Creating a marketing plan

An effective marketing plan is a key tool for a successful business. Writing it is a valuable discipline in getting to know and better understand your business and your market place. We can help you identify where your business is today, set your objectives, fix the budget and get your plan off the ground.


1. Getting started

No marketing plan is perfect and a good plan will change and evolve. It’s great to produce a thorough plan but the most important thing is to get started:

  • Set aside time to write your plan – or the chances are you’ll put it off.
  • Write your opening statement last – you’ll have a better overview once you’ve done most of your planning.
  • Develop a list of the key elements of your plan so you know exactly what your plan will contain.
  • Start with the easy bits – it’s much easier to keep going once you’ve got something on paper.
  • Include strict deadlines for each of your targets within the plan and set an overall deadline for completing the marketing plan itself.

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2. Your business today

To move your business forward, you need to understand where you’re starting from. Examine all elements of your business using a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), including:

  • your financial situation
  • your existing customer base
  • your product range
  • your potential to develop
  • available technology
  • people and skills
  • how you stand in relation to your major competitors
  • your pricing policies.

Look at external influences on your business using a SLEPT analysis to identify the major opportunities and threats in your marketplace:

  • Social factors – including demographic changes, cultural attitudes and changing lifestyles which influence how your customers will buy your product.
  • Legal factors – regulations and legislation affecting your business.
  • Economic factors – the economic climate, interest rates, exchange rates (if trading overseas) and banking policies that influence your activities.
  • Political factors – political stability and government policies that are relevant to your business.
  • Technological factors – the impact of Internet growth on your business, the emergence of new materials and rapidly changing technologies in your sector.

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3. What are your objectives?

Your marketing objectives must be focused on sales and should always be SMART:

  • Specific – for example, to get 30 new customers.
  • Measurable – you need to know if you’ve reached each objective (or not) when you review your plan.
  • Achievable – you must have the people, technology, time and money required to reach any objective you set.
  • Realistic – make sure you set targets that are within reach, over ambitious targets can be counter-productive.
  • Timely – set a specific timescale for any objective such as a target of five customers each month for six months.

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4. Plan your tactics

Next you need to think about how you're going to achieve your objectives. Look at the marketing mix in relation to your business to get an idea of what will work best for you:

Price

  • What are your costs?
  • How much will your customers pay?
  • What does your price say about the quality of your product?
  • What do your competitors charge?

Place

  • How and where will you sell your products?
  • Can you sell over the Internet?
  • Will you use agents or manage your own distribution?
  • Do you hope to sell abroad?

Product

  • Does your product meet the needs of the consumer?
  • What are its benefits?
  • How does it differ from what the competition offers?

Promotion

Most businesses use a mix of promotional techniques to sell their products including:

  • direct selling
  • exhibitions and events
  • sales promotions
  • direct mail and email
  • advertising and sponsorship.

Think about what suits your target market and what's most cost-effective for your business.

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5. Setting budgets

Be careful to keep your marketing costs under control:

  • Decide what you can afford at the start and stick to your budget.
  • Evaluate your marketing spend based on the amount of business each initiative might generate.
  • Monitor each initiative regularly and assess the results.
  • Keep what works and bin the rest.

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6. Putting your plan into action

Your marketing plan will form the basis of your future business activity. It should be more than just a wish list of what you would like to happen and give details of every step of the marketing process including:

  • deadlines and key dates
  • key personnel and responsibilities for each task
  • budgets for each relevant step
  • resources needed at every stage
  • control measures including responsibilities, review dates and analysis procedures
  • contingency plans – not everything you propose will work, so try to anticipate alternatives.

Finally, once your marketing plan is complete, don’t forget about it. Schedule regular meetings to review your progress and be ready to change your plan if you find something isn't working.

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