How to Write a Marketing Plan

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The marketing plan’s strategic purpose is to document where the business wants to go and how it is going to get there. At the tactical level it details what promotional tools will be deployed to achieve its stated objectives and bring to life its defined strategies.

Here is a structure that will fit for most, if not all, marketing plans:

Vision

By definition a vision must be visionary. It is about the “what” not the “why” or the “how”. It should be over at least a five year horizon and is concerned with the big picture about where the business wants to be. It should be brief – one short sentence will do.

Mission

The mission is about the “why” – the reason the business exists. It should inform all stakeholders in the business – employees, shareholders and customers exactly what the purpose of the business is.

Target Audiences

Sometimes referred to as stakeholders but basically all of the groups of individuals that the business reacts with or wants to react with in the future. The different audiences should be clearly defined in terms of their size, socio-economic profile, geographic location and purchasing behaviour (if appropriate).

Objectives

Objectives often get confused with strategies. Objectives are the “what”; strategies are the “how”. Objectives should contain precise statements of intent in terms of the business growth and profits that will accrue as a result of the marketing plan being implemented. The SMART method of writing objectives is a good discipline to adopt:

  • S pecific
  • M easurable
  • A chievable
  • R ealistic
  • T imebound

Strategies

There can be any number of strategies to support the objectives but ideally there should be no more than five or six. The strategies will define what broad actions are going to be taken to achieve the objectives. It is useful to allocate the strategies to each particular target audience.

Product Pricing

What price will the consumer pay for the product(s) or service(s)? What is the sales margin?

Product Distribution

Where will the consumer buy the product(s) or service(s)?

Promotional Plan

This is where the nuts and bolts of the plan are outlined. The promotional plan cannot stand alone; it has to be borne out of the marketing plan to enable it to have its proper context. The promotional tools that are deployed will depend on the nature of the target audiences, the objectives and the strategies. However, it is likely that some or all of the following may be considered:

  • Advertising
  • Direct Marketing (including online)
  • Public Relations
  • Sales Promotions
  • Merchandising
  • Internal Communications

All of these disciplines have a plethora of consultants and advisers who can offer specialist assistance in both the construction and execution of the activity.

Customer Market Research

In larger businesses customer research will exist but it may be spread amongst various disciplines and locations within the business. If there is a market research specialist employed in the business then it is his or her job to a) collate all of the customer data and research that exists and b) instigate new research, where appropriate.

Promotions Tracking or Marketing Research

The other key function of research is to track the effectiveness of the marketing/promotional activity. Again, this is probably best dealt with in partnership with a specialist. The Market Research Society can assist in this area.

Budget

The budget is either set in advance by the business and the plan works within its constraints or the budget is borne out of the plan. The latter course is the most effective as it allows the marketing function to propose what is really needed financially to realise the vision and objectives of the business. However, in reality, the marketing plan, more often than not, has to work within the financial constraints imposed on it by the business as whole.

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