There are fewer things that are more important to a business than a marketing plan. You could have the greatest business in the world, the most amazing product and the lowest prices of anyone else, and you would still go bankrupt without anyone coming to see that product and those prices. In this article, we’ll be discussing the definition of a marketing plan and showing you exactly what needs to go into one.
What is a Marketing Plan?
The first thing that must be defined is the marketing plan itself. A marketing plan is simply a plan to present your business to the public. Marketing includes advertising, but advertising is not the only part of a marketing plan. Your marketing plan will include all of the factors that determine whether or not you are going to be able to attract customers and convince them to buy your product. Let's go over the various parts of a marketing plan.
Marketing Plan Basics
Products or Services: Every business is going to have some kind of product or service that they are offering and most offer several. This is one of the most important decisions that you will have to make, because it affects nearly everything else on this list.
Target Market: if you have products and services, then you are going to have certain types of people there are going to be most interested in those products and services. This is called your target market. You need to know who they are and find out as much as you can about them so that you know how to convince them that your product is superior.
Goals: Every business has to have goals. If you do not have goals, then you are going to stagnate and go nowhere. You must be moving towards a specific direction with an end result in mind.
Marketing Tactics: Whatever you are trying to sell, it is unlikely the people are just going to show up at your doorstep with their money in hand. You have to get the word out about your product or service, including why people should come to you instead of someone else that has the same product or service.
Start-up Costs: Although it is possible to start a business with very little money, these types of businesses do not usually become successful. Part of that may be that the owner has nothing invested so they don't work as hard to make it successful, but the fact of the matter is, you have to spend money to make money.
Operating Costs: Besides what it cost to start up your company, you're going to have operating costs. Even if you are doing nothing but selling affiliate products, you are still going to have domain fees, web hosting and most of all, marketing and advertising.
Contingency Plans: Something is always going to go wrong with your business. That's just the way business works. You can't plan for everything, but if you have some good contingency plans in place then you will be much better off than the person with no plan at all.
Business Location: You have to determine your business location, and that does not mean just your physical address. You may not even have a physical address if your business is online. But your location also includes your web address, where you're located within the social media sphere as well as where you are placed in the market itself.
Staff & Support: Are you going to be running this business by yourself or are you going to need staff to help you run it? Even if you plan on doing everything yourself, you are still going to need support personnel, including suppliers, advertising partners and more.
The “X” Factor: Finally, your business is got to have something unique if you want to be successful. Think about the local retail businesses in your city or town. Each of them has to have something unique for their customers that their customers care enough about to go to them instead of someone else. There are hundreds of fast food restaurants in most cities, as well as lots of other eating establishments as well. What makes someone come to certain ones but not to others? You have to determine that for your own business.
What Does A Marketing Plan Do?
There are several things that a marketing plan is intended to do. First, it helps you identify things such as your market, your clients, your customers, products and more. It also helps you see which marketing methods are going to work for you and which ones will probably fail. A marketing plan will also help you estimate the total cost of starting your business, which includes not only the startup cost, but the operating costs, and your own plan for how you will live while your business is not yet making a profit.
Creating a Marketing Plan for an Existing Business
You may already have a business, but the odds are good that it isn't as successful as you would like it to be. That’s something that every business struggles with. If you want to create a marketing plan for an existing business from scratch, it works the same way as creating a marketing plan for a new business. You just have less freedom and how you create your plan because some things are already certain.
Building a Marketing Plan from Scratch
Now, let's go over the step-by-step process that is required to build a marketing plan completely from scratch. You will use a template for this marketing plan that can be understood by other people, which is a very good strategy if you are trying to get a business loan.
You will start with your executive summary. This is basically a summary of all of the other sections in the business plan or marketing plan that are listed below. This will allow anyone reading your plan to get an overview before they get into the more in-depth stuff.
Your Target Audience
This is where you will describe your target market. You must know who is most likely to buy your products or services, so that you can focus the majority of your efforts marketing towards those people. This means doing some research and coming up with demographic data such as geographic location, age, gender and more. You will also be identifying the wants and needs of this target customer and how they relate to your own products and services.
Your USP, or what is sometimes called you “X” factor, is what makes your business unique from all of the other ones on the market in the context of selling something. The term ‘unique selling proposition’ is fairly common in the business world, and the best way for you to be able to create your own USP is to look at some well-known companies and determine what their unique selling proposition is.
Pricing and Market Position Strategy
You have to know where you are in the market and how your price factors into that. That doesn't necessarily mean having lower price than other businesses that sell the same products or services you do. In fact, some businesses out there market themselves as the highest quality rather than the lowest price. Are you planning to be leading the market for high quality, lowest price, most variety or some other factor? Understand what your position is in the market before you begin.
Your Distribution Plan
Finally, you need to have a distribution plan in place. If you are going to be selling products that you buy wholesale, then you are going to need to know who your suppliers are, where you are going to store your products, how you are going to get them to the customer, how the customer is going to purchase them and probably a lot more. If you are going to be selling online, and plan to offer a digital product, you still have to know where that product is going to come from and how you are going to deliver it to your customer.
Your Promotional Plan
Next, you need to have some ideas in place for how you are going to promote your product. For example, if you are planning to start a website that sells low-priced laptop speakers, how are you going to tell people that you have lots of different choices and very low prices on laptop speakers? Where are the laptop users going to be? You have to know how your messages going to get to them and what you were going to say.
A marketing plan isn't that difficult to come up with, but you do need to have all of the elements in place, particularly if you plan on talking to investors or applying for a business loan. With a solid marketing plan, you will have a much easier time running your business and ensuring its success for the long term.