How to prepare a marketing plan

If you don’t believe in your product or service, or if you aren’t being consistent and regular in the way you promote it, you could be in trouble: you probably don’t have a marketing plan for your business. Like your business plan, a marketing plan is a key ingredient in business success. Its primary aim is to ensure that you have the vision, the resources and the wherewithal to do what it takes to make your product or service work. If you don’t want to plod along in uncertainty, you’ll need a marketing plan. Here are the basics to get you started...

1. Think strategically.

Assuming your product or service is one that people want and are prepared to pay for, your strategic actions should include clarifying (for yourself and others) what business you are in, deciding on a mission, identifying areas of competitive advantage, considering value-adding possibilities leading to developing a value proposition. Conducting an internal and external audit, or SWOT analysis, will allow you to consider such key issues as the business environment in which you operate, perceived potential demand for your product or service, competitors, trends, operational issues, service provision, skills and competencies of employees, and available resources.

Armed with such data, you will be in a position to draft your marketing plan, a process which would have you address the following actions:

2. Prepare an introductory statement.

In compiling the scene-setting introduction to your plan, respond to the following issues:

  • A brief statement about your company and what you provide
  • Why you are writing this plan and the period it will be in use
  • Specific objectives of the plan - so you can measure them on the way
  • A vision statement for staff and customers.

3. Know your product and its benefits to the consumer.

The only products or services that succeed are those that offer benefits that make users’ lives better. Don’t confuse features with benefits. In 'The Guerilla Marketing Handbook', marketing guru Jay Levinson clarifies:

'Think about the last time you went to buy a car. You probably thought about what you wanted: safety for the family, low operating costs, lots of room for the kids, etc. It’s not too hard to translate these benefits into features: airbags, good gas mileage, an extra-large trunk, etc. But it’s the benefits, not the features, that sell the car.'

Being able to list and communicate the benefits of your product or service is a vital step in creating a successful plan.

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