How to create marketing plans is a common question and something you have no doubt thought about with regards to your organization, product, service or idea. In this section I have pulled together a number of articles and resources on the what, why and how to write a marketing plan that works for you. My goal is to distill the best of marketing theory into actionable information you can use immediately to develop a marketing plan that works.
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Your marketing plan is the blueprint for how you will create and sell value. This is what you are in business to do and whether or not you create marketing plans to guide you at each stage of your growth, you will nevertheless have to answer this crucial questions before you take a step and at every step along the way of your enterprise. Not every business develops a marketing plan that is formalized and written down but every business does have some marketing plan otherwise there would be no business.
Your marketing plan in its broadest sense is actually your business plan. Far from being a simple outline of the message you want to communicate to the market, how you develop a marketing plan encompasses how are going to sell your product, service or idea in the market, how you are going to capitalize on the value you have created through your business venture.
Going a step further, as you begin to create a marketing plan to capture the various aspects of your business and your various stages of growth, the plans itself defines how you will do business. Anything you write into your marketing plan is centered around (a) creating value and (b) creating customers. This is business in the simplest of terms and this is what you should focus on as you develop a marketing plan.
Why Create Marketing Plans?
Like the old adage says, "failing to plan is planning to fail." By definition, business involves a certain amount of risk and the only way to protect yourself against risk is planning. In business, the single biggest unknown by far is that vague and nebulous concept that is known as market. This is why one of the most important imperatives in business is to develop and write a marketing plan.
Market regularly defies the expectations and predications of the smartest minds and the most resourceful organizations on the planet. Market makes fortunes overnight and takes them away just as fast. Market in turns raises and then abases individuals, organizations and even whole nations. Market is the fearsome sea upon which we sail our ships of individual enterprise. To develop a marketing plan is to write a map for exploring these waters.
To create a market plan is to chart your course into the market and return profitably. Almost all business failures can be traced back to a lack of understanding the market and planning according. These can be as gross as the well-publicized - and often very funny - mistakes some large multinational companies make in translating their message for a new country. Or, conversely, subtle variables and even complete unknowns that turn the surest of "surefire" businesses into failures.
The market remains a mystery but we must still plan for it and structure every tactic to take advantage of it. Although there will always be ups and downs in the world of business, one thing will always remain true: preparedness trumps spontaneity and persistent, diligent effort will succeed in the end. Therefore, the work you invest when you develop and write a marketing plan is well worth your time.
How To Create Marketing Plans?
All of this brings us at last to the question of how to go about and create marketing plans that work and are successful in helping us achieve greater sales and success. The answer to this question depends entirely on you and what your are trying to accomplish. As well as the size and type of your business, how you develop and write your marketing plan will reflect your personality and the energy that you imbue your business - and your life - with. Just like people, marketing plans come in all shapes and sizes.
There is no "one size fits all" template for how to create marketing plans other than once again answering the basic questions of why you are in business in the first place:
• Create Value: What product, service or idea are you bringing to the market that people are willing to pay for?
• Create Customers: How are you going to go about engaging, informing and persuading people to do business with you?
The elements of the marketing plan simply detail how the various elements of your business connect to these points. Nothing more, nothing less. What are the elements of your business? You know that better than anyone else but in its simplest form a marketing plan is a summary of the areas that come together to define your business (another reason for why you should develop and write a comprehensive business marketing plan).
To create Marketing Plans entails an Overview, Situational Analysis, Strategy And Objectives, Tactics and Implementation. These marketing plan elements are detailed further on the Marketing Plan Template page while the Marketing Plan Outline page provides a "stripped down" and simple marketing plan to get you started.
Besides the Overview which summarizes the purpose of your Marketing Plan, the "meat and bones" of your plan in its early stages is captured in the following Situational Analysis:
i) Opportunity Analysis
What exactly are you trying to accomplish? What is the value you are creating, who are your customers and why should they buy from you? The opportunity should be verified by market research and forms the focus of your objective as a business. Unless you are creating value and creating customers, you are not in business. And unless you know why your customers should buy from you, the two will not meet. Opportunity analysis here covers some of what is sometimes called Consumer Analysis, Demographics or traditional Market Analysis that studies the characteristics and buying habits of customers.
ii) Market Analysis
What are the external conditions that define the environment in which you are doing business? This not only includes traditional market conditions but anything and everything that affects how you do business. Market analysis thus covers the following outside factors among others: governmental, legal, economic, socio-cultural, environmental, technological, and so on. Anything external to your organization that has a bearing on your business should be studied to the extent to which its impact is significant.
iii) Organizational Analysis
This is the last piece of Situational Analysis in creating marketing plans. Once we are cognizant of the opportunity and market, we need to assess the resources at our disposal that come together to form our organization. This includes the traditional "factors of production" - land, labor, capital, enterprise - and, in modern terms, finances, skill and expertise, ownership and anything else pertinent to the running of the organization and it's potential to produce and deliver value to the marketplace.
After completing this Situational Analysis, the Strategy, Objectives and Tactics sections within your Marketing Plan will detail your overall Marketing Strategy and goals and what tactical programs and activities comprise your Marketing Mix. Finally, the Implementation section included when you create marketing plans covers financial analysis and other details in putting your plan into effect.
The Ultimate Goal
These broad categorizations are for help for when you develop a marketing plan and understanding the basic purpose in writing them. Certainly, there are many ways of slicing the proverbial tomato and many other classifications that the concepts I have discussion here can fall under (see Marketing Mix Management and SWOT Analysis for examples). As well, things like location can fit under Opportunity Analysis, Market Analysis or Organizational Analysis. Nevertheless, this is the simplest way of organizing the various components of marketing plans and the easiest way to think about them.
To create marketing plans in the form of 50-page official-looking documents to impress shareholders is not the goal. The objective when you write a marketing plan is put together a plan of action of exactly how you are going to do business. Just as experience is a teacher, so is careful preparation and planning. Thinking through the various factors that go into how you are doing business will undoubtedly bring to light many concerns, opportunities and other consideration that will become crucial to growing your business as you go forward.
Do you have Marketing Plan expertise or experiences?
Do you have insights, strategies or a story about marketing plans to share with other readers? Perhaps you have successfully used a different marketing plan template or have insights into how to configure marketing plans for different kinds of businesses! Send in your thoughts in as much detail as you like to create a page in this section.
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