A standard business plan is not the same as a marketing plan, although they overlap in some areas. A marketing plan looks at the strengths and weaknesses of your business, the market(s) you are in, and your competitors, whereas a businesses plan usually looks only at your business in any significant detail.
No matter what your business is - marketing is usually a vital part of gaining, satisfying, and keeping customers. Despite this, however, a large number of small businesses still have no marketing plans or targets.
A marketing plan should set objectives for the marketing and promotion of your business. This can significantly help focus your business on achieving the goals you believe are most important to marketing and business success. Part of your objective setting should look at the possible costs of any objectives, as well as the time and effort needed for it to succeed.
By helping you to set objectives that are sensible and relevant, a marketing plan helps you to create accurate and realistic targets. A marketing plan helps to keep your business prepared for unexpected events or promotions by your competition. A well written plan allows you to spot possible threats to your business, and prepare for ways to minimise or capitalise on them.
Preparing A Marketing Plan
A marketing plan helps to keep your business prepared for unexpected events or promotions by your competition. A well written plan allows you to spot possible threats to your business, and prepare for ways to minimize or capitalize on them.
If you are starting a new business, a marketing plan will help you stay within budget, whilst maximizing the effectiveness of your marketing.
Planning and Finance
A well written marketing plan demonstrates that your business is planned fully and effectively, as well as helping to show that you understand the market you are/will be operating in.
Although a marketing plan is more of an internal guide, it can also be used as evidence of good planning in the business when trying to obtain finance. It is very difficult for even the most profitable business to gain finance without a solid business plan to show that the business is prepared; a marketing plan provides even further proof that the business is thoroughly planned.
There are many different ways of making a marketing plan, individual business have different areas that are most important to them. Any plans you make should have emphasis on the areas you feel are most important to your business.
The key aspects of a plan are to describe each area, look at the best opportunities for your business, and come up with a sensible objective (and hopefully ideas on how to achieve it). This will give you a number of objectives across all areas of your business. Even if an objective is to “Keep marketing costs as near to level with last year as possible”, you will have a set written goal, and will therefore be more likely to achieve it.
Remember, a marketing plan may just mean writing down your current strategies, there may be no need for change. However, the plan will still help, as it will show you that the strategy is ok, and, may point to ways of ensuring it continues to be successful in the future.
Preparing A Marketing Plan - Key Areas
The key areas of marketing that all plans should look at are the following:
What part of the market are your prices aimed at? Are you attempting to gain lots of profit from each sale; sell lots of items at a low price, or aim for somewhere in between?
You need to look at whether your current pricing is effective, and whether you believe your strategy needs to be changed. Perhaps just making your image appear more upmarket could increase high profit sales without lowering the price.
By setting an objective on your price strategy you can help plan for unexpected sales growth or reduction.
Example Objective: “Maintain our high profit strategy by promoting our superior product. However, if our competition drops their prices, we should be prepared to do the same to maintain sales.”
Pricing Against Competition
In the vast majority of markets, the way customers view your prices is based not only on the direct cost to them, but also the cost compared to similar products (I.e.: Your competition).
Your prices may be cheap, but if the competition is offering a near identical product for 20% less then you still risk losing a lot of customers.
You need to look at how your price compares to the rest of the market. If you are more expensive, do you need to emphasize the quality of your product, or if you are cheaper do you need to assure people that quality is not compromised? Would altering prices make you more competitive?
Example Objective: “Remind customers that although we are cheaper, our quality is comparable with models over 30% more expensive.”
Finding Your Product / Service
It may seem like a simple point, but can your potential customers find your product or service to buy it? Making your product available in the right locations is a key part of marketing your business.
Do you want your product to be sold only through your business (E.g.: If you deal with specialist requirements), do you want it to be sold through selected approved retailers, or through every possible outlet?
You need to look at where your products / services are currently sold, and whether you need to make it available in more / less locations.
Part of this process involves looking at how your products are sold. Do you sell directly to your customers, or do you use an agent or warehouse for distribution. You should look at how effective your current setup is, and look at ways of maximizing sales and availability.
Example Objective: “Within a year, our product should be available in at least 100 more outlets in the UK.”
