Wouldn’t it be great if you could follow the Field of Dreams approach to business? What do I mean by that? I mean simply open the doors of your business, then sit back and wait for the people to come. Unfortunately, it’s not a very realistic approach to doing business for most entrepreneurs. What is realistic is putting together a detailed plan for promoting your business, and that approach takes the form of a marketing plan.
Many people cringe at the idea of creating a marketing plan because they have never done one before. Luckily, marketing is not rocket science. True, it is a skill, but it can be mastered over time. That’s good news for anyone who worries about putting together the right marketing plan for their business. Follow these easy steps and you can get started on creating a successful marketing plan in no time at all.
Research Your Market
This is an extremely important part of your marketing plan. Chances are you have already completed a lot of market research beforehand from when you created your initial business plan. Therefore, it should not take much to identify your market segments and what will make your products and/or services stand out from the competition.
Pulling It All Together
The research on your market is just one important piece you need. Other information that will prove helpful in writing your marketing plan includes:
Latest financial reports (operating budget, profit and loss statements, etc.) for the current and past three years, if available.
A list of all products and/or services you offer, along with the target market for each.
Your understanding of the marketplace, i.e. competitors, types of customers you sell to, latest and most relevant demographic data and any information on trends in your markets.
Input from sales staff as to what the most important points, in their opinion, that should be included in the plan.
Plan Draft – Define
Market Situation – The market situation will contain your best description of the current state of the marketplace. There is no room for guessing here. You need to know how big your potential market is, who you are going to sell to, and just what your potential customer is (demographics, income level, etc.). A lot of this information is probably in your head, but you’ve never committed it to paper. Now is your chance.
Threats & Opportunities – This is a continuation of the market situation, as it focuses on the good and bad aspects of the current market. List out what threats and opportunities you see facing your business in the next year. Ask yourself, what trends in the market are working for and against you? Are there competitive trends working in your favor or against you? Do the market demographics favor you or are they against you?
Marketing Objectives – Here you begin to “paint a picture” of what you see for the future of your business. You want to define what marketing objectives you want to achieve over the coming year (marketing plans are generally one year in length). Each objective should include a narrative description of how you intend to accomplish it, along with concrete numbers. Remember to make your objectives simple, concrete, countable, ambitious, but definitely achievable.
Implementation – Each objective defined above should have several goals and tactics for achieving each, i.e. the “what” and the “why” of the marketing tasks ahead. In this section, focus on the practical side of each objective: the who, where, when and how it’s going to happen. Create an activity matrix (timeline) so you can plot out when each action needs to be taken.
Budget – Each planned activity needs to be assigned a dollar amount in a budget. If you are new to calculating a cost of something, give your best estimate and add 25% to be safe. Be sure to consider both internal costs, such as staffing, and external out-of-pocket expenses when creating your marketing budget.