how to write a marketing plan? step by step guide + templates

perhaps the most vital aspect of anybusiness is the marketing function a business can't really get off the grounduntil it sells something a marketing plan provides a roadmap for running andcoordinating marketing programs it helps align the many people and organizationsinvolved in commercializing your products and services a formal writtenmarketing

plan is a great way to document the planning process it servesmany purposes but a marketing plan doesn't have to be a long and formaldocument even a simple one that answers these three questions will help whereare we now where are we going and how do we get there first

it captures all thethings you and your team have learned about the market the competition andyour customers this information is critical because it becomes thesupporting evidence for the strategies that you and your team decide to pursuesecond the plan serves as a tool to help you align the organization marketinginvolves

many people so you'll need to get everyone on board and going in thesame direction the written plan becomes a source document to createpresentations to conduct training and to give directions to external partnersbelieve me you'll use it a lot finally the written plan lays out a coherent andcoordinated set

of marketing programs with schedules in budgets so you can runa smooth operation to write the plan don't wait until the very end of theplanning process I like to start writing it right from the very beginning here'sa tip that makes it easy create a blank PowerPoint presentation with just

theheadings of each component on a separate page and keep it with you during teammeetings as you collect information or make key decisions write or type it intothe appropriate slide that helps you keep the document up to date as you movethrough the process when you have enough written material

go ahead and create afirst draft but be sure to date the draft as you'll be making regularupdates and revisions a written marketing plan is I dieNamek document and you should expect to make changes to it as conditions in themarket change if you create a great plan and update

it regularly it'll help youstay ahead of the competition you there are five steps to writing amarketing plan step one is to analyze the market this is where you exploreimportant issues about market conditions your potential customers and thecompetition this part of your plan is called the situation analysis onceyou've

analyzed the market you need to describe your strategy for achievingsuccess here you lay out your approach to segmenting the market targetingspecific customers and how you will position your products and services inthe marketplace next is the tactical section which includes your product orservice programs your pricing approach your promotion

in marketingcommunications programs and your channel design these are often called the fourPS of your marketing plan a good marketing plan explains how you willimplement the various tactics described in the last step it's here where youdescribe what steps you need to take when those steps will happen and who'sresponsible

for getting the job done and finally is the financial section of yourplan you need to describe a budget that outlines the financial and otherresources needed to implement your marketing plan here you also lay outyour forecasts of what you expect in terms of future revenues or otherbusiness goals this

section of the plan may also describe how you will measuresuccess you can start the marketing planning process any time but animportant consideration is how and when your company does its annual businessplanning process that's where the company develops financial forecastsinvestments budgets and so on generally speaking there are two

ways to connectthe marketing planning with business planning some companies start themarketing planning process first right around the middle of the fiscal yeareach marketing team develops their own sales revenue forecasts for theirassigned products they also develop a budget to spend on marketing programsthat they think are needed to achieve

those revenue forecaststhose forecasts and budgets are combined into a company level revenue forecastand budget and that's fed directly into the annual business planning process butsome companies do just the opposite they start with the business planning processwhere they develop an overall revenue goal and spending target those aredivided and

given to the individual marketing teams those teams now have totake those targets and develop the best marketing plan they can to achieve thosegoals so talk to your finance partner to find out which approach your companyuses another good idea is to create a calendar of when you'll write eachsection

of the plan a good marketer is disciplined and doesn't cut corners inwriting a marketing plan it takes time and lots of work but in the end it'sworth it good marketers know the value of adiverse and talented team of colleagues to help write their marketing planyou'll need to draw

on their expertise their market knowledge possibly thereare resources and their network your team will include colleagues inside thecompany as well as external partners like advertising and promotional firmslet's review the various roles of your cross-functional team first is financeyour finance department plays a very important role in making sure

you havesufficient budget dollars to execute your plan finance partners will alsohelp you measure the results of your marketing efforts and help you find waysto improve it in the next business cycle finance partners have a good eye forwhether a recommendation in your marketing plan makes sense financiallymarketing research is

