Creating a Marketing Plan That Will Give You the Competitive Advantage You Are Looking For

Are you a small business owner wondering how to get ahead of the competition and increase sales? Generally, the one goes with the other, unless you are one of the few who are lucky enough to have more business than you can handle. And if you’re in that situation, you should probably think about expanding! Either way, your business can benefit from a solid marketing plan. If you need to grow by attracting more customers, or improve your margins by lowering costs, putting some thought into how you market your business is the first place to start, especially if you think you will need to seek additional funding to move your business to the next level.

A marketing plan is like a business plan for an already existing company, although for new businesses seeking funding, a complete business plan should always be a subset included in the overall business plan. Marketing plans define what your objective for your company is and present the various short and long-term strategies you plan to use to achieve that objective. Marketing is often painfully oversimplified in the minds of people who don’t understand or have experience in it. This is easy to do because certain elements of marketing appear to be quite simple. For example, anyone with a few hundred dollars can pay for a radio or print ad. Relatively few people however can clearly define a measurable result by which they will determine how successful the ad was or define how it will fit into a larger, more comprehensive marketing plan.

The marketing plan begins at the most fundamental level of your business: why you exist. What is your mission, your vision? If your answer is simply “to make money,” you need to put some more thought into it! Marketing plans force you to examine this and many other questions in order to become more competitive. Once you have defined why you’re in business and what customer need you are satisfying, it’s time to evaluate how you’re doing in context of what you need, and in comparison to your competitors.

Forming a strategy in part by comparison to your competitors involves completing a comprehensive market analysis, which includes detailed research and consideration of every individual competitor, with their strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats they provide or pose. Where are they doing better than you and what can you do better than them? Conducting such a detailed analysis will help you uncover your core competency. Or in other words, the thing you can do better than all of your competitors.

If your marketing plan helps you identify this one piece of information, it will be a success. For an investor considering funding an existing business, the magnitude of your core competency and resulting competitive advantage will do more than any other information in your marketing plan to convince them to give you their money. One important factor in further refining your market analysis is evaluating your current market share. How much total demand is there, and how much of that have you captured? How will that demand grow or shrink in the coming months and years?

Marketing Plan: Importance to Small Business Enterprises

Are you planning to open a small business? Are you aware of the significance of marketing plan to your business?

Despite the small size of the company that you intend to establish, you need to formulate your own marketing plan to guide you in your operation and to become competitive. Apart from capital, equipment and manpower, marketing strategy is needed especially if your business is engage in selling products and services. To become successful in your marketing endeavor, you need to have an effective marketing strategy. Remember that large companies devote hours of planning, researching, convening and discussing just to have an effective plan. If these big companies know the importance of these proposals, why not follow their steps and formulate your own marketing strategies. Bear in mind that if you do not have any plans, you are doomed to failure.

What is Marketing Plan?

It is a structured selection of advertising and marketing opportunities built to utilize your small business marketing spending budget to its greatest edge. It includes itemized charges for production and media buys for your chosen advertising venues. Additionally, it includes a work schedules for the launch of promotions, advertisements and in-house logistics needed for the execution, monitoring and follow-up of marketing and advertising campaigns. The most effective plans are those that incorporate breakdown of its target markets, products and services to be promoted.

Reasons why small business enterprises need marketing plans:

  • To maximize your advertising budget

By preparing in advance for the right marketing and advertising opportunities, you can make the most of your budget, no matter how little it is. It helps you satisfy your key services and products with appropriate marketing venues and you can evaluate the return on your investment. Moreover, when you arranged your marketing calendar in advance, you can benefit from discounts and special programs given to repeat advertisers and expanded benefits may not be available to firms that book advertisements at the last minute. Planning ahead enables you build positive interactions with associates of mass media outlets which could mean free marketing opportunities such as article features and preferred placement.

  • To get the benefits of cross-promotional possibilities

When creating your advertising plan, you have the chance to schedule advertising promotions in multiple sites as well as overlap messages to create repeated impressions with consumers. When your plan is set, you not have to wait when advertising representatives might contact you because you have the time to put cross-promotional support paraphernalia like flyers or coupon charge cards. You can also mobilize your employees to take part in marketing and track response.

  • To maintain a consistent message with consumers

By planning in advance, your marketing plan will assist you in tweaking your message for each targeted promotion. Marketing elements like logos, slogans, placing statements and phone calls will remain continual throughout the promotional venues you have chosen. Because you know your own schedules and your specific marketing venues, you have enough time to work with design professionals or the publication art employees to generate consistency in the layout and wording of the advertising or promotional parts. This uniformity will make your ads and marketing materials much more memorable to potential customers and will increase your rate of reaction.