Unique Selling Points
Most products have a unique selling point; this is a feature, branding, price, or other attribute that is the most attractive to consumers.
You need to look and try to work out what the USP’s of your products and services are. You can then look at how to maximize the benefit of the USP to your business.
By knowing the key selling points of your product in detail, it will help to make all of your marketing more focused and effective.
Example Objective: “Customers feel our value for money is our USP, we should try to keep providing good value for money at all times over the coming year.”
Are all your products independent, or do the sales of one affect others? (E.g.: Sales of shavers increase sales of shaver blades, or do sales of your cheap item lower sales of your more expensive item).
You need to look at your products and work out the most effective way of selling each product. This could involve ideas such as; altering the marketing of one or more products, or advertising a product at the point of sale of another.
Example Objective: “Advertise our shaver blades as people buy the shaver, with the aim of making sure one in four customers purchases extra blades at the same time.”
Choice / Seasonality
Are your products sold on a seasonal basis? (E.g.: Xmas goods, certain fruits and vegetables) If so, are you making the most of your opportunities?
You should look at when sales are lower, and whether there are ways to increase sales, or whether there are alternative products you can market instead. You could even look at altering a product to make it more attractive during low sales times. (E.g.: Taking a Xmas product, and changing the exterior to create a Birthday product which has a more even demand over the year).
Example Objective: “Introduce a new or altered product to market during the months where our current product has little demand, with the aim of gaining 30% of the main products sales each non-peak month.”
Although advertising is not the only part of marketing, it is often the most important (and usually the most expensive!).
You need to look at possible advertising budgets and the effectiveness and cost of any current budgets. If you sell more than one product, this could mean several smaller budgets, or maybe one large budget.
You might want to look at setting new aims for your advertising (based on the other objectives in your marketing plan). E.g.: If you currently advertise your low prices, you may want to adjust your advertising to show a new feature.
Part of your advertising planning is to look at the different advertising media. If you currently use newspapers, are they effective, and would magazine advertising be better value for money?
Example Objective: “Lower television advertising in exchange for magazine advertising. Try to keep within the same budget, whilst increasing exposure. Aim the majority of magazine advertising at the younger part of our target market, with the aim of raising their sales by 10% in 6 months.”
If you currently use public relations as part of your marketing; you need to look at whether it is cost effective, and whether the exposure is of good enough quality. You should also look at whether the message your pr is giving is relevant to your business at this time. You might decide to raise, lower or stop pr activity altogether; or set new targets for exposure.
If you do not currently use public relations, you should look at why this is, and any possible benefits you could gain through it.
Example Objective: “Look at the benefits of PR, and try it on a small scale for 6 months. If it is successful, look at the possibility of a permanent PR presence.”
Word Of Mouth
Do your customers tell their friends about their experiences with your business? If so, how can you help make sure the message is positive?
You need to look at whether you encourage people to talk about your business, and if not, how you can make them tell their friends. Good word of mouth publicity is free marketing if you treat your customers well, and anything you can do to increase it will have a positive effect on your business.
Example Objective: “If a customer introduces another customer, they will both get 20% off that purchase.”
Special Offers & Competitions
What price reductions or additional features could you offer your customers to attract their attention? A special offer can convince unsure customers to make a purchase, and a competition can create interest in looking at your product.
You can look at what special offers your business uses to judge their effectiveness, and make alterations to improve them. If you do not use any special offers, you should look at how they might benefit your sales.
Example Objective: “Continue our effective free carry case offer on our top of the range CD player.
This is a commonly used form of marketing analysis. It looks at both your business and the external environment to anticipate possible future action you may need to take to defend or expand your market position.
SWOT stands for Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities; and Threats.
Here you should list the main strengths of your business and products/services. This should include not only the areas that your business or products are good at, but also high profit margins, successful current marketing campaigns and similar strengths. E.g.: Our business has a reputation for excellent quality customer service.
Strengths are internal factors, and are usually related to your business only.
Here you should list the main weaknesses of your business and products/services. This should include the areas that you feel your business could improve on, or are limiting your quality or expansion. E.g.: Our slow production speed makes it difficult for us to meet shipment dates effectively.
