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Business Planning Documents – How to Create a Great Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is essential to the overall development of any company. Before beginning, make sure the project is well-researched. It is easy to figure out how to put together a business plan or a sales plan simply from a basic Google search, but a marketing plan requires a little more investigation. A trip to the local book store or even a near by university research library can be very advantageous in this task. Take care to ensure you understand the components of how each section is put together and get a full understanding of terms and where to find supporting data. The plan will rest on how realistic the data is inside of it and the content that is presented.

The basic components of a marketing plan are as follows:

Contents
Having a simple table of contents will be beneficial to both the composer of the document as well as the audience. It serves as a basic guide for how detailed the contents of the document are and where to quickly find desired information.

Lists of Tables
While it is not mandatory, providing a list of tables to supplement the table of contents adds to the the credibility of the author as well as the professional presenting the plan. It is also a great way to quickly guide readers to the plan’s empirical data.

Executive Summary
This section should be written last. It is best put in place when all of the research and planning is complete to provide insight on what is housed in the plan. Although it may be tempting to complete this section before the others, keep in mind that any research and planning may lead to conclusions not originally considered or expected. Also, this section improves on communication levels and encourages involvement from staff members by crystallizing the key goals and plan details for the team to understand what role marketing plays in the company as a whole.

Company Strategy
Providing a link to overall strategy and illustrating marketing’s contribution to achieving the company’s goals is what this segment of planning allows for. It is a substantial section that looks at the overall company mission.

External & Internal Analysis
This section of the plan allows for an unbiased evaluation of the company’s competitive standing. Looking to factors both inside the company walls as well as factors that come from the outside world, this section assists the writer in understanding how realistic the plan is overall.

Marketing Objectives
In addition to outlining the goal that is trying to be accomplished, this portion of the marketing plan assists in defining financial targets and translating those into specific measurable marketing objectives such as, but not limited to market share, sales volume and customer retention. Such items can easily be translated into a CRM package if the plan is feasible.

Marketing Strategy
The actual marketing campaigns and programs are discussed in this section by way of the promotional mix: what will be sold, where it will be sold, what makes it a great item to sell and at what price it will be sold. While this task may seem like the most simple of the entire plan, it truly is the most difficult and requires the most research. In order to develop an effective strategy, the marketer must be fully aware of what competitor’s marketing strategies are as well as the marketing trends for the specific industry; address those two items and still somehow find a way to differentiate the company’s product. Be certain to give this section of the plan adequate time, thought, investigation and discussion.

Implementation
Break the specific programs down into lists of activities with time scales and assign responsibility to each task. A contingency (e.g. funds or time) may be set to cover any unforeseen problems. The best way to do this will be through a project management system or by requesting the support of a Project Manager.

Control & Forecasting
In this section, discuss how the system will work and how success of the marketing plan will be tracked. Also, based on the research that has been previously collected, make educated assumptions regarding how much the program will cost and how much revenue it will generate.

Appendix
Use this section to place any charts, tables, graphs and the like that may distract the reader from the content of the plan, but still supports the overall thesis of the work.

Here is a sample of how the table contents should turn out:

I. Content

II. List of Tables

III. Executive Summary

IV. Company Strategy
Goals & Objectives
Summary Overall Position & Company Strategy

V. External & Internal Analysis
Internal
SWOT Analysis
External
Market Overview
Competitor Analysis
Future Trends

VI. Marketing Objectives
Financial Objectives
Marketing Objectives

VII. Marketing Strategy
Market Segmentation
Competitive Advantage
Segmentation Strategy
Promotional Mix
Product
Price
Place
Promotion

VIII. Implementation
Schedule of Key Tasks
Resource Allocation
Budgets
Contingency

IX. Control & Forecasting
Key Assumptions
Critical Success Factors
Established Benchmarks
Measurement Tools
Financial Forecasts
Costs
Revenue

X. Appendix

Booklet A: Sales Plan

Once the writing is complete, it is important to ensure that the marketing plan is in a presentable format. Consulting a Technical Writer or Graphic Designer to assist you in putting the document in a well-presented template will add to the credibility of the work as well as the audience’s receptiveness. Take the time to select a delivery method that not only looks great but suits the audience as well. Some options to choose from are: bound manual, web page, PDF or a flash presentation on a CD.

