Your marketing plan is your simple, easy-to-use guide to attracting new customers and retaining the ones you’ve got.
Keep it short and simple
If you really want to use your marketing plan, don’t make it too long. For most micro and small businesses, 3-4 pages will be sufficient.
Begin with your mission statement
Start with a brief one or two line introduction to your business that defines what your core business is, your competitive scope and who your customers are.
The purpose of including this statement in your marketing plan is to give yourself focus and clear direction. It’s also beneficial if you ever need to share your plan with third parties such as PR agencies or your accountant.
Next look at the external (macro) and internal (micro) business environments you operate within. This is known as a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis. Your SWOT analysis will help set your marketing objectives.
The macro environment covers issues you have no control over, such as the political situation, laws affecting your business, technology changes, and your competition. Do these situations represent opportunities or threats for you?
List four to five opportunities and threats, and when describing each issue, include both the scenario and its potential impact on your business. For example: “Reduced consumer spending due to increased tax rates is expected to lead to reduced sales.”
To review your internal or micro environment, list the key strengths and weaknesses of your business. These may include market share, customer satisfaction, product offerings, and the skills or personal attributes of yourself and any team members.
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What do you want to achieve?
Set out your sales and marketing goals by creating marketing objectives.
Your objectives can be drawn from your SWOT analysis, and should include subjects such as market share, profit, sales goals and other relevant terms.
Be realistic with the number of objectives you set. Having too many objectives means most will be unreachable, rendering most of your plan useless.
Don’t set vague objectives like “increase productivity” or “add 50 new customers” as these objectives are unlikely to be achieved. Instead, draft your objectives according to the SMART goal-setting principles, so that you and any team members clearly understand what needs to be done:
- Specific: Include precise details of what you want to achieve
- Measurable: Can you measure whether you are meeting the objective?
- Achievable: Can you really achieve this, or are you attempting too much?
- Realistic: Do you have the resources to make this objective happen? (Think about cash flow, materials, equipment, and personnel)
- Timed: When will the objective be completed by?
To achieve your objectives you’ll need strategies. These form your To do list, and this is the section of your marketing plan that you’ll refer to most.
For each strategy, include a timeframe, a budget, and if necessary, the name of the person responsible for delivering it.
For example, if your objective is to add two new varieties of jam to your product range by 1st September 2011, one of your strategies might be to complete customer research into popular flavours by the end of March, with a budget of $400 for the associated costs that will be incurred by outsourcing this task to your virtual assistant.
Tweak as you go
Work on your marketing plan doesn’t finish here. Regularly review your objectives and strategies, and don’t be afraid to make any necessary adjustments to plans as you go.
If you work with others, including progress reports in your business review meetings will reinforce your commitment to achieving your objectives.
Do you work with marketing plans, or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants? Please share your experiences with us below.