How To Write Successful Marketing Plans

This article shows you how to write a marketing plan for your business that contains your analysis, key objectives, marketing mix, and financial statements.

Your plan can either be a stand-alone document to launch new products, get new customers, or as part of your business plan you submit for bank loans.

What is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a document that describes the actions to be taken to satisfy customer needs with products or services through research and communications activities at a profit. It will outline your marketing strategy and cover why people will purchase from you and how you are going to promote to your target audience.

A marketing plan does not need to be 100 or more pages. Just 20-30 pages should be enough to describe fully the products you're developing with an analysis of your financial statements to show the return on investment (ROI) for the stakeholders.

The plan also includes the market potential, the target customers, your customer needs and your competitors in the marketplace.

The Marketing Mix

A marketing plan should include all elements of the four Ps of the marketing mix. The four Ps are product, place, promotion and price. These are all areas of a plan that covers what your products are and how they relate to your customers.

These elements include the location (location, location) of where customers are purchasing the product, the pricing (relative to the market and competitors) and the communication channels.

Market Research

Marketing plan chartMarket research is the process undertaken to find out if people want what you're offering and ideas for development. In reality, this should be the other way around in that you've developed something that satisfies customer needs, but most people don't start this way.

Other uses for research includes finding out if there's enough demand to generate the profits you need from your business. Some companies publish market research online so have a search on Google to see if you can find up to date research this way. You should, of course, carry out your own primary research by asking your potential customers directly what their thoughts are.

Marketing Plan Structure

Most marketing plans are in fact business plans! The structure is almost identical and has the following sections:

  • Executive Summary
  • External Analysis (leading to opportunities and threats)
  • Internal Analysis (leading to strengths and weaknesses)
  • SWOT Analysis (from the above internal and external analysis)
  • Overall Marketing Objectives
  • Tactical Plans
  • Financial Analysis

Here is each section of the above marketing plan template in more detail.

Executive Summary

As the name suggests, the Executive Summary is a concise 2-page introduction highlighting the key factors from the rest of the plan. The majority of your audience may only read this section, so make sure it stands out and gets your message across. This section should also carry a short mission statement commenting on the project as a whole.

External Analysis

You need to understand the state of the market your plan targets. Is it improving or declining? What strategies do your competitors undertake? Within this section should be detailed analysis of the pricing structure for competing products or services to yours.

Internal Analysis

There are reasons why customers buy from you, and you should carefully describe these motives in this section of your plan.

SWOT analysis

The SWOT analysis matrix covers strengths and weakness from your internal analysis and opportunities and threat highlighted from your external analysis of your market and competitor insights. You're in direct control of the internal analysis because it's all happening within your organisation.

Almost all external factors are beyond your control, but you can influence these areas by your marketing and investment tactics. In general, a simple two by two matrix is sufficient to develop and your tactical plans will cover how you intend to:

  • Capitalise on your strengths
  • Overcome any weaknesses (if required)
  • Invest in market opportunities
  • Mitigate any threats

Overall Marketing Objectives

Now you've analysed the market environment and your company's strengths and weaknesses; you can now map the objectives of your strategies. Each objective should clearly state who's responsible, the allocated budget, and a timeline for completion.

Tactical Plans

Once you've finalised your objectives, you'll need to list the tactics to achieve your goals. These should be detailed that's shows how to attain each objective outlined previously. You'll probably list three or four tactics for each individual objective.

Financial Analysis

Every action you take has some form of financial impact to your plan. List all costs associated with carrying out actions, together with the income generated from the plan. You should list the resulting profit or loss obtained from the project as one of the critical success factors.

Putting Your Marketing Plan Into Action

Once developed, you'll likely need approval from your management board. You should, therefore, prepare some form of presentation to accompany your document that explains more about each section. You can then add your presentation as an addendum to the completed report.

As internal and external forces change over time, be prepared to modify all parts of your plan for any impacts these may have. You may need to change your assumptions or financial statements for the changing environment around you.

When the project completes, you may decide to develop a post-project report. A summary of your successes and anything new you and your team have learned from the exercise could assist your colleagues with future projects.