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Plan Your Marketing Like a Pro

By Matt D'Angelo
Business.com / marketing strategy / Last Modified: March 5, 2018
Photo credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Every business needs a marketing plan, but not every business has the time to write one. Here's the perfect template to help.

A marketing plan is a crucial resource for any small business. At its core, a marketing plan helps you actualize what market needs your product or service is meeting, how your product is different from competitors and who your product or service is being marketed to. Marketing plans also serve as a road map for sales strategy, branding direction and building your overall business. A major benefit of drafting a marketing plan for your company is thinking critically about your business, its goals and how you can achieve them.

"Strategically, a planning process helps you identify (some) important opportunities and problems, (some) resources you need to address them, and (some) ways of using those resources effectively," said Bruce Clark, an associate professor in Marketing at Northeastern University's D'Amore-McKim School of Business. "You'll still have to adapt when you go forward, but hopefully the adaptations are less of a surprise and less difficult than if you hadn't thought ahead at all."

Before diving into the actual template, it's important to understand how to think about a marketing plan. A marketing plan targets who your buyers are, it establishes the service or product you are offering and determines your unique selling proposition. From here, the rest is planning and developing the best way to get your product in front of buyers who want your product or service.

In addition to drafting your own plan, you can work with a digital marketing agency or use internet marketing and PPC management services to leverage your products online. Once you've established a general road map, keep it updated on a yearly basis. Having an updated plan ensures your business is always on the right track. Also, establishing a budget can allow you to take the proper financial steps to implementing your marketing plan.

Marketing plan template

1.       Executive summary

This summary is a great place to give the reader of your plan a general overview of the goals of your business as well as the marketing strategy you're looking to employ. The reader needs this summary to get a quick glance at your business and the overall goals of your marketing plan.

2.       Mission statement

Here is where you describe your company's values and how they relate to your overall goals as an organization. Here are some good questions to get you thinking:

  • What does your company do today?
  • What's important to your company?
  • What would your company like to do in the future?
  • What is your brand identity?
  • What's your culture like?
  • How does your company benefit customers, employees and stakeholders?

3.       Target markets

This is one of the most important parts of your marketing plan: establishing who you want to market your product to. Without a defined group of people, the money you spend on marketing will be a waste. Think of it like this: There are a group of people in the world today who need your service or product but don't know it exists yet. Who are those people? Here are some other questions for brainstorming:

  • What is the demographic of your customers (gender, age, income, education, etc.)?
  • What are their needs and interests?
  • What's their psychographic profile (attitudes, philosophies, values, lifestyle, etc.)?
  • How do they behave?
  • What are some existing products they use?

4.       Products and services

Your product or service is (obviously) the center of your business. In this section, think critically about what you offer your customers.

  • What do you make or provide for customers?
  • What are your customers' needs?
  • How does your product or service fulfill customers' needs?
  • What value do you add to your customers' lives?
  • What type of product or service are you offering?

5.       Distribution channels

At this point in the report, you should transition more into actual marketing theory and practices. Distribution channels are avenues you can use to reach a customer or business. It's important to think of all current and potential sales channels. Some include examples of sales channels include:

  • Website
  • Retail
  • Mobile
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Resellers

6.       Competitive profile

One of the major aspects of your marketing plan is developing your unique selling proposition. A USP is a feature or stance that separates your product or service from those offered by competitors. It's all about differentiation, and distinguishing your company as a sole proprietor of one type of good or service can help your business tremendously. Here are some ideas to consider:

  • What's your USP?
  • Who are your competitors? What do they offer?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competition?
  • What needs of the market (or customer) are not being served? What can you do to meet those needs?

7.       Pricing strategy

Pricing is something you should consider while developing your marketing plan. Developing the right pricing strategy can help you better market your product.

  • What are reasonable margins to make a profit and cover the costs of production?
  • Is there a market for products or services at your projected price point?
  • Are you willing to sacrifice profit margins in return for a greater market share?
  • What are your marketing and distribution costs?

8.       Marketing strategy

In this section, break down what channels are available for you to market your product. Think of which channels would be most effective in communicating your story and persuading your target audience. If your target audience is social media savvy, for example, it may be better to utilize those channels instead of radio or print media. Here is a list of channels to get you started:

  • Print (newspapers, magazines, brochures, catalogs, direct mail)
  • Broadcast (TV, radio)
  • Press releases
  • Trade shows, product demonstrations, event marketing
  • Online advertising
  • Social media
  • Online sales
  • Joint marketing with other companies

9.       Objectives

After determining what channels you can use to communicate your message, think about what exactly you want to accomplish. This should involve specific goals related to market penetration and revenue targets. Here are some things to consider:

  • Sales quotas
  • Number of new customers gained
  • Customer retention percentages
  • Revenue targets
  • Market penetration
  • Brand awareness
  • Website traffic

10.   Action plans

With all of the above items outlined, determine what actual steps need to be taken to enact your marketing plan. This includes determining the proper steps, setting goals, breaking down responsibilities and establishing an overall timeline. It's also important to brainstorm potential roadblocks your business could face and some solutions to overcome them.

11.   Financial projections

This step can allow you to establish a realistic budget and better understand what your marketing plan will look like from a cost perspective. In addition to setting a budget, make sure you consider the overall return on investment as well. Here are some other financial projections to consider:

  • Cost of implementation
  • Cost to produce product or service
  • Existing and projected cash flow
  • Projected sales
  • Desired profit margin on projected sales

Bottom line

A marketing plan can serve as a road map, and should be updated as your business grows and changes. Brainstorming and setting goals is a major step for any business toward growth. Developing a marketing plan can set your business up for continued success – it allows you to prepare for the unexpected and establish your brand in the lives of your target audience.

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