another key role you'll need on your team your companymight have a separate marketing research department or it may outsource it buteither way you'll need their help understanding customer needs testing newproduct concepts or perhaps testing a new advertising message your marketingplan needs to explain what you know about the

market so make sure youinvolve your colleagues in marketing research next is your technical teamthese are the people who develop your products and services they might beengineers or scientists in an R&D department or perhaps softwaredevelopers it depends on the nature of your businessyou'll need their input to your marketing

plan so you can explain whatnew products might be coming down the pipeline now most companies have a salesfunction and you should enlist their help in developing a marketing planafter all they're on the frontline day-to-day and they have a lot ofinsights about your customers and your competition they'll also

have ideasabout the selling tools they need to succeed be sure to get their inputdepending on your business you may also want to involve colleagues frommanufacturing or operations these are the people who make the products orliver a service a good customer support team for example might have greatinsights about

customer complaints or service issues external partners mightinclude your advertising agency your branding company a public relations firmand perhaps a marketing consultant they're there to help you succeed somake them a part of the team from the very start once you've identified thekey players on your team make sure they're

aware of the schedule you'vecreated if the team members know their role and understand your expectationsyou can count on them to help you write a great marketing plan you before you venture out into themarketplace with your products and services you've got to have a realisticunderstanding of where you are

today after all you don't want to pick a fightwith your competition until you know what you've got to fight with this partof the plan is called the situation analysis there are four parts to itfirst is the market analysis analyzing a market means estimating how manypotential customers you might

be able to sell your products and services to whenanalyzing any market you want to group customers into three types first are thecustomers that already buy from you todaysecond are customers that buy the same products and services you offer but froma competitor and third are potential customers that might

be interested inyour type of products and services but not buying from anybody now estimate thepotential number of customers that you might be able to capture for each of thethree groups you do this so you can decide where you want to concentrateyour marketing strategy in marketing it's the old

adage fish where the fishare next you want to analyze how your company compares to your competition agood tool for this is called the competitive matrix to create a matrixlist your company and your competitors across the top then down the side listthe things that you want to compare things

like size market share strengthsand weaknesses and especially the key strategy elements like the valuepropositions what does each company have in terms of key resources and how dothey use those resources to acquire and retain customers now let's look at yourcustomers customers buy things for a variety of reasons but

some are moreimportant than others if you know what's most important to them you can appeal tothat need when trying to get them to buy or you can try to raise the sense ofimportance they place on another factor you also need to measure how they rateyour product versus others

and how it delivers each benefitthey may have misperceptions that you need to change you may be able toemphasize a key feature of your product that is better than your competitionthis analysis will be critical later when you begin segmenting customers tocomplete the situation analysis you need to test the

features of your product andservices compared to the same features on your competitors you need todetermine which features perform better than the competition which perform thesame and which perform not as well when you complete the analysis take a closelook are there features that need to be improvedare there certain

competitors you want to avoid or possibly go after based onproduct performance now keep in mind that the data and information that youput into the situation analysis it doesn't have to be perfectly accurate itjust needs to be realistic that allows you to step back and see what customersto go

after what to emphasize when marketing to them and what competitor isto go after or avoid the situation analysis is an important step so youwant to take your time here a good technique is to leverage the team youcreated to write the plan I suggest you break the situation analysis

into thevarious sections and assign the writing of each section to the team member mostqualified to do it having a good understanding of your situation can go along way to setting you up for success as you write your marketing plan the heart of any marketing plan is yourstrategy this

is where you describe how you plan to win in the marketplace thestrategy section has three parts first is segmentation where you break yourcustomers into homogeneous groups this helps you be efficient with yourmarketing resources by focusing only on the most relevant customers there arefour ways to segment customers demographic

is where you group customersby their characteristics such as income level age gender or their height andweight it's useful for certain products or services that deliver a benefitspecifically tied to that characteristic if you're marketing a shampoo forredheads for example then you'd want to group customers by hair color geographicsegmentation

