HOW TO DEVELOP A MARKETING PLAN (1)
For any company, an effective marketing strategy begins with a marketing plan. The marketing plan for an entrepreneurial company is a living guide on how the company plans to build customer relationships over its life in order to fulfil the mission statement in the business plan. It details the strategies and tactics that will create awareness on the part of the customer and build a loyal customer base. Marketing plans are written at many points in the life of a business. The original business plan will contain a marketing plan for introducing the company and its products and services and/or to grow the business, perhaps in a new direction.
A few important steps are taken before the actual writing of the marketing plan ensure that the plan is on target and is one the company can live with for a long time. Living with a plan for a long time may sound inconsistent with the entrepreneur’s need to remain flexible and adapt to the change in the market place, but one of the biggest problems with most marketing plans is that they are not followed long enough to achieve the desired results.
Typically, the business owner does not see immediate results from the marketing effort and decides it must not be working – so he or she changes it and starts all the cycle again. Changing the plan on impulse is the wrong thing to do. It takes time to make customers aware of the product or service. It takes time for a particular marketing strategy to take hold and build confidence in the customer. For example, from the first time a customer sees and ad to the point at which the customer actually buys the product, weeks or even months may pass.
In fact, on average, the customer will see an ad 15 or 20 times before actually purchasing the product. Therefore, just like a good stock market investor, the entrepreneur must think of the marketing plan as an investment in the future of the business and must remember that any investment takes time to mature. Reaping the benefits of a well-structured marketing plan requires persistence and unwavering dedication until the plan has an opportunity to perform.
A company’s mission and core values will set the tone for the marketing plan. Several steps should be taken prior to writing a marketing plan. First, the approach to the market, or the bridge between strategy and execution, must be defined. The approach to the market includes such things as the message, differentiation tactics, channel strategies, and performance goals. Choosing the wrong approach can result in not understanding the benefits being provided. Choosing the same approach for all customers will mean that not everyone will be satisfied.
Next, the entrepreneur should make a list of all marketing options. To begin to understand which marketing options should be considered, it is important to talk to other business owners, customers, and suppliers and to read books and articles on marketing strategies for entrepreneurs. This process will generate a list of possibilities to consider, which may range from sponsoring a business conference to advertising in a national trade publication.
Determining which strategies are the most effective, or even feasible, can be left for later. Also, the entrepreneur must think like a customer and imagine the business from the customer’s point of view. What would entice a customer to enter that store, buy that product, or avail himself or herself of that service? The entrepreneur should study the competition and take a look at competing businesses to determine what makes them successful. What marketing strategies do competitors seem to employ, and are they effective? What improvements could be made on what competitors are doing?
Finally, the entrepreneur must analyze the marketing options and rank them by first eliminating those that either doesn’t meet the needs of the target market or simply are not feasible at the time (usually for budgetary reasons). A ranking of the first top ten choices should suffice. Once all these tasks have been completed, its time to write the marketing plan.