How to Create a Thoughtful Marketing Plan

Article by Helen Fenton, Senior Analyst: Business Optimisation Training Institute

Successful marketing is not about bewitching your customers or blinding them with science

Successful marketing is not about bewitching your customers with fanciful campaigns purely to get their attention. Nor is it about blinding them with science. Marketing is like any process, if you want to reap a bountiful harvest, first plant the seeds, then tend to the crops and at the end of the season your efforts will bear fruit. So, where do you start?

Your starting point should be a well thought out marketing plan. Doing business without one is like sailing across the ocean without a compass. You may sight land eventually, but you run the risk of making costly and time-consuming errors along your journey. Therefore, your marketing plan is your compass that points you in the right direction from the word go, helps you to find your true north per se, and ensures that you avoid the icebergs along the way.

Your marketing plan helps you chart territories

Your marketing plan should help you to chart the territories you would like to explore. It should clearly demonstrate how you will attract customers and persuade them to come on board with you. It also builds confidence with financial institutions in showing them that your business has a good chance for success.

Your marketing plan is not a once-off document that once drafted and approved sits for months on end in the filing cabinet. Instead, it is destined for much greater things. It should be updated regularly to include the changing needs of your business as well as those of your customers. It should also be revised periodically to include any changes resulting from external factors such as changes in technology, market forces, prevailing trends and anything else that may have a direct impact on your business.

What does your marketing plan consist of?

A situation analysis will shed light on the situation

A situation analysis refers to the various methods that managers use to analyse the internal and eternal environment to gain an in-depth understanding of the company’s customers, capabilities and business environment. Methods such as the 5Cs Analysis, the Porter Five Forces Analysis and the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis are among the most common. In this article we will discuss the use of the SWOT Analysis.

Hence, the SWOT analysis, which involves an analysis that assesses the company’s Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – and Threats is one of the most common methods and involves identifying who your competitors are, acquiring an understanding of how they operate and familiarising yourself with their strengths as well as their weaknesses. The SWOT Analysis will examine current and future situations alike whereby current strengths and weaknesses are assessed and future opportunities and threats are also taken into account. The ultimate objective being to maximise on company strengths while making every attempt to minimise weaknesses. The SWOT Analysis therefore assists in helping to prepare for various potential future scenarios.

Profile your target market

  • Paint a portrait

Paint a portrait of your target market by including basic demographic information and any other pertinent details that portray a clear picture of your customers and what they are all about.

  • Estimate the demand

Research the estimated demand for your product or service as well as the estimated demand growth rate to build confidence in prospective financial partners in order to demonstrate that your business shows a real potential for growth.

  • What makes your customers tick?

It is vital that you establish exactly what makes your customers tick and what motivates them to buy.

Is it pleasure? Savings? Necessity? Simplification?

Similarly, what would keep them away from competitors? Costs? Undifferentiated products?

  • Establish clear, concise marketing objectives

Be clear and articulate the desired outcome of your marketing plan that features realistic, attainable objectives with dedicated targets to be reached within a specific and achievable time frame. Use marketing metrics, for example, examine total market share and market segments, the total number of customers and percentage of customers who have been retained.

  • Develop a suitable marketing strategy

Having determined your marketing objectives and targets a suitable marketing strategy should be developed in line with your target market profile. You should also make an effort to acquire a broad understanding of how different media reaches different audiences. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that large sums of money have to be made available for costly advertising campaigns.

Costly options typically involve sales promotions, outdoor, print, radio and television advertising and Public Relations (PR) initiatives.

Low-cost marketing strategies can be used effectively to reach niche audiences. Networking and referrals are typical examples of low-cost methods of reaching customers and digital marketing using social media platforms such as Facebook and Linked In more now than ever play a pivotal role in demonstrating a powerful, inexpensive and highly effective way to reach your target markets.

  • Do the math – get your financials in order

It goes without saying, that a marketing plan with no numbers that fails to include the math holds very little sway in the overall scheme of things.

Make sure to include a budget as well as a sales forecast which should be kept simple. For instance, provide details around such things as:

· Projected sales

· Price (including any hikes or anticipated customer discounts)

· Production costs

· Operational costs

· How much funding needs to be raised over a specific period of time

A break-even analysis should also be included. This reflects the required sales turnover your business will need to generate in order to cover operating costs.

The benefits of a well thought out marketing plan

The benefits associated with having a well thought out marketing plan are tremendous. For instance, it helps to ensure that your goals are measurable, new opportunities can easily be spotted and evaluated, it sees to it that you are being proactive instead of reactive and ultimately keeps everyone on the same page.