groups customers by where they are physically knowing where yourcustomers are helps you know where to place stores for example and where tocommunicate or sell to them behavioral segmentation is grouping customers bythe things they do it can be things such as who they purchased from now howfrequently they purchase

or their price sensitivity finally is psychographicsegmentation which is how customers think their attitudes about the benefitsthey seek in a product an example of psychographic benefit would be the needfor prestige or need for convenience segmenting this way tends to be verypowerful in targeting you make decisions on which specific

segments to go afterit's a process of narrowing down your audience to a selected group let's goback to our shampoo example using all four types of segmentation you mighthave a target audience like this women over 40 with red hair who live incertain metropolitan areas who buy shampoo once a

month and who seek thebenefit of natural looking hair color now you have a specific identifiablegroup of customers for the next step called positioning positioningis determining how you want your customers to think about your productsversus the competition so they're more likely to buy yours it may seem a littleabstract

but positioning happens up here in the mind of the consumer think of theconsumers mind is a three-dimensional space and in that space they formbeliefs about products and services in a particular category and you can changethose beliefs so they have a favorable opinion of your product you do that

bymaking a claim and by supporting that claim with credible reasons to believeor RT B's as we call them the claim becomes your positioning statement whatyou'll say to customers when you communicate to them about buying yourproduct let's use our shampoo example a positioning statement might look likethis for women

over 40 with red hair that want to look their best our shampoogives you a more natural looking color to your hair than our competitorsshampoo now to support this positioning claim you might include photographs ofcustomers who have used the product and perhaps some testimonials of how muchthey liked it

notice how I included my target audience in the positioningstatement as well as the primary benefit that they want and that our shampoo candeliver so what benefit should you emphasize go back to your situationanalysis this is where you compared your product to the competition to find outwhat benefit you

deliver better than they do when you position your offeringaround your strengths you'll get an important edge over the competition andthat's what great marketing is all about a great marketing strategy only comes tolife when you take action now it's time to dive in and write the tacticalsection of your

marketing plan this is where you describe in detail yourproduct or service programs your pricing approach your promotion and marketingcommunications programs and your channel design in marketing we call these thefour PS by product and service programs these refer to all of the aspects of howproducts and services perform their

job in delivering benefits it includesthings like the design of the product how it feels to use it the packaging ofthe product and the people and processes involved in dealing with customers nowbe sure to describe the entire customer buying experience which typicallyincludes the following steps first is the need

recognition phase this is wherecustomers realize they want something the next step is information searchwhere they gather information from a wide variety of sources now this is acritical step because this is when a customer is most receptive to yourmessage once a customer gathers information they evaluate thealternatives based on

what features are most important and which product doesthe best job in delivering those features eventually they go to thepurchase phase where they actually buy the product now you might think that thebuying process ends here with the final purchase but there's one last stepcalled the post purchase behavior phase

once customers start using the productthey compare the results with their expectations pricing involves two thingssetting the actual price that customers will pay and communicating those pricesin an effective way the price of your product or serviceimplies their value that the consumer should expect from buying it and usingit your

written plan should list the prices you intend to charge and whythey're set at that level describe where and when prices will be communicated tothe customer this might be a simple price sticker on your packaging or youmight have prices on your website from Oshin includes all the things you

sayoutside of the company to the market this is where you broadcast the valueproposition and other information about the product it includes advertisingin-store promotions email campaigns perhaps social media and sales promotionyour written plan should outline the specific programs in terms of where andwhen you'll promote your products and finally

distribution these are theprograms that create an effective pathway to get the product from thefactory into the customers hands somebody has to take the product ship itstore it place it on the shelves sell it and possibly service it once the sale ismade including your written plan the specificdetails of

where customers can buy your products which might include storelocations online distributors and so on to be an effective marketing plan allfour P's have to work together to convey the value proposition no one of the fourPS can carry the load a good marketer uses all the tactical tools available

