Your marketing plan is an essential part of your overall business plan. It sets the direction and goals for introducing new products, entering new markets, or changing a current marketing strategy. Here is a simple, systematic guideline which you can use when creating your next marketing plan.
We’ve all heard it before, that a good plan should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-based and Timed. In terms of a marketing plan, this means you must analyse the current market, determine your objectives, and the steps to achieving your objectives. You also need to consider the fun stuff like budgets, deadlines, and allocation of responsibilities.
To make sure that you cover all these areas, split your marketing planning process into the following 3 stages:
- Research and Planning
- Marketing Strategy
- Actions and Controls
Stage 1: Research and Planning
The first stage will help you determine what your objectives and goals are, who you’re currently up against, and what current and future market conditions you should be preparing for. This stage should cover:
Current Company Position
It’s important to assess your current internal environment so you can see how your company is performing and what resources you currently have to leverage. Areas you may want to include in this assessment are:
- Organisational structure and the strengths and weaknesses of each department or business unit
- Financial figures, company cash flows and trends for each
- Capital assets and available or spare resources
- Current market share
- Current target market and client base
- Company pricing structure
- Current selling channels being used
Your macro-environment will take a look at the uncontrollable factors that will influence your marketing strategy and decision making. A good model to use when assessing your macro-environment is the PESTEL analysis model which takes into consideration:
- Political factors: Such as government policies and the infrastructure of the economy.
- Economic factors: This includes factors such as interest rates, tax rates, inflation and exchange rates.
- Social factors: Such as the ageing population, gender population and other social trends.
- Technological factors: What available technologies can affect your rate of production, costs or quality.
- Environmental factors: Environmental trends such as weather changes that may affect your marketing strategy.
- Legal factors: Such as consumer laws and employment laws that you must take into consideration.
Your micro-environment relates to the factors that directly influence your company’s decision making. This includes your stakeholders, suppliers, intermediaries, consumers and competitors.
Now you can use the simple SWOT analysis model to help you uncover any opportunities available in the areas you’ve just assessed and what threats you should prepare for before you start putting together your marketing strategy.
- Strengths: Often relates to your company situation and internal factors such as what your low-cost resources and unique selling points (USPs) are.
- Weaknesses: Often relates to internal factors such as what you could improve on, and what your customers and potential customers find lacking.
- Opportunities: Generally relates to external factors such as industry gaps or trends you can take advantage of.
- Threats: Relates to your obstacles, competitors and any of your weaknesses that could get in the way of your business.
Stage 2: Marketing Strategy
The mission statement is a few sentences that declares the nature of your business and the market that it serves. A good mission statement should be able to give other people a general idea around the decision-making framework of your company and the reasons behind it.
Your company should also have a vision statement which acts as an inspiration and paints a picture of where the company would like to see itself in the future. By having a clear vision you will be able to communicate your intentions and your dream for the company to other people.
Including your company mission and vision in your marketing plan will emphasise your reason behind what you do. Often the most successful businesses are those that are able to emotionally connect with their consumers by clearly communicating through their marketing campaign their ‘why’ behind their product or service rather than just ‘what’ the product or service is.
What are the specific goals that you want to achieve with this marketing plan? Your goals should cover financial and marketing objectives, be measurable, and be limited to no greater than 4 objectives to prevent the risk of spreading your focus too thin.
Figure out what group of customers have the willingness and ability to buy your product or service. You can segment your market according to their demographic, geographic and psychographic characteristics. One of the most important questions you should ask yourself is “Why would they buy this?”. Unless you create a strong enough ‘Why’ you won’t see any conversions until customers feel like they have no other choice.
What will your target market truly pay for your offering that will enable you to also reach your revenue goals? You must be keeping track of the cost of physically producing and distributing a product as well as the gross profit your pricing structure will provide for you.
To get started, take a look at your competitors’ prices – what is the price average? For those that are charging a premium, what differentiating factors allow them to successfully do so? Is your target market extremely price sensitive? What kind of return on investment would you like to achieve? Analyse the pricing options available to you (cost leadership, differential and focus strategy) and determine which would work best for your product, service and brand.
Strategy for growth
Once your business is off the ground you must have a strategy in place to grow your revenue by bringing your product or service to new customers, new markets or introducing new products and services along the way. Here are some options you could consider when formulating the outline of your growth strategy:
- New customers: You may currently be a business-to-business company seeking to expand into business-to-consumer or vice versa. Think about other target markets for which you might be able to create a need for your product.
- Location, location, location: If your business requires a physical presence, you may want to open up to new customers by expanding your geographic locations. Alternatively, if your business does not yet have an online presence, you may want to create a website. If you currently have a website that only caters to domestic customers, you might want to look into making it internationally viable.
- Franchising: Franchising can work for some but not all industries. Assess the effects of franchising on your business, revenue and brand.
- Diversification: A good example of a company that executes new product growth strategies well is Apple. A big part of Apple’s success is how it builds suspense for new products. Your business should do the same when planning for diversification.
- Reduce costs: Assess whether you are able to take more advantage of economies of scale to reduce your costs and reduce the price of your products or services. Keep in mind that this will have a big effect on your brand and buying power.
- Marketing: How is your marketing budget split? Which marketing initiatives are you currently using, which are you yet to take advantage of, and which are already trending in your industry?
Stage 3: Measurements and Controls
Now it’s time to set your criteria for success, prioritise your goals and actions, set the timeframe for execution, and allocate duties to appropriate teams. Just as importantly, you must determine how you are going to regularly monitor your activities, as well as prepare yourself for upcoming industry trends and market predictions. All your measurements and controls should tie back to your marketing objectives and budget/resource allowance.
You may want to take the Balanced Scorecard approach by setting KPIs and monitoring 4 different areas of your Marketing Plan:
I hope this article has provided you with a basic outline of a marketing plan and all the factors you should consider when creating one that succeeds for your business. If you have any questions or would like me to go into further detail, please drop me a line in the comments.