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The basics of writing a marketing plan

By LARA CAINE Published 24th Jun 2014
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A well-written marketing plan is an essential business tool so it is important to get it right. A marketing plan should set out clear objectives and break down the actions that need to be taken in order to achieve them.

Before the plan can be written, extensive research needs to be conducted. It should focus on identifying existing and potential customer groups and understanding their needs. The company's strengths and weaknesses also need to be identified, so that a strategy can be crafted which targets particular customer needs by highlighting matching strengths.

The marketing plan should begin with an executive summary, but this is the section that should be written last as it must include all of the main points from the rest of the plan. The next section, which begins the main body of the plan, should be a summary of the business mission, key objectives and the business plan for achieving them, together with a summary of the overall marketing strategy.

An analysis of the research conducted into the market and company should then be provided. A PESTLE analysis is a good way of presenting information about the business environment. It should include Political factors, such as tax and trade policies, Economic factors, including relevant interest or exchange rates, Social factors, such as changing demographics or lifestyles, Technological factors, such as new materials or online tools, Legal factors such as regulatory changes, and Environmental factors, such as climate change.

A similar analysis can be conducted for the business itself. A SWOT analysis can present the company's Strengths and Weaknesses, as well as the Opportunities and Threats that it faces. Opportunities should make the most of the company's strengths, while an analysis of the threats posed by its weaknesses should include suggestions for how to overcome them.

These analyses should shape the next section of the plan, a list of the marketing objectives that will help increase sales by reaching new customers or retaining existing ones. Objectives should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound, in order to make planning how to achieve them easier.

A plan for how these objectives will be reached, putting the company's overall marketing strategy into action, should make up the remainder of the marketing plan. 

Actions can be divided into different sections covering areas such as branding, products and pricing, as in the online planning tool created by the Chartered Institute Of Marketing. They will often revolve around the four Ps, which can be manipulated in different ways to expand or break into the most promising groups of customers: Product, Pricing, Place or route to market, and Promotion.

A schedule and budget should be drawn up for all the tasks that need to be performed, describing who will be responsible for performing them, when they should be completed, what resources are required, and how much they will cost. The planned actions will shape the way a company communicates with its customers, from advertising and direct marketing to follow up sales strategies and offers, and should have measurable effects that will show how well the plan is working.

These are the basics of writing a marketing plan. You can move on to more creative ideas once you have these basics covered. The very act of going through this process will educate you and help you to consider things that you may not have thought about previously. In the excitement and emotion of dealing with new ideas a professional and structured approach will bring you down to earth and guide you in the successful execution of your ideas.

In my next article I will be covering ideas around being a trailblazer, which is essentially the next stage beyond creating a sound marketing plan.

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