Write It Down!  Preparing An Effective Marketing Plan


Do you know exactly what the total market for your product or service is? Can you describe precisely how your product or service benefits your customers? And do you know without a doubt which features of your product or service will appeal to different groups of customers?

If you can’t answer these questions there is a good chance that you are relying mainly on your intuition when it comes to marketing your product. Of course, intuition has its place in the decision making process, but it won’t provide you with all the facts you need to achieve real marketing results, or the currency you need to improve your bottom line. It’s time to draw up a marketing plan and turn hunches into hard facts.

A marketing plan will help you define your business goals and develop activities to achieve them. It allows you to plan ahead and consider all the factors which may contribute to or hinder the success of your marketing activities.

Writing an effective marketing plan doesn't have to be a headache. Here are some tips on what you should include in your plan. 

What’s happening in the market?

Begin by writing up an overview of the market which answers the following questions:

      -   What is the size of your potential market in terms of sales? 
      -   Is the market growing or declining? How has it changed over the past 12 months? 
      -   How do you segment the market, i.e., by pricing, quality, demographics?
      -   Who will you sell to, i.e., what is your target market? 
      -   Are there any competitors? If yes, who are they?

What are the competitors up to?

Here you describe both the companies and the different products you may be competing with. For instance, if you're selling fresh soup, are you also competing with instant soup or canned soup?

The more information you have on your competitors, the better. If you find it difficult to find this sort of information, ask your suppliers or visit your competitors' websites and exhibit booths at trade shows for example.

Why people should want to buy my product

Describe your product and its purpose, including its features, benefits, pricing, distribution channels, market positioning, promotions and advertising, and packaging.

Make sure the information is specific and accurate and that you make a clear distinction between your product’s features and benefits. A feature describes an aspect of your product, while a benefit describes the reason why someone should purchase your product. For example, if you sell food processors, a feature of the product may be an additional piece that allows people to make fresh juice. A benefit of the product would thus be that it provides the customer with two products for the price of one - a food processor AND a juicer.


Here you write up all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that you can come up with and categorise them in order of importance. The strengths and weaknesses relate to your business and its operations, while the opportunities and threats take into consideration your competitors, the market and the economy.

Sales goals and marketing objectives

Put down the hard facts that describe where you want to be a year, two years or five years from now - whatever your time frame may be. Start with your sales goals, which you can set by using your current market data and your opportunities and threats data. You can estimate if your potential sales will be higher or lower than your current sales, and work from there to set your final sales goals.

Your marketing objectives help you achieve your sales objectives. You should have a marketing objective that addresses each group in your target market. For example, your marketing objective for existing customers could be to increase their buying rate by 20 percent, while your marketing objective for new customers could be to sell your product to 50 percent of the new market and get them to buy again from you at least twice per year.

Develop a 4Ps strategy

Now that you have a clear idea where you want to go, you have to determine how you are going to get there. These are the strategies you'll use in your marketing mix. Your marketing mix is the combination of elements that make up the entire marketing process. Traditionally, the marketing mix refers to the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion. By developing a specific strategy for each P you create a clear marketing map for your business and make it easier for yourself to stay on track.

Until next week,
Mike Reddy