Weaknesses are internal factors, and are usually related to your business only.
Here you should list what you believe to be the best opportunities available in your market, or new markets you believe your business can succeed in. E.g.: Gap in market for smaller versions of our products.
Remember, a weakness may be an opportunity in disguise! E.g.: If we fix the weakness in our manufacturing speed whilst maintaining quality, we have an opportunity to offer faster delivery to our customers.
Opportunities are almost always external, although they may rely on internal strengths. E.g.: An opportunity is available by advertising our strengths in quality of service.
Here you should list what you believe to be the biggest threats to your business. This could include competitors, government regulations, changes in customer attitudes and other such areas. E.g.: Our competitors are planning to launch a big new product in the next 6 months.
Threats are almost always external, although they may rely on internal weaknesses or external factors that limit your strengths. E.g.: If our competitors lower their prices and we match them, we may be left with an unprofitable product.
When making a marketing plan, it is important to know and state the timescale you are working with. Are you making a long term plan, a short term plan, or something in between? You may also find that some areas of your marketing plan are short term, while others will work in the long term.
A business that deals with new technology may need to update their marketing plans every 3-6 months, where as a business in an established and stable industry might only need to update their plan every other year.
Your targets and objectives need to be based on a realistic timescale, there is little point making a target of 400% sales growth in 2 months when you know that is impossible. Set realistic but challenging targets over an accurate timescale.
Marketing Plan - Summary
- A marketing plan is in addition to a standard business plan.
- A marketing plan helps set realistic objectives for your business, and helps make sure that the business is focused on the most important areas of marketing.
- A marketing plan can help in obtaining finance by demonstrating that the business has been thoroughly planned.
- A plan should look at each of the important areas and have realistic objectives for the short, medium, or long term.
- Looking at the prices of your products should take into account both consumers and competitors products.
- Looking at the locations of your products should take into account where the product is sold as well as the distribution methods used to get there.
- You should firmly know the unique selling points of your business and its products.
- Sales of one product may help increase sales of another product; you should look at how this can be achieved.
- If your product is seasonal, look at introducing a new or modified product to sell during the slower months.
- Both the budgets and message of your advertising and public relations should be reviewed regularly to ensure best results.
- Word of mouth is free marketing! Look at how you can encourage it.
- Special offers and competitions can increase interest in your product and convert possible buyers into sales. Look at how you can maximize this.
- In a SWOT, Strengths and Weaknesses are internal, while Opportunities and Threats are external. Each point should be written down briefly to provide a quick overview of the status of your business and its market(s).
A marketing plan should have a timescale relevant to the nature of your business, although different areas of the plan may have different timescales.
Every start-up venture needs a business plan, yet many entrepreneurs do not realize a marketing plan is equally vital. Unlike a business plan, the marketing plan focuses on the customers. A marketing plan includes numbers, facts and objectives, but it is not primarily numerical; it is strategic. It is your plan of action - what you will sell, to whom you will sell it and how often, at what price, and how you will get the product to the buyer. Here's a closer look at putting together a marketing plan that works.
Step One: Define your product. The first part of the marketing plan defines your product or service and its features and benefits in detail, then shows how it is different from the competition's. The more clearly and succinctly you describe your product in your marketing plan, the better you will communicate with your target customer.
Markets and products have become extremely fragmented. There are hundreds of special interest magazines, for example, each targeted to a very specific market segment. It's the same with restaurants, cars and retail clothing stores, just to name a few industries. Positioning your product competitively requires an understanding of this fragmented market. Not only must you be able to describe your product, but you must also be able to describe your competitor's product and show why yours is better.
Positioning your product involves two steps. First, analyze your product's features and decide how they differentiate your product from its competitors. Second, decide what type of buyer is most likely to purchase your product.
Pricing and placement are critical to competitive positioning. In today's marketing culture, pricing cannot be separated from the product. Take grocery stores, for example. The full-service supermarket is still the most popular form of grocery distribution. But today, busy families want faster service and more convenience, even if it means higher prices. As a result, convenience stores, home delivery services, personal shoppers and takeout restaurants have proliferated. At the same time, warehouse grocery retailing has also increased. Warehouse stores cater to customers who prefer low prices to convenience.
