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Marketing plans

Show the direction your business should take

A good marketing plan will outline the emerging trends and developments within the market in which your business operates. It will help to identify what your business hopes to achieve in the future, set targets, and perhaps most importantly, state how your business will achieve these goals.

Is it worth having a marketing plan?

The marketing plan can be written and used at various stages in the development of the business. It should be an integral part of the business's start up information. However, it may also be developed (or additional plans may be written) to promote new products or target customer groups.

Writing down a detailed plan may seem a difficult and possibly unnecessary task, but by clarifying your aims and ideas, your business will be steered in the desired direction. As well as this, a marketing plan can reveal some of the potential dangers ahead and ensure that you are prepared to deal with both the threats and opportunities that arise. By carefully examining aspects of your product, your customers and your sales strategy, you will formulate a clearer understanding of what it is you are trying to achieve. Once the plan has been drawn up it is important to remember that it is there to be used. However, do not stick to it too rigidly; it is a flexible instrument that should be updated as the need arises. Aim to maintain a balance between keeping the original objectives in mind and adapting the plan to changes in circumstances.

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What should be in it?

There is a range of ways to present a marketing plan. Enlist the help of your business adviser or marketing consultant. There are also some software packages available that can help you with your plan. The framework will be up to you, but the following layout may be useful to begin with:

  • Scope or executive summary - summarise where your business is now and where it aims to go with the marketing plan.
  • Objectives - realistic objectives should show what the plan is intended to achieve in terms of turnover and profit.
  • Market review - these are the key facts and assumptions on which the plan is based. Make sure the plan and reality are consistent. What sort of environment are you working in? Who are your competitors? Segment the market - who are you targeting with this plan?
  • Marketing objectives - these need to be clear and quantified, based on current and established trends as well as an analysis of what you plan for business development and how you can improve the current position.
  • Marketing strategy - how you are going to achieve your objectives; for example, through improving your product, increasing promotion or a new pricing strategy. This should be clear and realistic, reflecting the practical implications behind your marketing objectives.
  • Marketing budget - state the resources that you will delegate to marketing activity, detailing areas of major cost.
  • Marketing action plan - what is the action plan for each strategy? For example, the selection of media for your promotional campaign, delegation of resources for product development and market research. By setting yourself clear objectives and activities, results can be monitored more easily.

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Hints and tips

  • Keep your plan simple and straightforward.
  • A few key points are more useful than a complex strategy that may not come to fruition. It also helps if the message for your customers is clear and simple.
  • Training in marketing skills will be useful. Courses often use case studies that give you practise in devising a marketing plan.
  • Don't neglect the plan once it has been written - make use of it.

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