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The Marketing Plan Section Explained For Business Plans

A high-quality business plan ultimately must achieve two objectives. Firstly, it should illustrate the rudiments of your venture. Secondly, it should present financial information for a return in investment. Outside of these two goals, the substance of your business plan is dependent on whether it’s for investors or a personal reference blueprint for yourself. Which brings us to the Marketing Plan; the business plan section most widely referenced and sought after by entrepreneurs.

THE MARKETING PLAN

The Marketing plan is the critical section of the business plan detailing the marketing strategy for a product and/or service. The marketing plan may include and is not limited to product and/or service offering, target demographic market, competitors, budget, promotional mix and advertising.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE MARKETING PLAN

When developing the business plan, the marketing plan section enlightens the reader on how you’re going to attract potential customers to purchase your products or services. The marketing plan includes the following sections:

- Product and/or Service Offering
- Promotions and Advertising and Plan
- Sales & Distribution Plan
- Pricing Point and Strategy

The most effective method to create a marketing plan is to closely be associated with each of the sections below (while referencing the comprehensive market research that was generated prior to this section).

Another business plan tidbit to keep in mind are the Five P’s:

- Product: The product and/or service offering.
- Price: Pricing point and strategies.
- Place: Best described by method of distribution for product and/or service.
- Promotion: In Laymen terms how will you advertise your product and/or service.
- People: This entails everything from customer service to what are the needs and demands by your customers.

FINAL NOTES

Collectively, all the components of your marketing plan should disclose the splendor of your big idea. At the end of the day you want to present to investors or your organization a product and/or service that customers will crave.

Look for more articles from me regarding business plans, market research or funding your venture, current company or start-up. Also be sure to first talk to your small business development center in your community, if you are new to the business plan process.

A Simplified and Savvy Marketing Plan That Works! Really

Time to create your marketing plan. Bleh, you say.

Just the words, marketing plan, sound so dry and conjure images of lengthy word documents, online research, and possibly some sort of matrix.

Completely understandable. But, what if there is a different way?

What if we take that complex process, boil it down, and only use what small business owners truly need? The single most important elements and a workable plan. That doesn’t sound so bad. Because, really, once we take out all the mumbo jumbo, we’re left with four parts:

1. Evaluate Existing Foundation

2. Know Your Target Audience Precisely

3. Create A Workable Plan

4. Measure Everything

Evaluate Existing Foundation

In order for any amount of marketing, advertising, or public relations to work, the marketing foundation must be solid. Your marketing foundation includes: logo, tagline, Unique Selling Proposition (USP), and customer service. If your company has been in business for more than a year, you have your logo and your tagline. If it is solid, let’s not tinker with it. We are not on a rebranding mission. But, the other elements, the USP, and your customer service…let’s talk.

1. Unique Selling Proposition – Ah yes, the USP. When used effectively, it’s a beautiful thing. The USP is a concise statement that bundles the top reasons why people should buy from you. It should be brief, it should be distinctive, and it should be yours – no copy-cats allowed. If you already have a fantastic USP, great! It should be included in every business material your business puts out into the world, even your invoice. If you do not have a solid, compelling USP, start talking to people. Find out from your customers why they do business with you, ask your friends, get feedback, and write a single sentence that is packed with conviction.

2. Customer Service – Customer service is an essential element of the marketing foundation. If you make a guarantee in your USP, be sure to follow though with your customer service. “We answer the phone on the first ring!” Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring, “Press 0 to speak to the operator.” Guess who just hung up? Not to mention, that caller will probably tell 10 people about the experience.

It is not enough to treat customers and potential customers with respect, they must actually like you. They have to feel good when they interact with you or anyone else in your business. Your customer service must run like a well-oiled machine for marketing, PR, or advertising to improve your business.

Know Your Target Audience Precisely

A common mistake made by small businesses is to cast a wide net when trying to attract customers. Although your products or services are probably suitable for a very broad audience, it is important to target precise segments because it gives you more of a marketing punch! In addition, you can be more choosy about who you want to do business with.

When you segment your target audience, you are able to have a deeper conversation. A target audience of, “women, age 25-54,” for example, can be segmented to, “women, age 30-45, with a college education, household income of $65K per year, married, own a home, have children in the public school system, busy with work and family activities, eat-out once a week, concerned about saving money.” With this new information, you are able to write a marketing message that will speak to these women:

Restaurant Print Ad – “Take a night off from the grind and treat your family to a night out. Enjoy family-friendly live music and receive 20%-off your meal when your kids present their school I.D.”

