Review the Contents of a Good Marketing Plan - dummies

Review the Contents of a Good Marketing Plan

By Alexander Hiam

Before you can write a successful marketing plan for your business, you need to know the ins and outs of what a marketing plan includes. Marketing plans vary significantly in format and outline, but all of them have sections about the following:

  • Your current position: This is in terms of your product, customers, competition, and broader trends in your market.

  • What results you got in the previous period (if you’re an established business, that is): You need to look at sales, market share, and possibly also profits, customer satisfaction, web visibility, or other measures of customer attitude and perception.

    You may also want to include measures of customer retention, size and frequency of purchase, or other indicators of customer behavior, because they’re often helpful in thinking about where to focus your marketing efforts in the future. Your plan should also itemize the key attributes that customers desire and how your benefits match up with those attributes.

  • Lessons learned: A postmortem on the previous period helps identify any mistakes to avoid, insights to take advantage of, or major changes that may present threats or opportunities. Also include lessons learned from competitors or even dissimilar businesses that have had good (or bad) luck with marketing initiatives you may want to try.

  • Your strategy: This is the big focus of your plan and the way you’ll grow your revenues and profits. Keep the strategy statement to a few sentences so that everyone who reads it gets it at once and can remember what the strategy is. Think like a sports coach or field commander: “Where is the opportunity to win, and what resources should we swing into the gap to gain ground?”

  • The details of your program: You want to cover all your company’s specific activities in this section. Group them by area or type, with explanations of how these activities fit the company’s strategy and reflect the current situation.

  • The numbers: These definitely include sales projections and costs but may also include market share projections, sales to your biggest customers or distributors, costs and returns from any special offers you plan to use, sales projections and commissions by territory, and any other details that help you quantify your specific marketing opportunities and activities.

  • Your experimentation plans: If you have a new business or product, or if you’re experimenting with a new or risky marketing activity, set up a plan (or pilot) for how to test the waters on a small scale first. You need to determine what positive results you want to see before committing to a higher level. After all, wisdom is knowing what you don’t know — and planning how to figure it out.

Be careful! You mustn’t think of your plan as written in stone. In fact, your plan is just a starting point. As you implement it throughout the coming year, you’ll discover that some things work out the way you planned, and others don’t.

Good marketers revisit their plans and adjust them as they go. The idea is to use a plan to help you be an intelligent, flexible marketer, not a stubborn one who refuses to learn from experience.