The marketing plan can be a stand-alone document or the section of a business plan that identifies the organization’s marketing strategy and tactics and presents a comprehensive statement of how it will secure and retain its customers. The plan will include a clear discussion of the product or service, price, promotion, and channels of distribution for the company, and a detailed description of the competition and target market. The marketing plan clarifies how you will sell your products or services and where you fit into the competitive landscape. The primary roles of the marketing plan include:
- Demonstrating to potential investors that your company can grow and offer returns,
- Identifying the most beneficial target markets for the organization,
- Evaluating the competitive and industry environments,
- Illustrating the pricing strategy, and
- Detailing the promotional plan and budget.
Either a stand-alone marketing plan or one incorporated into a business plan will include the same market-analysis information. The stand-alone plan should also include a situation analysis; financial projections and information; an implementation time line or outline; and methods for evaluating success and assuring it, as well as any supplemental supporting materials. As with business plans as a whole, marketing plans should be organic documents that are reviewed and revised on a regular basis to keep them timely and useful.
The analysis of the market is the heart of the marketing plan. This brings together the various strategic and tactical components of the marketing efforts into a single comprehensive section. It is essential that the template for the sales plan include the five Ps of marketing. The product, price, promotion, place, and philanthropy are detailed here. Wrapped around the core marketing strategy and selling plan are the descriptions of the overall market and the specific target market for the company, the marketing goals and objectives, and any future and contingency plans. Future plans could include a discussion of planned research and development as well as any growth designs, whether through product line expansion, additional channels of distribution, or other means. Contingency plans show how your organization will react to moves by your competitors or other changes in the marketplace. They will diagram strategies and options you will use to address these changes and demonstrate your understanding of the need to be prepared for change in a competitive landscape.
Let’s say you want to launch a new software program. You have researched the consumer environment, pinpointed your market segment, and determined your marketing mix. You are now ready to implement a marketing plan that will get your vision out there. There is one more question: Can you afford to carry out your plan?
Marketing is part of your business’s fixed costs. Marketing should not be budgeted as a percentage of sales but rather as money that is needed to drive sales. As you remember, fixed costs are those that do not vary with sales; they include utilities, salaries, advertising, insurance, interest, rent, and depreciation. There are also variable costs, such as commissions, that fluctuate with sales. For information on marketing your business to survive, though, it must be able to cover its fixed costs. Most fixed costs, such as rent, insurance, and utilities, are hard to cut back if your sales are slow.