Jeweler Promotion – “Join us for ‘Ladies Evening Out.’ Enjoy wine tasting and cheese plates. Make out a Mother’s Day wish list and we’ll send a personalized card to drop the hint. In addition, anything purchased off the list in the month of May will be 20% off.”

Accountant Promotion – “Dear Busy Moms, It’s time to relax. Schedule an appointment to for your taxes in the month of February and receive a free manicure while your taxes are being done!”

Segmenting the target market creates opportunities to engage potential customers and show an understanding of their wants, needs, struggles, and goals.

Compare these ideas to fishing. A small business casts a huge net and catches some fish; however, they also catch algae, seaweed, a rubber tire…a boot. On the other hand, if you know what you are fishing for, you can attract the fish you want with the perfect bait. The results are fewer, less costly casts and more of the fish you want! The main goal is to pinpoint the precise type of customer you are seeking and attract them by showing a deep understanding of their needs.

To determine your target audience precisely, think of your number one customer or client. Who are they? What’s their business like, what are their interests, and how do they purchase your products? Think about what they look like and how they act. How do they want to be perceived? What’s their M.O.? What is there home life like? What kind of music do they listen to? Get personal. Get down to the nitty gritty details. Paint a picture with words. Once you have written down your description, your goal is to find more people like this. This is your target audience, your perfect fish, the fish you should bait and cast for in every marketing effort.

Workable Plan

Once you know who you are targeting, it is much easier to create a workable plan. Keyword: workable. Be mindful of how much time and money you have to invest and do not extend beyond this. The workable marketing plan can, and should, be simplified. It should be as simple as a 12 month calendar.

Look at the big picture: 12 months, 52 weeks, 4 seasons.

At the beginning of the year, or during your planning period, create goals for your business. An example: obtain 10 new clients, secure 10 speaking engagements, and position the business as the go-to company in the region. Then, start making plans to accomplish the goal by creating tactics that support each goal.

Let’s keep working with our example. The first goal is to obtain 10 new clients. You have a clean marketing calendar in front of you. Think, what times of the year does my target market purchase my products or services? How do they buy it? How do they hear about me? What types of activities are happening in the lives of my target market? Then, jot down ideas based on months of the year. Perhaps you send a direct mail piece, one for each new season (winter, spring, summer, fall), with a direct response coupon, and follow up with a personal phone call. Or, maybe you place a print ad in a local newspaper for a free sample, and follow up with a packet of information for the people who respond to the ad. Write down a targeted tactic for each quarter, and when you place a marketing tactic in a certain month, work backwards to make sure you plan and execute the work needed to get it off the ground. If you send a direct mail piece in March, the task for February is to create the piece, get it printed, and decide who you will send it to.

Continue to do this with your other business goals (i.e. secure 10 new speaking engagements, position the business as the go-to company in the region).

The most important part of your small business marketing plan is writing it down. If you do not write it down, it is not a plan, it is just a dream. This can not be emphasized enough.

Once the workable plan is finalized, keep a printed version of your marketing calendar right on your desk. Integrate it with the other parts of your small business and add your to-do items to your business calendar. Integrating the plan with daily business activities is key. Integration makes the workable plan workable.

Measurement

Every marketing effort must be measured. Measure everything. If it can not be measured, it cannont be improved. Do not employ a marketing effort unless it is measured. Yes, I just stated the same idea four times. Why? Because, small business owners loathe measuring marketing results. Perhaps it is due to fear of failure, lack of time, or they just do not want to be bothered with it. No excuses, here. Every marketing effort must be measured, otherwise you will never know if something is truly worth the investment. That is what marketing is: an investment. This investment can easily be measured.

The simplest, most sure-fire way to measure marketing is to utilize direct response. For example, if you place a print ad, include a unique web address in the call to action and record the number of hits you receive. If it’s a direct mail piece, record the number of phone calls you receive in response. How do you know if they’re calling in response to the effort? Ask ‘em, of course. “May I ask how you heard about us?” It’s a question that people truly, do not mind answering. As you execute each marketing effort, keep a tally right on your calendar to determine the response rate:

Number of impressions / number of responses = response rate

The number of impressions takes different forms, such as the circulation of a newspaper, or the number of direct mail pieces mailed. When you divide the number of responses by the number of impressions, the result is the response rate. Once you determine the response rate, you then calculate out how much the effort truly cost your business:

Cost of effort / response rate = Cost per response

The cost per response is an important number because it levels the playing field when determining the overall effectiveness of a marketing tactic. An expensive marketing effort might be worth the high cost if you see it is offset by the high number of responses. In fact, it may be less expensive to invest more and receive more responses. Or, maybe it’s a pipe dream. Perhaps the Chamber newsletter print ad you placed was the most effective. You will know by calculating the cost per response.

