How to structure a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is a document that lays down the structure and helps
develop the format of your marketing strategy for the forthcoming year.
It can be as long or as short as you would like, as simple or as in-depth as
is required, but the key elements or the structure of the plan should all
be laid out clearly and concisely.
If you do not have the data or knowledge in a particular area of the
business, research it. Alternatively, bring in the help and resources that
you need to achieve that. Write a marketing plan to succeed but that is
also achievable. Be honest with yourself, your team, or your boss. Make it
accurate, this is the foundation block that will determine your strategy,
getting it right from the very beginning is critical. Make sure that all the
elements and points listed below are included.
There are seven Fundamentals of Writing a Marketing Plan:
- Assess where your business is currently.
- Confirm who your customers are.
- Set marketing goals and targets.
- Decide the budget.
- Analyze your competitors.
- Outline marketing tactics that are available to you.
- Understand how you will track and report success.
Writing and presenting a marketing plan makes you think through the
important steps that develop into an effective marketing strategy. A
marketing plan will also help keep you focused on your business goals
focusing the marketing on how to achieve them.
Research is the key, basing your plans and objectives on fact is a must.
If there are unrealistic expectations in the marketing plan it will make it
unachievable. Plan to make errors, that’s OK, but do your best to
minimize the impact of any errors and leave the space to exploit ant
opportunities. Here’s that again… Research, research, research. Got that?
Let’s move on.
Writing a marketing plan
If this is the first time you have sat down and created a marketing plan,
then it can feel like a huge mountain to climb. You need to understand
how your business works and more importantly what your customers
want. It’s OK though, we have hot you. Below is a six-step guide on how
to present a marketing plan.
Step 1: Honestly assess where your business is now.
This first section defines your company and its products or services then
shows how the benefits you provide set you apart from your
competition. It’s called ‘SWOT’ analysis’ or an assessment of your
business; Strengths, Weaknesses. Opportunities and Threats.
In some ways, target audiences have become more fragmented but given
the right medium or channel, they can now be easier and more cost-efficient to target. No matter your sector, from holiday businesses to
plumbers, training providers to financial services you need to position
your offerings successfully, and this requires an in-depth knowledge of
your market. You have to be able to describe what you are offering: you
must also have an understanding of your competitor’s positioning in order
to better position your own products or services too.
As always, make your SWOT analysis accurate and true. The ‘S’ and ‘W’
refers to the ‘Strengths’ and ‘Weakness’ of your own business, while the
‘O’ or opportunity and ‘T’ for threats refers to your marketplace and or
So how do you assess your companies’ strengths? Look for how your
products or services are better than your competitors. What’s your
advantage? How are you leaner than other businesses, what additional
value do you or can you offer? Better quality, lower price, faster delivery,
location, better customer service and more can all be considered
strengths. Identify your strengths and tune your marketing to them, if
you have no obvious strengths, create one. Make it real and focus on it as
Step 2: Who is your target audience?
You will be surprised how many businesses are not aware of exactly who
their target audience is. The amount of times that we have heard, well
it’s everyone really would shock you. Having clarity on exactly who your
customers are is a critical process in creating and writing an effective
You can start by simply sketching out who your customers are. Who is the
the most likely person that is going to buy from you? It could be that you
have multiple target markets so write down all the potential target
groups and rank them in terms of most likely to buy, how much they buy
and how often.
It is important that you prepare specific personas for all of your target
markets, but there is a limit. You may need to go back through your work
and priorities the most likely to buy or the most profitable groups. A
persona is a definition or a stereotype of each of your target audiences. If
they were an individual, what would they look like? Who are they?
For each of these personas, you need to understand their demographics.
The demographic analysis allows us to further refine our personas or target
groups. Data that will later help you to decide on marketing tactics that
will most efficiently target them. Make sure that you include the
following information about each of your target personas.
● Age: Categorise them in terms of age ranges, such as 25-44 year
olds, 16-34’s, over 55’s, etc.
● Gender: A more obvious means to target but writing down Male or
Female really helps you to build that picture. Bear in mind that
sometimes products or services aren’t always gender-specific but it
maybe the ‘main shopper’ or the individual in a household that
actually does the purchasing.
● Affluence: Are your customers upmarket (A, B’s) are they mid-market
(A, B, C1’S) or downmarket (C2, D, E’S).
Step 3: Analyse the Competition
Whatever market you enter, there will always be competition. Even if you
are a market leader, you will still hungry for companies eroding your margins
or stealing shares somewhere. Chances are though, you are probably
selling something that is similar or broadly related to another business’
product. You will have to be better than they are in some form or
another and use this as leverage in your marketing.
How to analyze the competition:
When assessing how you stand up to your competition you need to
outline everything that they are doing. Perform a SWOT analysis on them,
look for their strengths and weaknesses, and there you will find your
opportunity and how you can take share from them. No business is
perfect, nor can it take every corner of the market. They cannot be cost-effective and premium or be fast and have attention to detail.
Step 4: Set marketing goals and targets.
What does your marketing plan need to achieve? How does it fit with
your business plan? Are you aiming to sell greater volume or higher-priced or better margin items? Is your objective to generate more phone
calls, if so, how many and when? What’s your growth target?
A marketing plan needs to have goals and targets. These goals and
targets will allow you to monitor the ongoing performance of your
marketing efforts and help your business to stay on track for growth.
Many businesses that I have worked in assign their marketing budget by
linking to their forecast revenues e.g. If your target was 1miilion
turnover, the budget assigned to achieve that could be 5% or 10% of
Step 5: The marketing budget plan.
So, how should you budget for marketing? You have probably already
allocated funds to marketing. What was your ROI? How much does it cost
you to generate a lead or sale? If you know this information, then
calculating a marketing budget becomes much simpler. To plan your
marketing budget is to know what it costs you to obtain a customer
already. This is particularly relevant in lead generation strategies.
For example; your objective is to grow your business from 100 customers
to 125, so a 25% increase in customer numbers. You know that on
average a customer costs you 1000 to convert. So a budget of 25k would
Step 6: Results, Tracking, and Analysis.
All marketers like to track and understand how impactful they are being,
how and where to improve, to understand where the opportunity is.
CEO’s and FD’s will expect to know what the return on their marketing
investment is when you are writing a marketing plan you need to know
your goals and how you are going to track them.
If you have an annual forecast set out of the year ahead then your
reporting needs to reflect these targets and demonstrate how effective it
was at achieving them. Monthly, quarterly, whatever best suits your