Marketing Plan Overview
The marketing plan outline is crucial to your marketing plan.
The marketing plan is an integral part of your business plan. The marketing plan is the blueprint for creating revenues and also the source of the expenses incurred in creating the revenues. It is the operational instructions for your company. The success of a business often hinges on the quality of the marketing plan, and the success of a marketing plan often hinges on the quality of the marketing plan outline.
The marketing plan outline is dealt with here on a separate page from the business plan because, whereas the business plan may or may not be updated on a regular or irregular basis, the marketing plan should be updated regularly.
If you are just starting a business you should write a marketing plan that covers one full year. That will make it consistent with the other parts of your business plan such as the cash flow statement. A time horizon greater than one year is also too long when specifying a marketing plan. There are too many changes for a startup business in a year to be able to forecast further than that. On the other hand, a more mature business should have marketing plans that have elements projecting between three to five years in the future.
The marketing plan always starts with a marketing plan outline.
Before you write your marketing plan or even your marketing plan outline you should do market research. Market research will be done in the same two ways a student writes a term paper:
- Primary research consists of using your own resources to actually do your own research. This research can be done in many ways. Among them are:
- Personal interviews, whether individually or in a group discussion
- Direct mail questionnaires
- Phone surveys
- Secondary research consists of gathering relevant data compiled by others such as industry organizations, trade unions, media sources such as magazines and newspapers, governmental agencies, quasi-governmental agencies, chambers of commerce, and so on. Secondary research can be divided into three categories:
- Public sources—these can be found on the internet or at public libraries. They are usually free but aren’t necessarily targeted exactly to your needs. Government statistics are among the most plentiful. The census bureau has a very large database of information.
- Commercial sources—there are companies that do research and sell it to interested parties.
- Educational sources—one mission of colleges and universities is to engage in research. Business schools do business research. If your business is of a technical nature, there will likely be college departments doing research within your technical area.
Ideas for marketing plan outlines vary as much as ideas for business plan outlines. What’s important in a marketing plan, however, is that the plan gives a clear direction for the marketing efforts of your business for the first year in the case of a startup business, and for each year thereafter for an ongoing business.
Starting your Marketing Plan Outline: Sections of Your Marketing Plan
The broad outline of what a marketing plan must have will be discussed on this page. The more complex sections have links to greater detail.
Section One: Executive Summary
Although this is the first part of the marketing plan it is typically the final section written. It is a high-level summary of the entire marketing plan for the year. Make this section one page long and include only the key financial numbers. Write in short easy-to-read sentences and bold type for your major points.
Section Two: Products, Goals and Sales Figures
This is a brief description of the products or services to be marketed and your sales and strategic goals. It provides details the executive summary does not.
Section Three: Situation Analysis
How do things stand today before you start your business? What is the niche you plan to fill? How large is the market? What are the market trends? Who are your competitors? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the threats to and the opportunities for your business? All these questions are answered in this section. See the details of your Situation Analysis.
As part of your Situation Analysis do your SWOT analysis of the business environment and your PEST analysis of the general environment which serves as much of the detail of the external factors affecting the business, and is a part of the SWOT analysis.
Section Four: Marketing Strategies
What are your marketing and related financial objectives? What target are you marketing to and how will you position yourself with that target market? Who are your potential collaborators? What are your anticipated distribution channels? How are you going to promote?
This is the section where you indicate what your strategic positioning and marketing strategies are given the situation you have developed in the previous section. This is also the section where you go specifically into your pricing policies, promotion methods, channels of distribution and other specific methods. See the detail of the marketing plan example under “Marketing Strategy” and “Marketing Mix” for more information.
Section Five: Quantifiable Objectives
This is where you define how you will judge your marketing performance for the year. Marketing performance can be quantified in many ways. It is very important to define your objectives and also define a way to quantify those objectives so that you can measure your progress at the end of the year. Examples of quantifiable objectives can be the introduction of new products, new territories to be entered, and sales goals for specific products or services. Your annual goals should be broken into quarterly goals which should be tracked and adjusted each quarter. There are various ways to quantify and measure the results of your marketing campaign.
Final Words about Your Marketing Plan Outline
A good and detailed marketing plan outline is a key for preparing your marketing plan. In turn, the marketing plan is a key to start your new business. However, don’t get buried in the details. In order to see your way through your first year a no-frills approach is the most practical way to make sure your objectives are met. Consider the following hierarchy:
Set goals—a goal is the decision to get something, to do something, to be something. Your goals should be quantified so they can be measured.
Make plans—plans, if completed, should cause you to get your goal.
Decide on projects that must be completed—each plan should have several projects, the sum of which is the entire plan.
Tasks are things you do to complete each project. The sum total of the tasks should complete the project.
Marketing Plans for Specific Industries
Getting ready to create a marketing plan? Finding a sample plan for a similar company can be a great place to start. I found a site with 70+ marketing plan templates for different types of businesses. Create your own marketing plan using a template.
You can also customize your marketing plan using a design template. Designing a marketing plan is easier than ever! These templates incorporate the award-winning Duct Tape Marketing System by John Jantsch to create effective small-business marketing. Identify your ideal customers and create concrete action steps to attract, sell to, and keep them. Choose the level of detail you want, and get step-by-step guidance for each task. Powerful forecasting tools help you project and track your revenue, budgets and milestones for each program. Include your own graphics, automatically develop full-color, 3D charts, and create Microsoft Excel-like and compatible financials. Leading experts agree – Marketing Plan Pro is the best software available for writing a marketing plan. Learn more about Marketing Plan Pro.
You Now Know…
The marketing plan outline gives you the structure for your marketing plan which is your blueprint for creating your revenues. You will probably spend a large amount of money on marketing. You now know:
- The importance of creating a marketing plan.
- How to create a marketing plan and what should go into your plan.
- How to create a SWOT Analysis, a PEST Analysis and a Situation Analysis.
- Where you can find marketing plan templates to help you create your marketing plan.