Conclusion

By utilizing this simplified strategy and adhering to these principles, you will quickly identify areas of your marketing plan that are not working and be able to focus more energy on successful marketing tactics. You will have the insight to make small adjustments in areas of need instead of starting over every year.

Two quick tips for implementation:

If you find yourself working on something that falls into the realm of marketing, and it is not part of your workable plan, stop. It is very easy to get sucked into the idea of the week, or something you think is important. Keep the big picture in mind. You can tweak your workable plan throughout the year; however, it is important to follow through with your initial thought process. Otherwise, you will forever fall prey to the idea or deal of the week.

Don’t be shy. As you start to implement your workable plan, you may find yourself thinking, “This is too aggressive,” or “I’m putting myself out there too much.” Don’t. You thought this through and it makes sense. Your business is a value to others and they need to know about it. Move forward with confidence!

Contact Creative Marketing Guru for a free marketing plan worksheet.

Have You Developed Your Marketing Plan for 2016?

All of the giants of industry are putting their marketing plans and budget together now. It is essential to have a well thought-out marketing plan that is proactive, not reactive. A marketing plan without a firm foundation merely sways in the breeze, with decisions being made willy-nilly about each shiny and novel marketing opportunity that is pitched by a company – some with the best of intentions, and others with more questionable purposes.

Step 1: Gather the Information

Before drafting your marketing plan, it’s critical to answer some key questions that will shape the plan to meet the specific marketing goals of your business. Here are a few you should start with:

  • Who is my target customer? Be specific. Look at demographics and consumer preferences.
  • What needs does our company meet? List the ways your products and services uniquely serve your customers.
  • Who are our competitors and what sets us apart? Look at the products and services they provide, and see where you can exceed their offerings. Research the marketing efforts of your competition. By doing so, you might notice that you’re missing the opportunity to take advantage of a “new” or previously underutilized marketing channel.
  • How are we going to reach those target customers? Learn how your target customers prefer to receive information (e.g., email, social media). Demographics can tell you a lot about this.
  • How will I quantitatively measure the results of my marketing efforts? This is huge, because you cannot know what is working for you unless you have hard data to reflect on at the end of the day.

Step 2: Determine the Marketing Channels You Will Use

Successful budget allocation depends on a thorough examination of the marketing channels you’ve used in the past, as well as promising new activities you can explore. If you’ve identified your target customer, you will already have a better idea of which marketing channels will take precedence over others. For example, if your target audience relies heavily on social media to make buying decisions, this may be a channel you want to fortify with more resources. Some of the ways companies reach their target customers are:

· Online/radio/TV/print advertising

· Promotional products

· Direct mail marketing

· Cross-media marketing

· Social media marketing

· Email marketing

· Search marketing

· Blogging and article writing

Step 3: Determine How to Allocate Your Budget

A marketing plan must have a comprehensive budget that encapsulates all resources required to achieve its goals. Some things to consider:

  • According to the Forrester Research Interactive Marketing Forecasts 2011 to 2016 (US), 32% of the average 2015 marketing budget was spent on interactive marketing (such as social media, mobile marketing, and search marketing), and it’s expected that this amount will increase to 35% in 2016.
  • Many businesses allocate a portion of their budget (say, 10-15%) for new or novel marketing opportunities that come up over the course of the year. This way they can test the waters of a new venture while knowing their spending limit.
  • Your allocations must capture all costs associated with marketing and the various channels you utilize. This includes staff, monies paid to outside agencies, etc.
  • If you’re struggling, a simple formula for budget allocation is what experienced marketers call the “70/20/10″ rule: 70% for time-tested and proven marketing strategies, 20% for those that are promising but not yet fully established, and 10% for trying new things.

As you can see, there are various factors to consider when developing a marketing plan. You must invest the time and resources to build a solid plan that delivers results. Your marketing plan is your marketing roadmap and will keep your business headed in the right direction with its marketing efforts. It will also outline, and allow you to secure, the resources you will need to arrive at your marketing goals. Without it, you have no way of measuring the results and determining which channels provide the best ROI for your business. Figure out your allocations and but a solid and comprehensive plan in place before your next event sponsor comes a-calling.