Business Planning Documents – How to Create a Great Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is essential to the overall development of any company. Before beginning, make sure the project is well-researched. It is easy to figure out how to put together a business plan or a sales plan simply from a basic Google search, but a marketing plan requires a little more investigation. A trip to the local book store or even a near by university research library can be very advantageous in this task. Take care to ensure you understand the components of how each section is put together and get a full understanding of terms and where to find supporting data. The plan will rest on how realistic the data is inside of it and the content that is presented.

The basic components of a marketing plan are as follows:

Contents
Having a simple table of contents will be beneficial to both the composer of the document as well as the audience. It serves as a basic guide for how detailed the contents of the document are and where to quickly find desired information.

Lists of Tables
While it is not mandatory, providing a list of tables to supplement the table of contents adds to the the credibility of the author as well as the professional presenting the plan. It is also a great way to quickly guide readers to the plan’s empirical data.

Executive Summary
This section should be written last. It is best put in place when all of the research and planning is complete to provide insight on what is housed in the plan. Although it may be tempting to complete this section before the others, keep in mind that any research and planning may lead to conclusions not originally considered or expected. Also, this section improves on communication levels and encourages involvement from staff members by crystallizing the key goals and plan details for the team to understand what role marketing plays in the company as a whole.

Company Strategy
Providing a link to overall strategy and illustrating marketing’s contribution to achieving the company’s goals is what this segment of planning allows for. It is a substantial section that looks at the overall company mission.

External & Internal Analysis
This section of the plan allows for an unbiased evaluation of the company’s competitive standing. Looking to factors both inside the company walls as well as factors that come from the outside world, this section assists the writer in understanding how realistic the plan is overall.

Marketing Objectives
In addition to outlining the goal that is trying to be accomplished, this portion of the marketing plan assists in defining financial targets and translating those into specific measurable marketing objectives such as, but not limited to market share, sales volume and customer retention. Such items can easily be translated into a CRM package if the plan is feasible.

Marketing Strategy
The actual marketing campaigns and programs are discussed in this section by way of the promotional mix: what will be sold, where it will be sold, what makes it a great item to sell and at what price it will be sold. While this task may seem like the most simple of the entire plan, it truly is the most difficult and requires the most research. In order to develop an effective strategy, the marketer must be fully aware of what competitor’s marketing strategies are as well as the marketing trends for the specific industry; address those two items and still somehow find a way to differentiate the company’s product. Be certain to give this section of the plan adequate time, thought, investigation and discussion.

Implementation
Break the specific programs down into lists of activities with time scales and assign responsibility to each task. A contingency (e.g. funds or time) may be set to cover any unforeseen problems. The best way to do this will be through a project management system or by requesting the support of a Project Manager.

Control & Forecasting
In this section, discuss how the system will work and how success of the marketing plan will be tracked. Also, based on the research that has been previously collected, make educated assumptions regarding how much the program will cost and how much revenue it will generate.

Appendix
Use this section to place any charts, tables, graphs and the like that may distract the reader from the content of the plan, but still supports the overall thesis of the work.

Here is a sample of how the table contents should turn out:

I. Content

II. List of Tables

III. Executive Summary

IV. Company Strategy
Goals & Objectives
Summary Overall Position & Company Strategy

V. External & Internal Analysis
Internal
SWOT Analysis
External
Market Overview
Competitor Analysis
Future Trends

VI. Marketing Objectives
Financial Objectives
Marketing Objectives

VII. Marketing Strategy
Market Segmentation
Competitive Advantage
Segmentation Strategy
Promotional Mix
Product
Price
Place
Promotion

VIII. Implementation
Schedule of Key Tasks
Resource Allocation
Budgets
Contingency

IX. Control & Forecasting
Key Assumptions
Critical Success Factors
Established Benchmarks
Measurement Tools
Financial Forecasts
Costs
Revenue

X. Appendix

Booklet A: Sales Plan

Once the writing is complete, it is important to ensure that the marketing plan is in a presentable format. Consulting a Technical Writer or Graphic Designer to assist you in putting the document in a well-presented template will add to the credibility of the work as well as the audience’s receptiveness. Take the time to select a delivery method that not only looks great but suits the audience as well. Some options to choose from are: bound manual, web page, PDF or a flash presentation on a CD.

Once the content is complete and the company has selected how the material will be presented, set it aside for a few days or even weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes to check for grammatical or formatting errors. When it is done to full satisfaction, it is then time to distribute the marketing plan as desired and rest assured that the comprehensive marketing plan that will support the company endeavor!