Marketing plans can be a little daunting at times, even more so if you’ve never written one before. Here I’ll explain step by step, exactly how to write a marketing plan, what needs to be covered and in what order.
I have used this template countless times when writing my own marketing plans, I find it to be very thorough, which means I’m never in the situation where I’ve left out anything worth mentioning. It’s a standard, simple marketing plan template and will suit anyone, whether it’s your first time writing one or you just need to use it as a little brush up.
Part 1. Executive overview
No more than a page in length (about 200 – 300 words is good), it is a quick summary and overview of your plan. Although it comes first in your plan, it is best practice to write it last.
Part 2. Market Review
A market review is pretty self explanatory – you are literally reviewing the market your company is based within (or will be). For this we need to know the following:
- How big is the potential market?
- Is the market growing, has it stopped or is it declining?
- What changes do you see happening?
- How is the market segmented? Is it by price, quality, income, location, product usage or another factor?
Once you know the segments of your market, describe which ones you’re going to target. Remember to address each of them when planning your marketing activities.
- Who is your target audience?
Something I have always been taught is that it doesn’t matter what you’re saying, if you’re saying it to the wrong people. Go into as much detail as possible about who your target market is.Describe who your typical customer is in detail. What’s their age group, gender, education level and their location. If you’re doing B2B, consider industry type, company size, job titles / departments, annual revenue and location. If you’ve never done this before, I’ve previously written how to write a customer profile if you need some tips.
- Who are your competitors?
Describe this section in as much, or as little detail, as you like. It all depends which of the above are relevant to your business.
Part 3. Competitive Review
Much like part 2, this is fairly self explanatory – it’s time to put your competitors under review. This is a key feature to your marketing plan as it lays out all your competitors strengths and weakness, what they’re doing or not doing and how you can differentiate yourself. Your Competitive Review needs to cover the following:
- What are their products / services strengths and weaknesses?
- What are their strengths and weaknesses as a company? (Cover financial strength, reputation etc).
- Are there any weaknesses you can exploit?
- What are the differences between your product / service and theirs?
- What were their sales from last year?
- Where else do they promote themselves?
Although this shouldn’t be relied upon solely, a website I use to sometimes get competitor financial information from is Duedil.
Part 4. Product Overview
In this section, it’s time to analyse your offering (your product or service). But not as a whole though.
For example: if you’re a cosmetic company, selling a range of products from make up and accessories, to skin care, it would be far too time consuming to analyse every single product area you offered, plus, irrelevant. Just focus specifically on what it is your marketing. If you’re looking to do a big push on your mascara’s for example, then that is what you focus on in this section.
- Your product and what its purpose is.
- Its features.
- The current pricing structure.
- Positioning within the market currently.
- Current promotions and advertising (if any).
Make sure it’s clear what your product / service USP (unique selling point) is. What are the benefits your customer gets from using your product vs your competitors? It is vital you know these inside out as they are the reasons someone will buy your product and the reasons you need to get across in your marketing efforts.
Part 5. SWOT
For those who have never written a SWOT analysis before it’s very simple. S = strength, W = weakness, O = opportunities, T = threats. Go through each one, in detail and write down anything that may affect sales (or whatever the objective of your marketing is).
Using the cosmetics company again as an example, your product strength may be that your new mascara comes in a new, exciting colour, or it’s an even deeper shade of black for more depth. It’s weakness could be that it’s not waterproof, or perhaps price is a driving factor. Your opportunity would be your chance for further development, or certain offers you could create to drive down price at certain times. A threat could be that one of your competitors could do, or do have something similar. Perhaps their best selling mascara is waterproof.
Part 6. Goals & Objectives
This is basically where you want to be (your goals) and how you’re going to get there (you objectives).
Your goals should be:
Concrete and measurable (i.e. pounds and units).
Challenging, but not impossible to reach.
Set on a specific timetable for measuring success.
Your objectives should be:
Measurable, quantifiable and time specific.
