The Key Ingredients of a Marketing Plan (part 3)
A marketing plan is a valuable business tool that evaluates the market potential for your brands, which often guide the marketing strategies. Based on the breadth of the scope, the process involved can prove complicated and expensive for companies. Whether simple or complex, it takes a significant amount of time to develop a comprehensive document that guides the business in both short and medium term undertakings. While some are short to the point, others exceed hundreds of pages often costing thousands of dollars to create. The sad part is that some end up in the company shelves and rarely see the light of the day.
If well researched and analyzed, simple yet compact plans give the best outcomes. However, they ought to maintain the fluid properties, if they are to move with the market trends, failure to which it leaves the business off the mark. While it could be a solid document meant to guide your actions in the next year, you should allow some level of flexibility to redirect the plan based on the real impact on the ground. A great plan that fails to see action is worth less than a mediocre marketing plan in action. You can see the effects on the business it attracts, implementation rate and the decisions that come.
A look at the different guides shows the different perception around the subject matter. A vast majority falls towards the corporate audience, often in languages that the average person cannot understand. Nonetheless, the terms hold no weight when it comes to the execution process. Regardless of the structure, the document needs to be simple and straightforward to enhance easy adoption at all levels of the business. The primary purpose is to provide a clear direction for your marketing endeavors for the near future, as well as an incisive view of the company for the public. A successful marketing plan results from carefully combined elements, which include:
In a bid to get things done within your timelines, you are likely to jump into the plan without making fundamental considerations. When it happens, you risk missing vital aspects that could eat away your progress, and hence the business. A long yet detailed excursion requires critical information that might not be readily available when you need it, hence the need to get all the documents. It helps to put a few things to prevent possible interruption to the writing process. Among the tools required before commencement, include:
- Current financial reports, detailed sales reports showing the volume of products and regions, for a few years of your operation. It can range from 3-5 years unless you have not been in business for such long.
- A detailed product catalog and the present sales targets
- The organizational structure highlighting the key staffs
- The current market conditions based on your knowledge of competition, available distribution channels, relevant demographic data, market trends and the kinds of customers you target.
- A list of the staffs’ suggestions, experiences, and crucial aspects that they feel requires urgent attention. However, this does not call for you to take all the opinions but rather representative information that gives the feel of the Salesforce.
The state of the market
A great marketing plan is not in itself enough to grant you success in the highly competitive markets. In fact, it does not qualify the description if it fails to take in vital aspects of the market, which gives you the direction required to meet your targets. Markets are likely to vary by the industry and target audience, which calls for the designers to comprehend the complex aspects if they are to serve the client’s needs. The market situation requires a detailed analysis of the current dynamics in line with the scope of your enterprise. It should present different scenarios upon which you can base your actions. It is no place for guesswork, as it covers:
- Your product lines
- The size of your markets in value and volume
- The firm’s distribution channels and penetration level
- Geographical coverage and limits
- You target customers about the number, income levels, and other demographics
- Historical performance rates and the main factors affecting your presence
- The type of competition versus your competitive advantage
In your first encounter, you will be surprised to know that a vast part of the managements has all the information required to kick off the process. It is just a matter of recording in an organized manner to give an order of priority. Pulling the information in one place gives a rare chance to influence ideas and back the marketing effort.
Evaluate each of the products against similar names in the competitors to find out how well they rank, and perhaps devise ways to position the brand ahead. You could be thrilled to discover market opportunities that remain unexploited. As if not enough, the best thinkers of your team are likely to give better ideas on the current situation, which provides a perfect arena to try different approaches for comparison.
Threats and opportunities
A business plan provides a trip plan, while the vision gives the direction of the enterprise. The strategy is the lane you pick to use while the market is the landscape that determines your success. Before jumping into the industry, you need the right data and information, which is neither too little nor too much to guide your choices. Regardless of your data collection format, you need to synthesize the information into the opportunities and threats facing the venture. The analysis forms the basis for future strategic business planning hence need to show the good and bad possibilities of the market situation in the following aspects:
- The trends that might go against your business approach
- Presence of portentous competitive trends
- How best your products are likely to perform if the situation remains
- The things that could work for your brands
- Competitive trends supporting your marketing approach
- Market demographics for and against you, which you can exploit or avoid
SWOT analysis is not based on the general market perception, but rather quantitative and qualitative analysis that gives credible trends of the current market. It starts with data collection, which might be from primary or secondary sources. You might not have the luxury to go through the primary sources if the secondary sources provide credible reference points. Often local publications provide overview issues on business projections, inflation rates, and policies that could influence the industry. You may contact the local business reporters, state business departments and trade associations.
Some of the threats identified might lean towards the technological advancements such as the need to upgrade computer software. The updates are likely to cost your business a fortune forcing you to work on existing systems, which may eat on your competitive advantage. Some of the clients might be dealing with solid economic states in the short term, straining the capacity to drive sales. The competition might hire your best talent leaving you in a state of worry about possible solicitation on your client base. Also, urban development towards some areas is likely to strip you off your main selling points.
On the other hand, opportunities could come in the form of your client’s expansion efforts that trigger more demand for your products, or the state laws that make it easy or hard for small businesses to handle some transactions. Demographic changes are likely to drive up the demand when the purchasing power of the target groups rises. How best the plan exploits the opportunities depends on how they spell out the client satisfaction roadmap.
In simpler terms, marketing objectives create a vivid picture of what you need out of the setup, in the years to come. Each needs to give an explicit narrative of what you need to achieve along with a given course. They need to communicate in simple yet concise terms with numbers giving something verifiable during the implementation phase. Just saying your need much of something is not enough to know whether the enterprise is on the the right direction, in accordance with the plan.
When you are not sure of the size of the industry, you can use the dollar value figures available in most business reports. The accounting department is best suited to measure progress against the annual targets, which signals the need to change or hold on to the firm.
On the first instance, most people find it hard to set quantifiable goals. It starts with analyzing the past performance, the growth pattern, new product trends and the size of the market. Your growth rate in the last few years ought to give reasonable projection that assumes primary influencers remain constant. Start with modest goals until you gain a smooth ground where you can make big goals. It helps to make low yet reasonable goals that keep your team focused on what is possible.
In most instances, business executives fail to factor possible changes that may halt their marketing objectives. In a real world, growth is gradual hence the need to shift from the current hype of the highest possible profits within the shortest time possible. Limit the number of goals every year to promote thorough implementation, which forms the foundation of your company. Setting too many objectives is a perfect recipe for frustrations when you fail to achieve a few, which creates a backlog into the coming years. You would rather work on a few worthy targets that drain yourself in many enthusiastic objectives.
With clear objectives, you need to come down from your imagination and give the roadmap you will use to achieve the goals. While the trends show considerable progress in profits and market share, you have to roll the sleeves to get the desired level. Marketing objectives need to have several goals with tactics required to beat the bet. The implementation phase brings the people aspect, as the plan depends on the team on the ground.