tomake the biggest impact possible once you're confident you have athorough comprehensive marketing plan for your business you need to take stepsto implement the actions outlined in the plan here are the specific factors youshould address first is how and when you'll communicate details about theplan make a list of

specific audiences or individuals that need to hear aboutit then write in the schedule with exact dates and locations for thesepresentations next are the marketing programs that you created in yourtactical section for each program I like to use a simple framework that describeswho what when where and how this

section should describe who is responsible forthe program it should show the timeline they have to complete the programincluding when implementation starts and when it finishes you should also explainwhere the implementation actions occur and maybe some details on how your teamwill implement that program finally you want to set

up key performanceindicators or KPIs for short key performance indicators help you keeptrack of your overall strategy and your individual marketing programs they alertyou when it's time to intervene and take action to get things back on trackwithout KPIs you're flying blind so to speak and you run the risk

of fallingshort of your overall goal now to be most effectiveeach KPI should be quantifiable and measurable you can have as many as youwant but don't measure a KPI just because you have the data if you're notgoing to use it don't bother it's a waste of time measure something

only ifyou plan to take action from it that's why I like to set thresholds around eachone each KPI should have a target of what you expect to happen plus a highand low number around that target for those thresholds you and your planningteam should agree in advance what action

you'll take if those thresholds areexceeded here's an example assume you create a KPI about the number of newcustomers acquired each month you set your target at 500 and you alsospecify a high and low threshold of 600 and 400 respectively if your actualcustomers per month is more than 600

you might consider taking an action such asreducing advertising spending or in the low end if you're below 400 you couldconsider increasing sales incentives good marketers not only reach theirmarketing goals but they also know whether those goals were achieved theway they expected them to be achieved they also take

immediate action whenthey detect something is going in the wrong directiona well-written marketing plan will help your team do just that Marketing takes time and money so it'simportant that you develop a budget in a forecast of what you expect in terms ofbusiness results let's look at each of these

a good budget helps you allocatethe right amount of resources to the right marketing programs to make themost impact now there are two ways to develop a budget you can decide on howmuch you have to spend in total and then allocate it some companies do this bytaking a percentage

of sales revenue as the total budget for marketing thatamount then is assigned to different teams and programs I call this thetop-down approach the other approach is from the bottom upeach marketing team develops a budget to spend on marketing programs that theythink are needed to achieve a revenue forecast

and then those budgets arecombined into a company level budget if you recruited a finance member to yourmarketing planning team they'll be able to tell you what approach your companyuses whichever approach you take you still need to decide where to spend themoney and how much to spend how much

you spend depends on a number of factorslook at each of your tactical programs the four P's product price promotion andplace estimate the required spending in each one for example do you need tospend money to upgrade your product or its packaging how much do you need tospend on marketing

communications to reach a sufficient number of people andstill achieve the communications objective what are your sales people anddistributors need to do their jobs effectively next is your forecast orwhat you expect to achieve as a result of implementing your marketing plan nowyou can set any type of goal whether

it be a revenue forecastperhaps units sold or maybe new customers acquired and so on for amarketing goal to be the most effective it should meet the following criteriafirst it should be specific just saying that your goal is to increase marketshare that wouldn't be specific enoughincreasing market share from

15% to 17% is much better as a goal because it'sspecific second the goal should besetting a goal that can't be measured will become frustrating for you and theteam especially when you try to gauge your progress in reaching it next thegoal must be attainable setting an unrealistically high goal

won't do youany good in fact it could hurt your campaign by causing you to spend moremarketing dollars than is warranted the fourth criteria is relevant that meansthe goal is directly related to your marketing strategy and finally the goalmust be time bound meaning that the goal will be achieved

during a specificperiod of time a year or perhaps a quarter or even monthly once you'veestimated what each program will cost you'll probably need to make some toughchoices and this is a great time to use the talents of your marketing planningteam let them help you decide in my experience

