Each marketing plan needs to be adapted in accordance with the specific business and market.
However, the key elements of any successful marketing plan include a market analysis, a marketing strategy, sales forecasts and a budget available for marketing activities.
Here are the minimal requirements that comprise a marketing plan:
Market analysis: normally, this section must include a description of the external market factors that will affect your business. The market analysis must include information about your target customers (needs, expectations, income, consumer behavior, etc), market size, distribution costs, trends in your industry and in the market in general. In this section you will also have to provide information about your competitors: their strengths and weaknesses, their strategy and positioning.
Much of the information that will be included in the market analysis will be derived directly from the SWOT analysis that you performed early on in the planning process.
Marketing strategy: this section describes the way you intend to reach your target market in order to sell your product/service and it must include the mission statement and the vision of the company, its objectives, a brief description of the target market and the aimed positioning and an explanation why your product/service is unique. Having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is a critical aspect as it distinguishes your company from competitors.
In this section you need to provide a detailed description of your marketing mix: product strategy, price strategy, promotion strategy and distribution strategy. In the case of a business focused on providing services, the marketing mix should be filled with details about the personnel strategy, processes and physical evidence (the 7P).
Sales forecasts: in this section you must include monthly detailed forecasts, the purpose of these forecasts being that they will offer benchmarks to help you evaluate reaching the set objectives. Normally, such a plan must include sales forecasts for each product/product line for each region and for the market you provide, by means of different channels. These details will prove useful during the periodical evaluation because you will have clear benchmarks based on which you can monitor the progress your company has registered. In addition, a sales forecast is a necessary element because, the cash-flow forecasts will be based on it.
Budget: this is one of the marketing plan sections that is often overlooked even though it is a mandatory element, for the same reason as in the case of sales forecasts: it offers clear benchmarks during the monitoring process and when evaluating effective costs versus estimated costs. Thus, the budget should be detailed and divided based on types of activities and actions.
When it comes to marketing plans, just like business plans, you must take into account that planning is important if you focus on the obtained results and not on simply having a written plan. Thus, the most relevant aspect is the implementation stage. Without action, any plan will lose its purpose.
A marketing plan is evaluated depending on the results it produces. Therefore, include an effective measure plan with specific activities and designated people responsible for each action. Set clear deadlines for the evaluation process and the revision of the activities included in the plan. Regardless of how great the market research process was conducted and how good the document is formatted, if you don’t work on constantly implementing the actions included in it, it’s just a waste of time and resources.
Good luck and break a leg in writing and implementing the marketing plan!