Marketing 101: Why is a marketing plan valuable to my business?
While a business plan describes what your business is and intends to be, a marketing plan focuses on change. A marketing plan is essential to every business because it describes how you plan to attract and retain customers. Customers are the means by which you will generate income, sustain daily operations, repay debt, and make a profit. So your plan should be able to evolve over time.
Your marketing plan supports your business plan, even propels it along the way. A well crafted marketing plan can steer your business in the right path. If you need assistance writing a marketing plan, check to see if there are any upcoming Seminars in your area.
While there are many variations, the basic marketing plan includes six key elements:
- Situation Review
This is a look at your company's past and present performance, the business environment you face (e.g., competition, trends inside and outside the industry, market share), and a combination of all this information to draw inferences about your company's future.
Here, you take the inferences you just developed and combine them with your desired results. Each objective you create should have a specific target - a solution to a problem, a goal to be reached, or an opportunity to be explored. The objectives should be measurable - define goals your company can accomplish, using marketing to improve your business situation.
- Strategy Development
Strategy is the basis for creating a set of marketing approaches recommended to achieve the objective. Now that you know what you're after, you decide how best to get there - whom to sell to, how to reach them, what to say. Then you can use that strategy as a compass to direct all of your marketing programs, making sure they remain on target.
How much will it take to execute your strategy? Will the results justify the expenditure? Where is that money best spent? And when is the right time to commit those funds? To answer these questions, you need to reference information from your situation review, especially the competitive situation. It also helps to draw upon the expertise of outside specialists to make the most efficient use of your budget.
- Marketing Programs
Here, you develop specific activities to execute your strategy. You might consider advertising activity, promotions, direct response programs, sponsorships - whatever you think will best achieve your objectives. This may affect your budget, or your budget may affect your choice of programs.
- Performance Tracking
This section, which you execute after the marketing program, is perhaps the most important. What happened? Why? What could have been avoided, and what adjustments can you make for better results in the future? The answers help you develop your next plan. They prepare you for the way things may change, and help you focus more clearly.