a team decisions ends upbeing better than any single individual decision after all you're in thistogether so put them to work in helping you develop the most effective budgetsand forecasts possible an effective marketing plan is one thatlays out a coordinated set of strategies and tactics to win in the

marketplace atsome point in the process you'll need to gain support for that plan and perhapsthe most important audience is your senior management they're the ones whoallocate financial and human resources to various projects in your companywithout their full support you may end up not getting what you need here

aresome tips on how to make a big impact with senior leaders when presenting yourmarketing plan first try to lead with the story perhaps focus on a customerwho had a great result using the product this is a really good way to remindpeople how your products bring value to customers

next share what's changed inthe marketplace what new threats or new products or perhaps trends are out therethat are creating a challenge for you we call this creating the burning platformyou want people to understand the difficult situation you're up againstthen share the process you went through to create the

marketing plan give creditto your team members it builds your credibility when you've collaboratedwith a cross-functional team now be as brief as possible because you probablywon't have a lot of time you should be prepared with different lengthpresentations for example you should have a 10 minute version a 30 minuteversion

and a 1 hour version really savvy marketers also know how topresent their strategy in 30 seconds or less the so called elevator speechafterall it's all about getting people on board now you don't have to shareevery detail about your plan just the highlights present the market conditionsthe competitive situation

and your strategy in terms of who you'retargeting and how your positioning approach will convert customers becompletely upfront about the weaknesses or risks with your plan you gain trustwhen you're upfront and honest about potential issues then share yourforecasted revenue and budget needs make sure they completely understand yourassumptions take

your time here if you see that someone has a differentview around the assumptions clarify it on the spot not aligning around theassumptions can create real problems for you later remind them that funding yourmarketing plan is an investment not a cost assure them that you're committedto getting them a

good ROI return on investment given their experience besure to ask them for feedback on ways to improve your plan finish thepresentation by asking them for their support it's the old sales adage alwaysask for the order you're there to get approval so look them straight in theeye and ask

for it hey you've invested a lot of time to write a great marketingplan so now it's time to gain support from senior managers great marketersshow passion and enthusiasm for the products and services they manage to dojust that your retina ting plan is a great tool tohelp educate some

very important audiences if you created across-functional team to help you write the plan those team members can helpspread the word but there are two other audiences that may need specialattention first is your sales force they'll need to understand yourmarketing plan because they play a key role implementing it

the first thingthey need to know is your strategy especially your value proposition theyshould know who the target market is and they should know where and how to findthem share your customer analysis with them what buying factors are mostimportant to the target audience once they understand your strategy give

themthe tactical tools they need to sell the product first they need to understandhow the product works and how it compares feature by feature to thecompetitor's product next you should share your pricing strategy in howprices are communicated explain how the price was determined in relation to thevalue delivered now

you might get some resistance here because salespeoplegenerally like the prices to be low that's why it's essential theyunderstand how pricing supports the overall positioning finally share anyselling tools you've created to make their job easier these could includeproduct brochures or tools to demonstrate the product you might evenhave a

suggested selling script for them to use the second key audience is yourinternal or external marketing communications agencies now yourmarketing plan has all the information to create a creative brief it's a shortoverview of a creative assignment it answers key questions like what needs tobe created how it'll be used

what are the deliverables for the project andwhen are the deadlines it's like a contract whatever format you use itshould include the following first give an overview of your situation analysisnext describe the objective of the creative piece is it a commercial asales brochure a website and so on then

describe the target audience who are weto the more precise and detailed you can be the better next outline your valueproposition and the reasons to believe or are tb's what are the supportingrationale and emotional reasons to believe and by the agency may use thesepoints in the creative piece complete

your creative brief with the scheduleand a budget for the project but keep in mind that the creative brief should bebrief don't just hand the agency your marketing plan and expect them to sortthrough it a creative brief is much more detailed than your plan but very focusedon just one

specific marketing program in that plan with the proper guidancefrom our well-written marketing plan your support teams will work bettertogether to achieve your business goals you

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