Service, distribution and price are the essential elements of the product offered by supermarket, convenience and warehouse stores. To develop a successful marketing plan, you need to analyze how these same elements fit into your business. What are you selling - convenience? quality? discount pricing? You can't offer it all. Knowing what your customers want helps you decide what to offer.
Step Two: Describe your target customer. Developing a profile of your target customer is the second step in an effective marketing plan. You can describe customers in terms of demographics - age, sex, family composition, earnings and geographical location - as well as lifestyle. Ask the following: Are my customers conservative or innovative? Leaders or followers? Timid or aggressive? Traditional or modern? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what I offer? How much of it at a time? Are there peak buying periods or times of the year when people won't buy my product or service?
Step Three: Create a communication strategy. Your target customer must not only know your product exists but also have a favorable impression of its benefits. Communication includes everything from logo design and advertising to public relations and promotions. Find out what your target customers read and listen to. You need to know this to get their attention. In addition to where to place your message, consider how frequently customers need to receive it.
This part of the marketing plan should spell out your promotional objectives. What do you want to achieve? Do you want people to recognize your company name? Know where you're located? How much money can you spend to get your message across? What media are available, and which will work best? Finally, how will you evaluate the results?
Effective Marketing Plan
Here is valuable information that will help your marketing business plans to be more effective. Learn how to put your marketing materials and other printed materials to work for you!
When writing effective business correspondence, one must pay great attention to even the minutest of details. However, one must also capture the readers attention and that can usually be best accomplished by projecting a specific writing style. Your chosen writing style could fit one of the following descriptive groups: elegance, class, opulence; humor, sincerity, friendliness; humorous, down-to-earth, friendly; blunt, stark, aggressive; to-the-point, professional, no frills; non-traditional, funky, offbeat; pleading, submissive, hope-you-pick-me or you could invent one entirely unique.
Obviously one or more styles could be combined, however this is difficult to do and still be straightforwardly effective. It is best to choose a specific style such as one of the above that suits the situation; the potential buyer; and your business as well as your own unique personality. A company that sells business services, for example, would find it inane to attempt to impress their prospective clientele base with a letter that was funky; prospective clients would most certainly shy away. To put it another way, can you imagine a vintage clothing store that would properly convey their image with a no frills, professional approach?
Once you have chosen the style that is suitable to the given situation, you must decide who is your target; who will be reading this information, or rather, who do you want to read it? It will usually be one of the following positional types that will be reading your copy:
1. The decision maker
2. The screener
3. The spouse of the decision maker
4. A partial decision maker
The decision maker is who you obviously want to receive your printed material; however, you must keep in mind that you may initially have to get it beyond the screener, the spouse (who may also act as a screener), or simply a partial decision maker. You want your information to ultimately end up in the hands of your target the decision maker. Lets discover how we can effectively attract and hold the attention of one of the intermediary persons involved yet still captivate the decision makers attention.
First, ask yourself this question as if you were each of the above recipients, What is in this for me? Good question, can you answer it? You must embed an attribute within your copy that is beneficial to each individual who has the good fortune to hold your materials in his/her hands. For the screener, it may be that it offers a lessening of the load of responsibilities from his/her shoulders by providing a viable option of transference to another entity you. In this case, the screener will ensure the copy makes it to the decision maker and quite possibly will do so with his or her own personal recommendation!
For the spouse, the caveat will free up more time for the spouse (the decision maker) making it possible for the couple to spend quality time together, like more beneficial activities. A partial decision maker is easily pleased, as he/she will be most receptive to the same approach as the decision maker. Therefore, you must make your copy powerful enough so that it can gain impetus through the partial decision maker. In any of these scenarios, the point is to get whoever is the initial and intermediary contact in your corner, on your side, pitching your product or service, for their own gain. This is not as difficult as it sounds and can reap benefits that are well worth the time and effort it may take to put these concepts into practice.
