Most business owners recognize the essence of marketing to a business. They know that marketing is directly proportional to sales; yet only few will invest the time and resources to write a marketing plan.

Do you have a marketing plan for your business? Does your business need a marketing plan? What advantage does a marketing plan give your business? Well, I will advice you read on to find the answers you seek.

Before we proceed further, I think it’s wise I lay out the definition of a marketing plan. Now what is a marketing plan? According to Wikipedia,

“A marketing plan may be part of an overall business plan. A marketing plan is a plan which outlines a company’s overall marketing efforts. Marketing process can be realized by the marketing mix in step 4. The last step in the process is the marketing controlling.

The marketing plan can function from two points: strategy and tactics. A solid marketing strategy is the foundation of a well-written marketing plan. While a marketing plan contains a list of actions, a marketing plan without a sound strategic foundation is of little use.”

Now what is the importance of a marketing plan to a small business? Why do i need a marketing plan? What effect does a marketing plan or strategy have on a small business? Well, i advice you read on.

Nowadays, no business is able to trade or operate without a marketing plan. This is applied to all aspects of businesses, large or small, online or bricks and mortar. This essential service is offered by all online marketing agencies that recognize the benefits of this for any business.

You may have an excellent product and a great team but if you can get the word out about how good your product is, then you will achieve nothing. Without wasting your time, below are the basic importance of a marketing plan to a small and all aspect of businesses.

The Importance of a Marketing Plan to a Small Business

1. A marketing plan assists in ensuring that marketing activities are properly integrated and focused.

2. It enables everyone in the organization to know exactly what is to happen, how it will happen and when it will.

3. A marketing plan helps the business in taking advantage of market opportunities.

4. It assists in ensuring that the business remains healthy by making preparations for possible problems.

5. A marketing plan helps to keep the business in a better position to react to unexpected events.

6. It helps to identify the marketing mix.

7. Marketing plan clarifies the keys of marketing elements of a business and as well maps out objectives, directions and activities for the business and its employees.

8. Marketing plan focuses on issues related to the four Ps, which are product, price, promotion and place. As regards to these issues, putting them down in a written form can be beneficiary to a business owner, because it will force them to analyze their business. It could be good for employees, as the marketing plan is able to provide them with essential orientation and acts as a motivational source.

09.  Marketing plan grants access to a global market which means reaching out to new customers.

10.  It uses different methods (or channels) to reach different aspects of customers.

11.  Marketing plan makes monitoring and measurement of marketing efforts easy.

12. Marketing plan targets your products or services to the appropriate groups of customers. For instance, market segmentation.

13. Marketing plan uses social media to raise your online profile and build up your reputation.

The end result or outcome of a market plan is an increase in customers, which will lead to an increase in sales. This provides a very great return on your investment including boosting your bottom line.

Before you start a business, it is expected that you develop a marketing strategy; and a good one at that. This marketing strategy of yours will form the basis for your marketing plan. Now for those thinking of creative and innovative ways to actually accomplish a superb plan, below are four basic pointers on how to write a marketing plan:

Writing a Marketing Plan for a Product – A Strategic Template

1. Identify your target market

Your product may appeal to a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean you should spend your resources trying to reach everyone. The truth is that your product will appeal to certain groups of people more than others. These groups make up your target market.

Some businessmen abhor this part because it not only takes time; it is also costly. However, you must note that research is a very critical aspect of marketing. A good market research, as well as an informative market analysis; is the only way to understand how a business works and how it should work.

Through research, you will be able to know who your target customers are and where can they be found. Through research, you will be able to know several ways on how to attract such market and to entice them to your product or service. It is only through research that you can get to develop your business for the better.

By defining a specific target market for your startup product, you will be able to distribute the limited resources you have. How exactly do you define your target market? By creating a customer profile, which is an in-depth description of who your typical customer may be. It factors in demographic information (age, gender, location, and so on) and psychographic information (interests, hobbies, behavior, and so on).

2. Detail everything necessary about your product

Having identified your target market, you must write down everything that makes your product suitable for that market. How does your product benefit the customer? What makes the product different and better than similar products that are already in the market? Why should customers prefer your product to others in the market? In short, this step involves putting down the unique selling points of your startup product.

3. Evaluate your match

The most important thing to consider when studying the pointers on how to write a marketing plan is the part of strategy planning. After answering the what (goal or objective), who and where (target market), it is now only basic to answer the “How?”

You have defined your product and its unique features. And you have defined your target market. Now, it’s time to look critically at what you have written down so far regarding your startup product and the target market.

You want to see if your product is really a good match for your target audience. You want to see if your target audience will really feel the need for your startup product. In short, you want to be sure that there’s no mismatch between your startup product and the target market.

This is a tricky aspect in marketing plans as they tend to require your effort and superb ideas to make the product or service work. This step is very important, since a mismatch will lead to targeting the wrong market, which will in turn lead to waste of marketing resources. And the ultimate result is failure!

You sure don’t want that—so don’t skip this step. However, you must not be discouraged if your strategy did not work as planned; this is quite inevitable in every business undertaking. The important thing is to be persistent and never to fear failure.

4. Conduct SWOT analysis

The next important thing is a SWOT analysis, and it should therefore not be taken for granted because it could make or break your business. Before you launch your marketing campaign, you need to analyze the internal and external factors or issues might affect your startup product.

A SWOT analysis is a crucial action you must take because it identifies the elements of your business. SWOT is an acronym, which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. For your SWOT analysis, you will use the information gathered during the previous steps.

