New Series: Writing a Marketing Plan

Since the Business Plan series came to a close I thought of the next logical step in what you have to do in your business to support the business plan and its operations.

This next step is the marketing plan.

Logically, your CMO or VP of Marketing would be in charge of this effort but in many startups you don’t have someone in that position so it is probably you with the ultimate responsibility. So my dear reader, I am here to the rescue to guide you through very important part of executing your overall business plan. Each one of these headings will generate one or more posts so here is an overview of what you can expect.

SUMMARY

Describe product or service. Emphasize unique or innovative features and/or protection by patent,
copyright or other legal means.

SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS

Situational Analysis lays out the overall marketplace you are competing in and the various environments your business will have to address.

The Market

The market is a description of your total potential market (your potential customers). It will also address how your product/service satisfies the needs of this market. You will also need to describe the particular customers that you will target. This includes the size of (1) total potential market (number of potential customers), and (2) your target market. Here you will have to support your estimates with factual data. It must also discuss the growth potential of (1) total potential market, and (2) your target market. You will have to look at local, national and international markets. Support estimates with factual data. Lastly will be the market share you expect to garner.

The Competitive Environment

Here is where you will identify major competitors: name, location, and market share. You will also compare your product/service with that of your major competitors (brand name, quality, image, price, etc.). This leads to you having to compare your firm with that of your major competitors (reputation, size, distribution channels, location, etc.). You must address how easy is it for new competition to enter this market and what have you learned from watching your competition. Some important elements to include are how competitors’ sales are increasing, decreasing, steady and why.

The Technological Environment

Since every company these days incorporates some type of technology to be competitive, how is technology affecting this product/service? How soon can it be expected to become obsolete? And is your company equipped to adapt quickly to changes?

The Socio-Political Environment

One area that many marketing plans forget to address is the outer social-political environment that may impact your market potential and competitive edge. You will have to describe changing attitudes and trends plus how flexible and responsive is your firm. This will also include a list new laws and regulations that may affect your business an what might the financial impact might be.

Other

This section is open for other situational factors that will affect your marketing plan.

PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES

This is a wide open field and specific to each business. Here you will have state each problem or opportunity and what you will do about them.

OBJECTIVES

The objectives section are the milestones that you will achieve as you execute your business on a daily basis. You must state objectives in precise, quantifiable terms. (e.g. “œTo obtain a sales volume of 3000 units by the end of the fiscal year.”)

STRATEGY

At the high level, the strategy section addresses wow will you reach your objective? (New market penetration, expansion of market share, entrenchment, etc.). This will also address how you have taken into account the previously mentioned problems and opportunities, and the potential reactions of your competitors.

ACTION PLAN

With all goals in sight, there must be an action plan to meet those goals and objectives. How will you implement the above strategy? What is the quality, branding, packaging, modification, location of service, etc? How will you price your product/service so that it will be competitive, yet profitable? What will you do for promotion/advertising? What are your selling and distribution methods? How will you service the product?

FINANCIAL DATA

All of your plans must be supported by financial data that ties into the overall business plan financials. This includes sales projections for the next five years (optimistic, pessimistic, realistic), a Breakeven Analysis (See Appendix B), and monthly cash flow for Year 1, quarterly for Years 2 and 3.

APPENDICES

As in the business plan, the appendices are the data that would bulk up the core plan too much but are important to support your information.

Appendix A – Market Share

This includes market share data tables and more detailed competitive analysis data.

Appendix B – Breakeven Analysis

This is in support of the financial data section and shows how with your objectives met, when you will breakeven with the revenue goals and expenses detailed out and tied with the various parts of the action plan.

Appendix C – Cash Flow

As important as when you will break even, you must be able to show how, on a monthly basis, you will manage the cash flow to support the business and not sink it from an overly ambitious strategy and action plan.

Do you have any experience writing a marketing plan?

If any of you have experience writing a market plan, I would like to know what elements I might have missed and any war stories that will help other entrepreneurs learn from your experiences. Please use the comments and let’s get this conversation going.

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

4 thoughts on “New Series: Writing a Marketing Plan”

  1. Am hanging on to this and will be watching this series. This is one of those trouble spots for me – although not so much as book synopses, which tend to give me hives. LOL

  2. Steve:

    Well stated. I’m going to introduce a new concept into the plan. Sales and Marketing have become the last frontier of customer process innovation. We know how to build software efficiently and support customers, however, marketing and sales tactics have remained static for years. Let me explain. We have new vehicles to reach customers, we just tend to treat customers the same once we get them in the funnel. The question is how will the business challenge the status quo in this area?

    When discussing how the solution addresses the problem, be prepared to look at market segments by problem first and demographic second. That is implied here, but it needs to be stressed. One size solution may fit a segment but people perceive value differently meaning you sell to them differently. Limit the problem categories to a manageable number and create a sales and marketing processes for each. Stress that the business plans to measure and track the results. Successful tech companies are known for measuring marketing and sales activities by seeing the departments as a single entity. It allows the business to know which methods reach and convert the largest number of prospects and/or drive repeat sales.

    Great technology innovation rarely crosses over to the early majority without a well thought out sales plan. Use these questions a guideline to demonstrate that your business is thinking about sales from the customer’s value perspective.

    What global problem do we solve?
    What are the customer segments by value?
    What marketing tactics will be put into place to incubate customers by value?
    How will the business recycle leads that fail to close when not lost to competitors?

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