To recap this effective strategy:
- Define your style
- Define the possible intermediary contacts
- Define the benefits for the intermediary contacts
- Define the benefits for the decision maker
- Use these definitions to write copy that will capture attention
By implementing these principles you will find that your written copy will literally soar into your prospective buyers hands. Remember: Define, define, define, defineand put into action!
A marketing plan is a road map detailing the route you'll take to get your business noticed by potential clients. By following a properly crafted plan, you'll know what to do and why you re doing it, while avoiding some of the mistakes that can cost you money and future growth.
A marketing plan is a road map detailing the route you'll take to get your business noticed by potential clients. By following a properly crafted plan, you'll know what to do and why you re doing it, while avoiding some of the mistakes that can cost you money and future growth.
How to Start A Marketing Plan
The first part of any marketing plan is a basic understanding of your market, competition and whether or not an opportunity exists for your product or service.
When starting a business you generally know where you want to end up and you might have a vague idea of how to get there, but what if you get lost? A marketing plan is like a road map or corner gas station used as a reference tool to keep your marketing on track. If you run into construction traffic , a properly developed plan will offer options to keep you motivated, organized and headed in the right direction.
Do you want a home based business with one or maybe two employees or a large firm with several hundred? How do you feel about travel, making cold calls, the Internet, can you type? How fast do you want to grow and do you have the resources to keep up with the growth? Your goals as a business entity will dictate how and to whom you market.
Even the best marketing plan needs to be constantly evaluated and adjusted to keep business growth on track. The results of your efforts may not be bringing in attention or revenue you require. The economy, business environment, competition or technology may have changed necessitating a shift in your plan.
Making adjustments to a marketing plan is healthy. Even if you paid a mint for a professionally developed plan, you'll want to review your status and results at least every six months to monitor effectiveness. When buying a plan, it s important to ask that follow up support to be part of the package.
Before developing a marketing plan, you ll want to have a ball park budget in mind. Once your plan is complete, set a budget and stick to it!
It s easy to spend more than your annual revenue on marketing activities and supplies when you first start out. Make sure your budget is realistic before committing. Every dollar spent should have a trackable outcome even if it takes several months or years to realize.
You hear the term "Marketing Plan" thrown around but it's sad how many businesses don't know what it means to have one. Perhaps the most vital aspect of any business is the marketing plan. A business cannot really get off the ground until they sell something. And that is what marketing is all about. If marketing is how sales are made, then a marketing plan is about figuring out how sales will be made. Developing a good plan is a way to overcome your shortcomings and increase your business's income. No plan equals to no sales. Which in turn means your business is not going to make it. This is why a solid marketing plan is a MUST.
Marketing Plan - Preparing Your Business
A marketing plan prepares your business to be proactive in what the market does. Without one, you end up reacting to changes and to competition, which means you are always a step behind those who are already prepared. So, then, a marketing plan is crucial to being ready to deal with the ebbs and flows of the market. It's always better to anticipate and plan for a market change well ahead of time rather than find out about it later on. You need to be in the leading edge and not the following edge.
At the beginning of the process of forming a plan for your marketing, you should make sure you have answers to basic marketing questions like: Who are your customers? Know your competition. For you can be sure that they know you. And how do you put your product or service into the hands of your customers? What's the most effective method to do so? In addition to several others that address where you are as company and where you are going. You need to know where you are before you can figure out where you want to be.
Once you have those questions answered, your marketing plan will essentially write itself. You will form ideas about where you want to go, and you will know how you want to react to changes and challenges from the marketplace. A well planned plan means nothing though if it's not well executed. Make sure that once you make a plan you put it motion by delegating it to the right people.
Overall, if you have a good marketing plan in place you will have a business that is in control of itself. When you're in control, yu cans steer it towards profits. You will be able to stick to certain sales strategies and have an idea what kind of results you want to see. Measurable mile stones will let you know if you are on track. All advertising efforts are targeted at a specific goal, and overall you will know what success looks like to you and your associates. A good plan with tell you exactly what to expect to see and when to see those results. This is an indicator of how successful your plan is. A well placed and established marketing plan will help your business, big or small, to unite in a common effort and will promote teamwork. Ultimately you, as a whole, will see your business grow.
A strong Business Plan may not guarantee success; but it could certainly prevent failure!
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