You know where you want to go but need a plan of how to get there and signposts along the way. A plan which will help you to better understand and picture your activity going forward. Your marketing plan is similar to your business plan in that it will need careful planning and research in order to produce a quality document.

Market identification

It is important to clearly identify the market for your products and services, as well as explain your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Your plan should include:

Market analysis – what is your market? What is your position within that market? Is it a niche market?

Sector growth – is your market growing, declining or has it reached a plateau? Is it becoming more specialised?

Customer base – what are your customer demographics (e.g. age, sex, income, location) and psychographics (predisposition, influences, lifestyle)? What customers offer the best prospects for you? What evidence do you have that they need or desire your product or service?

SWOT analysis – identify your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

Marketing mix

Once you have identified your position in the market, you next need to formulate your marketing mix. This is the combination of:

Product – this refers to the products, services, add-ons, installation, upgrades, after-sales support, etc that you offer the customer

Price – putting your product or service on the market at the right price is crucial. How tight are your margins?

Place – do you sell your products from a fixed physical location or do you sell over the phone or internet? How far does your business stretch geographically?

People – once you know who your customers are, you have to work out the best way to manage your customer relationships

Competitor analysis

Your marketing plan should also include a thorough assessment of the competition:

Who are they?

Where are they based?

What are their product lines (services offered)?

What are their prices?

How many employees do they have?

What are their strengths and weaknesses?

What is their market share?

What ads or promotions are they running?

Promotional activity

Clearly state whether you will use direct marketing, public relations, advertising or sales promotions to carry out your marketing campaign. Be warned – advertising and public relations campaigns can be expensive, so it is important that you spend wisely and evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Budgets

Your marketing plan should state the annual marketing budget, as well as an itemised list of expected expenditures. A projection of expected returns on marketing expenditure should also be included.

Flexibility

Your marketing plan should not be set in stone; certain factors may make it necessary for you to adapt or modify your plan, for example, changes in:

Trading environment

Government policies

Lifestyle trends

Technology

Competition

Employees

Suppliers