media, directories
  • Training programs – to increase awareness
  • Write articles, give advice, become known as an expert
  • Direct/personal selling
  • Publicity/press releases
  • Trade shows
  • Web site

Pricing, Positioning and Branding

From the information you’ve collected, establish strategies for determining the price of your product, where your product will be positioned in the market and how you will achieve brand awareness.

Budget

Budget your dollars. What strategies can you afford? What can you do in house, what do you need to outsource. You need to keep the tight budget and keep investing where you are getting results. Marketing as we know it is the term of the past. Internet is a great example and leverage point for any type and/or size of the business. It is so wrong to expect that more money invested will actually bring you more leads, customers and clients! Sometimes the more you spend the more will be washed away!

Marketing Goals

Establish quantifiable marketing goals (SMART) This means goals that you can turn into numbers, that are specific, rational, clear and time limited. The other importance in quantifying is scalability, the ability of your business to grow without your direct investment in resources.

Monitor Your Results

Determine, with absolute precision, how, what and when results will be measured. So, if you set the standards, you will know what is acceptable, where improvements are necessary and so on.

Test, test, test. Analyse, analyse and analyse. Identify the successful strategies that are working. Be clear and fearful. Every unsuccessful strategy cost you money and should be either abandoned or reshaped and reworked.

Surveys are great ways to see how markets, prospects, clients perceive your marketing efforts. Ask often your best customers and ask for feedback. Know the purpose.

Track sales, leads, visitors to your web site, percent of sales to impressions etc.

By researching your markets, your competition, and determining your unique positioning, you are in a much better position to promote and sell your product or service. By establishing goals for your marketing campaign, you can better understand whether or not your efforts are generating results through ongoing review and evaluation of results.

As mentioned earlier in this article, be sure to use your plan as a living document. Successful marketers continually review the status of their campaigns against their set objectives. This ensures ongoing improvements to your marketing initiatives and helps with future planning.