To know your strengths, here are typical questions to answer:

  • What are the advantages of your startup product?
  • What makes your product better than others in the market?
  • What resources do you have that give your business an edge over the competition?
  • Do you already have a large and loyal customer base?

To know your weaknesses, you must answer these questions:

  • Are there any aspects you need to improve upon?
  • Do you have low customer retention?
  • Do you lack any resources or manpower?

To know your opportunities, you must answer these questions:

  • What market trends can you capitalize upon?
  • Do your competitors have some weaknesses that you don’t?
  • Is there a new market you can tap?

To know your threats, here are the questions to answer:

  • Is there any new technology that might threaten your business?
  • Do the tastes or preferences of your potential customers change quickly?
  • Do you lack financial resources?

These are just few examples of questions you can ask yourself. There are many other questions you should ask, based on the type of startup product you want to launch.

4. Set good and achievable marketing objectives

There are different and specific objectives for every business. While some businesses have the goal to expand their revenue, others have goals that are focused on expanding on something else, such as its market base.

Your objectives are the results you want to get from your marketing campaign. For example, your main objective could be, “To dominate your local so-and-so market by X years time.” And lastly, when establishing an objective, you are advised to use the S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-specific) characteristics to be able to reach your goal.

Although the objectives may vary, the ways to accomplish it is still the same; and that’s by making sure that your plan has a clear vision statement, a well-thought of SWOT analysis and is applying the S.M.A.R.T objectives.

A vision statement is simple to do as it technically contains only the long-term goals you want for your business. But bear in mind that a vision statement is important to the success of your marketing plan because it has the ability to move your business in a precise direction.

5. Define your strategies

This is where you state the strategies you will adopt in order to achieve your objective. That is, what you will do to achieve your objectives. Whether you will focus on radio, TV, and newspaper advertising only or you will also adopt social media and pay-per-click advertising goes into this part of your marketing plan.

6. Finalize your budget and timeline

Let’s face it. Marketing a startup product usually requires a lot of money and time. So, you will need to assign a financial cost and timeline to each step you intend to take during your marketing campaign. After factoring in all costs and timelines, you must find the total to know what the whole campaign will require in terms of money and time.

7. Review and adjust

After taking all the previous steps, your work isn’t finished. You will need to review your marketing plan at periodic intervals, making necessary adjustments.

8. Stick to the plan

This is a simple rule and although it looks easy to implement, it is not always the case for some businesses. Sticking to the implemented plan not only gives the impression that you are firm and decisive when it comes to business issues, it also helps you avoid the waste of time that you would experience if you change your mind about marketing plan.

The best thing to do to avoid regular change of plans is to prepare a marketing plan that will not only suffice to the needs of your business but will also be the best that you ever did. Go ahead, and outdo yourself.

A Sample Strategic Marketing Plan Template

To develop a good marketing plan, you need to work on the following metrics. Also, it is important you note that every good marketing plan has the elements listed below.

  1. Summary
  2. Product description
  3. Marketing goals and objectives
  4. Situation analysis
  5. Market analysis
  6. Competitive analysis
  7. Strategies

a. Summary

This particular summary is called the executive summary. It is a brief summary of the entire marketing plan. It also includes the highlights of each section of your marketing plan. Your business vision or mission statement should also be a part of the executive summary.

Let your mission statement serve as a foundation for your marketing plan and ensure that your mission statement is in a simple paragraph describing your company’s values as well as who your company is and what it does. Skip the remainder of this section and come back to it after the marketing plan has been completed.

b. Product Description

This is where you provide a detailed description of the product or services that you wish to bring to the marketplace. When writing a marketing plan, you must use this as an avenue to communicate your ideas as regards the features of your product and how your customers will use it (the benefits of your products). Let it be within the length of a few paragraphs to a few pages.

c. Marketing goals and objectives

Your marketing goals and objectives provides a direction for your company. It allows your company focus its resources on clear and measurable targets. Your marketing goals and objectives must be a reflection of your company’s mission or vision statement. Your goals should posses both long and short term goals and it should be focused on the following areas.

  • Financial
  • – Personnel
  • – Market share
  • – Product development

NOTE: Financial goals and objectives are of a great importance because they are not addressed anywhere else in your marketing plan.

d. Situation Analysis

This section detail the context for your marketing analysis. This is where you take a close look at the internal and external factors that will influence your marketing strategy. A situation analysis is otherwise called a SWOT analysis.

  • -S=strengths
  • -W=weaknesses
  • -O=opportunities
  • -T=threats

e. Market Analysis

Market analysis is a way of carrying out a market research. It can be drawn either from a third party marketing research company or done in-house. In the market analysis, it is important that you discuss the situation of sales in the market, future trends of the market environment in relation to your product and the current conditions if the market.

f. Competitive Analysis

This is where you identify your competitors, both the ones that are obvious and the ones that are not so obvious. Here,you determine the strength and weakness of your competitors including their marketing strategies.

g. Marketing Strategy

The last but not the least element of a marketing plan is the marketing strategy. This is the highest of all the previously listed elements of a marketing plan. It has to do with the marketing strategy and action plans that you will employ in marketing your product or services. Having established your marketing strategy, it is now time to implement your action plan.

In conclusion, i want you to know that there are many other specific pointers that you need to know when writing a marketing plan but the basics, as mentioned above, should always be prioritized. After all, what is a specific and outstanding marketing plan without a good, detailed and well-thought of foundation?