The marketing plan: key elements
In theory, your company or business can work perfectly without a marketing plan. The big question is for how long can this last. The marketing plan is a strategic and tactical document in which you define the way you intend to sell your concept, product, or service.
The implementation of a marketing plan is anything but straightforward. This is an intense and demanding process during which a large amount of information, good analysis skills, and action readiness are essential. We suggest that the plan not necessarily be presented immediately in the form of a perfect final document: a conceptual draft is sufficient initially. You should also avoid preparing this alone, and exchange ideas with trusted people around you. With employees, partners active in your business sector, your family, friends, or even external experts.
The development of a good marketing plan involves the consideration of the following aspects, point by point:
Provide a brief overview of the general plan (also called Executive Summary), easily understandable by others, generally followed by a table of contents.
Describe your organisation
- Mission-vision-strategy: Why do you exist? What do you want to achieve? How do you plan to do this?
- Main skills and added value of your company
- Financial structure
- Organisational structure (organisational chart) and business culture
Current marketing situation
In this respect, assess your organisation's internal and external environment. It is a good idea to analyse the current situation and the future situation.
- Products/services: what is your company's current portfolio of products or services? What are the characteristics thereof? What do you offer and how do you do so (use a graph to show the product-market combination)? What are your customers' needs, and which factors have an effect on their purchasing behaviour?
- Operation: how are the front office (sales, call centre, etc.) and/or back office (production, administration, human resources, etc.) activities organised?
- Marketing communication: is the current communication clear and coherent? Are interactions with the customer possible? How are customer complaints and suggestions translated into solutions?
External: SWOT analyses
A SWOT analysis is used to evaluate the main threats and opportunities possibly facing your product/service. This approach allows your company to anticipate the main positive or negative evolutions expected, and to adapt its strategy if necessary. The SWOT analysis involves the following partial analyses:
- Buyer analysis: This analysis must include a response to the following questions: What are the main market segments? Who are the current and potential buyers? What do they do with your products? Where and when do they buy them? Why do they buy them (or not)?
- Analysis of the sector: The objective here is to determine the attractiveness of the market in which you are active. How big is it, the costs structure, growth, lifecycle, trends, sensitivity to conjuncture and seasons? What macro-environmental factors have an impact on your market? In this case a market study is required,
- Analysis of competitors: Who are your main rivals? Evaluate their position in the market and their strategy in terms of product quality, pricing policy, distribution, and promotion. The weaknesses of the competition can serve as assets and vice versa. It is important to identify the assets of the competition and avoid or remedy your own weaknesses.
- Distribution analysis: How does the product get to the buyer, and what changes will occur in this regard in the future? How do you stand out from the competition in this respect? Does this modus operandi help your profitability? What types of distribution are there and how are they carried out?
Set your marketing objectives
Formulate the marketing objectives your company wants to achieve during the period for which your plan has been prepared. Do these objectives relate to turnover, market share, profits, brand notoriety, etc.? You should also be clear about the scope of your marketing plan: does it relate to the company as a whole (its launch for example) or does it relate to a specific product/service? Does this relate to one product or several?
Determine your marketing strategy
How do you plan to achieve your objectives? What strategy do you plan to adopt?
Indicate the short and long-term marketing objectives by product or service, by region or segment. It is important to set realistic and measurable objectives.
Select your tools
In this chapter, you indicate the marketing instruments you will use to achieve your objectives. This is known as the "marketing mix" in this context.
Implement an action plan
Mention all the marketing activities you are going to carry out in a given period, preferably by ranking them by objective (specify what, when, where, how, and who). Make sure your employees take responsibility for meeting these targets and respecting these deadlines to improve team spirit, work together to prepare a list of priorities and a plan, and determine how actions will be monitored and sales guaranteed.