Whether your product or service is something that you create or something that you’re selling that another entity creates, starting a company means you believe what you’re doing can earn revenue. Taking an existing business to the next level of growth or starting a new company from the ground up to generate a lot of pressure on you to make the best use of your limited budget and resources. You need to market your business. To ensure you’re doing it right, you need a plan to guide your efforts and help you evaluate whether what you’re doing is working.

Take the time to plan

Take the time to plan

In the case of new and smaller businesses, owners often find themselves too wrapped up in the day-to-day operations of their companies to create any type of plan. This puts a lot of new and small businesses in a perpetual stage of reacting – feeling like they’re always a step behind. Planning takes effort and can be intimidating if you’ve never done it but the process is worthy of your time and resources. There’s no one size fits all so it is important to create a plan that works for your unique situation. A specific blueprint of how to run your unique business will help you keep up with the speed of your business growth.

Why make a strategic marketing plan?

We often hear justifications for NOT creating a strategic marketing plan.

  • “My company is too small and we don’t need marketing.”
  • “I already know my customers.”
  • “I’ve created a marketing plan before and I didn’t use it.”

The best response to these justifications for not creating a formal plan is that how do you know where you’re going without a map? Every company needs a plan to ensure valuable marketing resources hit the mark and every company needs to measure the effectiveness of their plan. Writing down goals, creating action steps, and evaluating your progress can increase your chances of success up to 33% as you can read HERE . While most companies have a basic idea, they often do not have a comprehensive view of who their competitors are and what is happening in the marketplace. Most importantly, they do not have a method of evaluating the effectiveness of their current actions. A marketing plan allows you to investigate, plan, track, and evaluate the marketing tactics of your business to ensure your marketing is successful.

How to create a strategic marketing plan

While it may seem intimidating to create a strategic marketing plan, keeping your plan straight forward and simple, to match the speed and size of your business, will make it easier to follow. A marketing plan that is too complicated might be difficult for your business to implement. To get started, start by answering the following questions.

  • What is my organization’s mission? Who am I selling to? What am I selling? What is my unique selling proposition?
  • What is my product or service? How does it meet the need of the market?
  • Who am I competing against in the marketplace? How are they alike and how are they different? What makes you stand apart from each competitor?
  • What are the target markets for my product or service?
  • What are my market dynamics including seasonality, demographics, needs, current industry sales, and benchmarks, strengths and weaknesses?
  • How will consumers buy my product? How will I make them aware that my product exists?
  • What are my financial goals and objectives?
  • How much money to I have to spend on marketing?
  • How will I best evaluate the performance of my marketing efforts?


Structure of the strategic marketing plan

structure of the strategic marketing plan

There are a variety of established structures for strategic marketing plans and you can make your plan as detailed or as simple as you want. For enterprise-level companies, different product lines and target markets often necessitate a complicated, highly detailed plan. Startups and small businesses often implement a more simplified plan. The structure of most strategic marketing plans has the following basic components.

  • Executive Summary
  • Situational Analysis
  • SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)
  • Marketing Goals and Objectives
  • Marketing Strategy
  • Marketing Implementation
  • Evaluation and Control


Now let’s dig in and elaborate on each piece of the marketing plan.

Executive Summary (Structure of a Marketing Plan)

An executive summary is exactly what it says, a summary of your marketing plan. If you already have an executive summary you’re using in your business plan, it will be of great use as the basis for creating the executive summary of your marketing plan. If you don’t have a business plan, you’ll have to create your marketing plan’s executive summary from scratch. Even though it is always the first component in your plan, it is often created last as a consolidation of the overall marketing strategy and how it will be carried out. This overview serves as a way for the reader to find the important highlights of the plan quickly before they read further details. The executive summary should have the scope of your objectives as well as the time frame in which they should be accomplished. Refer to the previous questions that you answered for a strategic marketing plan if you have difficulty finding the highlights for the executive summary.

Situational Analysis (Structure of a Marketing Plan)

This section should cover the internal environment of your business, the customer environment, and the external environment of your industry and the places you to business in general. This environmental research and analysis comprises your current situation.

Internal Environment: (Situational Analysis)

  • What are your human resources, what is their availability, and how they will be used?
  • What equipment and technology will you use and how current is it?
  • What are your marketing financial resources and how they will be utilized?
  • What are the marketing objectives of your company?

Customer Environment: (Situational Analysis)

  • What is your current market? What are your customer’s needs?
  • How does your product or service meet the needs of your current market and customer needs?

External Environment: (Situational Analysis)

  • What products or services compete for the same market?
  • What are the current economic conditions of the marketplace outside of your company?
  • What is the current social environment?
  • What are the political restrictions on your product/market?
  • What technology can influence or put pressure on your product/market?

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats):
(Stucture of a Marketing Plan)

INTERNAL FACTORS

Strengths:

  • What strengths does your product/company have in comparison to competitors currently in the marketplace?
  • What do you do better than your competitors?

Weaknesses:

  • What areas does your product/company struggle with more than your relative competitors?

EXTERNAL FACTORS

Opportunities:

  • What opportunities or unmet needs exist in the marketplace that will allow your product/company to be successful?

Threats:

  • What external situations currently exist that might influence your company negatively? This might be in the form of competition, technology, or legislation that may hamper your efforts.

Marketing Goals and Objectives: (Structure of a Marketing Plan)

What do you wish to accomplish with your marketing? Goals are not specific – rather they are wide-ranging and realistic targets that you would like to accomplish with your marketing efforts. Objectives are separate from goals. Objectives are specific. Objectives should allow for measurement. For instance, your goal might be to increase overall sales during the following year but your objectives may be to increase sales by 25%, hire 2 new employees, and purchase 3 new workstations.

Marketing Strategy: (Structure of a Marketing Plan)

How will your company utilize marketing to achieve your goals and objectives? A simple guideline for your marketing strategy is to utilize the four P’s (Product, Price, Promotion, and Place) of marketing. To simplify these terms, the Product/service is what you are selling, the Price is how much it will cost in the marketplace, the Promotion is what actions will incent a buyer to purchase your product your service, and the Place is where a consumer will acquire your product/service such as in a brick and mortar store or online. Your marketing strategy details how you will manage your relationship with customers in a way that differentiates you from your competitors.

Marketing Implementation: (Structure of a Marketing Plan)

The marketing strategy takes care of the “what,” while implementation takes care of the “how” of your marketing plan. What will your marketing activities be? Who will execute these activities and how will they do it? How will you keep track of your marketing activities? What is your estimated budget for your marketing activities? Utilize the four P’s (mentioned in marketing strategy) to ensure your implementation tactics align with your strategy.

Evaluation and Control: (Structure of a Marketing Plan)

How will you evaluate whether your marketing plan is working? What are your KPI’s (key performance indicators)? KPI’s might be sales/conversions, traffic, social media engagement, or some other metric that you find is important. Once you have decided how you will measure your marketing performance it is important to establish the cost. Keep track of how much you are spending and how you will track this expense. Once you have what you are measuring and how much it will cost you can begin to track the effectiveness of your marketing. For instance, if your primary KPI is overall sales, when you compare to the overall cost you can establish how much you are paying for the acquisition of each new customer.

The last step in creating a marketing plan is to continuously revisit and revise your plan. Initially, you should do this quarterly or even monthly and over time you can extend revisions to biannual check-ups. It is recommended to do this at the very least bi-annually in order to be sure that your marketing plan is still working for you. One of the easiest ways to do this is to routinely assemble your KPI measurements. If you sit down regularly and evaluate what you are spending versus what business you are accumulating, you can ensure that your marketing efforts are effective and adjust your tactics accordingly