Once the content is complete and the company has selected how the material will be presented, set it aside for a few days or even weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes to check for grammatical or formatting errors. When it is done to full satisfaction, it is then time to distribute the marketing plan as desired and rest assured that the comprehensive marketing plan that will support the company endeavor!

The Elements of an Effective Marketing Plan

Writing a Marketing Plan

Whether your business is a start-up or existing, marketing plans are a crucial component to sustained financial success. Careful planning will ensure successful implementation, leading to intended financial results for your organization. This planning begins with the development of a marketing plan.

Before you begin, it is important to establish a completion date for the initial draft, to identify important parties that will contribute ideas for the plan as well as the responsibilities of individuals to implement the plan and the annual marketing budget. Once you have set the stage for writing and completing your plan, you can begin its creation.

Follow these 7 steps when writing a marketing plan:

1. Setting the Objectives- What are your organization’s marketing objectives? What is required to achieve your annual revenue goals? How many customers do you need to acquire? How much revenue should be generated from existing customers? For existing businesses, a beneficial exercise to complete is a S.W.O.T. analysis. Identify your organization’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This analysis will enable you to develop key insights into the drivers of your business and what changes need to occur to reach your annual targets.

2. Research-Conducting market research and market analysis can allow your business to understand where your customers are currently coming from. This information can allow you to set focus areas for new client acquisition as well as up-selling opportunities for your current customer base.

3. Define Strategies-How will your business compete against your competition? What are your target markets? What price offerings will give your business the greatest competitive edge?

4. Develop a promotion plan- Outline which marketing communication tactics are needed to achieve your strategies such as advertising, PR, search engine marketing, events, etc. Choose a few tactics under each strategy to implement.

5. Build Measurements for Each Tactic-Outline how you plan to measure the results achieved for each tactic. How will you track and measure ongoing results? What metrics are crucial for your results to be obtained? I.e. # clients acquired, total sales volume, product mix.

6. Develop a Strategic Plan- Outline step by step the concepts and ideas that are needed to achieve results. Set weekly, monthly and quarterly goals, identifying the individuals responsible for each task, as well as which metrics will be achieved and tracked.

7. Implement, Track and Modify the Plan- Now is the most important piece of the marketing plan- implementation. As you implement your marketing plan, be sure to track all results. If you have a team working on the marketing plan, be sure to update them to results experienced by the entire team. As things require attention or modification, be sure to change the plan accordingly.

By following the steps outlined above, you will have created a well thought through marketing plan and have the tracking mechanisms needed to analyze / modify the plan as needs / results change over time.

Is Your Marketing Plan Ready for an Update?

With summer vacations over and schools back in session, marketing plan “season” is fast approaching. This is a time when you reflect on the effectiveness of your business marketing programs. You will be planning to improve performance of some marketing programs, discontinue some, and try others for the first time.

Each Marketing Plan is Unique

For those writing a marketing plan for the first time, it is important to know that there is no “magic formula” to an effective marketing plan. Formats and procedures vary widely, and your marketing plan will be one-of-a-kind.

Your company, customers, competitors, and suppliers interact to create a unique and ever-changing business environment. Because of this, your marketing plan should also be unique and frequently changing. What worked wonderfully for one company may be a dismal failure for you. What worked yesterday for you may not be the thing for you to do today. By thinking of your plan as a unique and perpetual work in progress, you can be better prepared to change direction when the business environment changes.

A Plan Makes a Profitable Difference

Ultimately, your marketing plan is a compass by which you navigate your day-to-day business. As opportunities arise or your business environment changes, the objective and strategies in your marketing plan will point you toward the best action. Without a marketing plan, you are guessing what might be best for your business. And don’t forget to address your Web site in the marketing plan. Without a marketing plan your Web site may be a drain on your finances rather than a business builder.

Also, understand you do not need a marketing degree and a lot of experience to update or create a marketing plan for your business. Once you have a structure to follow, the rest is a matter of rolling up your sleeves and getting it done. There is no single approach to developing a marketing plan. There is a wide selection of books, toolkits, and software to help you through the planning process. Some approaches require a great deal of time and others are “quick and dirty.” All can be applied to your business as a whole, an individual product, or your Web site.

So, in all the hustle and bustle of everyday business activities, don’t forget to take the time to update an existing marketing plan or write a new one. Your future profits depend on it!