This article explains how to write a marketing plan, what you should include in your plan and how to monitor and review your marketing performance.

Your plan will identify all the tactics and actions needed to achieve your strategic marketing objectives, with a timetable for implementation. In other words, your marketing plan will describe in detail how you will set about achieving your strategic sales and marketing targets. Most small business owners don't have a marketing plan, but by creating and introducing one, your business will gain a unique opportunity to stand out above your competition.The key elements of a marketing plan 

The key elements of a marketing plan

Every marketing plan will be different depending on your individual business situation and marketing strategy. However, the key to marketing a business and being successful in a chosen market or particular niche is to implement a plan based around one or more of the following strategies:

  • Attracting more customers.
  • Increasing the average sale amount.
  • Making your customers buy from you more often.
  • Keeping your customers for life.
You don't have to write a book to produce a marketing plan, and you shouldn't be concerned with writing style or making your plan too complicated.

The shorter and clearer it is the better, so that everyone can understand it. In fact, almost any marketing plan can be produced by following eight simple steps.

Step 1 - Defining your market

Your marketing plan should provide detailed information about your understanding of the market or target audience at which you are aiming your product or service. Many small business owners make a big mistake by promoting a product or service they believe is fashionable without first considering and understanding who will buy it.

You cannot sell something to people who don't want it - it's that simple. A profitable market consists of people who genuinely have a need for a product or service and will be most likely to buy it when you offer it to them.

Your plan should typically provide answers to the following questions about your target audience:

  • Are there segments in your market that are currently underserved?
  • Are the segments you are aiming at large enough for you to make money?
  • How much market share do you need to capture to break even?
  • Does the market already have too much competition?
  • Have you spotted any weaknesses in your competitors' products or services - and can you capitalise on these?
  • Does your target audience really want your product or service, and what value do they place on your unique competitive offer?

Step 2 - Understanding your customers 

A thorough understanding of your customers is the essential starting point for effective marketing. To prepare a marketing plan, you must know exactly:

  • Who your customers are.
  • What they want.
  • What will motivate them to buy from you.

To help you really understand your customers, your marketing plan should typically provide answers to the following questions:

  • How do your potential customers normally buy similar products?
  • What are the demographic characteristics of your target customers in terms of age, ethnicity, gender and so on?
  • Who is the primary buyer and who has the primary influence in the purchasing process? These may not always be the same person (eg husband or wife, purchasing officer, project manager, company director, secretary).
  • What kind of habits do your target customers have? For example, where do they get the information to help them make decisions (eg television, newspapers, specialist magazines, social media)?
  • What are the main emotional motivators that will make someone buy your product or service (eg looking good, feeling smart, avoiding pain, saving money, being healthy, being popular)?

Step 3 - Identifying your market niche 

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