Part 7. Strategy
So you know quite clearly where you want to go, your strategy determines how you get there. This is your road map for getting your business where you want to be and heading in the right direction.
First thing’s first, determine your positioning. Your positioning is very important, it’s what will help to differentiate yourself from your competitors. i.e luxury vs basic, expensive vs cheap, high-end vs low end etc. Think of the qualities of your product, your target market, its strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities you uncovered in your SWOT. Then think:
- Are there certain company attributes we can build on?
- What are the greatest benefits to the product and how can we capitalise on it?
- Can we position the product based on the opportunities we’ve discovered alone?
Once you’ve determined your positioning, you need to refine it:
- How can you simplify your message?
- Is the positioning believable? Does it work naturally with your product?
- Does the name of the product fit the positioning?
- Is the positioning perhaps too narrow? Too broad?
Make sure all your points are clear and understandable. Now, it’s time to make a start on the marketing mix. Always, always remember to have the four P’s covered: product, price, place and promotion. They will see you and your product through everything.
Consider elements of your product that can be vital to its success, such as warranty, quality materials or packaging. These are the elements that create the value the customer sees (or will see) in your product.
Take packaging as an example. Packaging communicates with that particular person, right until purchase. It cannot just look nice. Your message has to be clear and obvious – it needs to get noticed.
When it comes to analysing your product at this stage, look at your competitors and use them as examples. How can you make yours better? Explain what the benefit is you expect to see happen, how does that relate to the overall success of your marketing efforts?
Write your pricing strategy down and use this to back up your pricing decisions. Two key factors to look at are your competition and their pricing structure, along wish the value of the product as it relates to the value of the price.
This is the strategy behind how you sell and distribute your product. Match your products ‘image’ with the distribution channel and customers perception of your product. If you sell high-end luxury cosmetics, your customers will expect your distribution methods to match this, such as being positioned in prestigious department stores (such as Harrods or Selfridges), they wouldn’t expect to see you at their local supermarket.
Finally, make sure your product can get the attention it needs in your chosen channel. Make sure it’s not likely to be ‘too out of its depth’ alongside your larger, more established competitors. Make sure those who work in your chosen distribution channel have the time and resources available to look after your product.
By now you know what it is your advertising, why you’re advertising and what message you want your target market to get from it, but you need advertising methods to do so. It’s all down to preference, budget and advertising scope, but it could be absolutely any method you wish. From advertising, PR, promotions and events, to direct marketing, point of sale and online newsletters.
Don’t go overboard with it. Make sure each method adds value to your marketing efforts. Ensure you’re following an integrated marketing communications plan, in other words, each tool must follow the same rules and follow the same message. This also ensures consistency and that your message remains on target and you don’t have different forms of advertising, focusing on different areas / product benefits.
Part 8. Action Plan and Implementation
Quite a research heavy part of your marketing plan, this section outlines some key areas of your planned advertising – which publications will you feature in? What’s the difference between them? This is called your ‘media plan’.
Specify which form of media will carry your advertising message (newspapers, magazines, billboards etc).
Be specific, list exactly what publications, which issues and the date(s).
List the budget for each one.
Describe the rationale behind each one. Why did you choose this method in particular? What benefit does it have on your product and it’s marketing objectives?
What are the strengths and weakness of each media form?
Finally, create a gantt chart to illustrate everything you will do and when you’ll do it.
Part 9. Evaluation
In short – how will you know if your marketing efforts were a success? How are going to track and gauge it? What KPI’s will you be using?
So there you go – a bit of a lengthy blog post perhaps, but I find when dealing with something as vital as your marketing plan, it’s important to have as much detail as possible, to ensure you’re on the right lines. I hope you’ve found this informative and helpful and you now feel comfortable and know how to write a marketing plan.
If you have any questions or you have some tips on how to write a marketing plan yourself, add them in the comment section below, or send me a message on Twitter.