Marketing Plan Series: Part 1 – Summary

Marketing is a key part of business success. You need to decide which customers to target. You need to work out how you will reach and win new customers. You need to make sure that you keep existing customers happy. And you need to keep reviewing and improving everything you do to stay ahead of the competition.

Your marketing plan should be the reference document you use as a basis to execute your marketing strategy. It sets out clear objectives and explains how you will achieve them. Perhaps most importantly it looks at how you can ensure that your plan becomes reality.

Remember that marketing in itself will not guarantee sales, but by adopting a well-researched and coherent plan, you have a much better chance of building long-term, profitable relationships.

It is funny, when you start writing a series like this you start with the Summary section because it is first in the document. However, it is usually the last thing you write.

So how can you write a summary without knowing the content you are summarizing?

The approach that you should use is that you should keep this section up as a separate document during your overall plan writing to take notes and capture important points that will be used when you submit this to your management and/or board. Everyone will read the intro and summary, some will read various parts they want to dig into more, and very few will read the whole thing

I know that might sound depressing but keep this in mind. If your intro and summary do their job, they won’t have to read further and that is a credit to you. However, for those that read the entire plan it will be a critical roadmap to help you reach your sales goals and guide your team as it builds marketing momentum.

Logically, the names intro and summary should speak for themselves as to what they should have but it is important to elaborate on what key information it should contain.

Elements of the Summary Section

Your marketing plan should start with an executive summary. The summary gives a quick overview of the main points of the plan. Writing the summary is a good opportunity to check that your plan makes sense and that you haven’t missed any important points.

Business Strategy

It’s a good idea to introduce the main body of the plan with a reminder of your overall business strategy, including:

  • what your business is about (your business mission)
  • your key business objectives
  • your broad strategy for achieving those objectives

This helps to ensure that your marketing plan, your marketing strategy and your overall business strategy all work together. For example, suppose your business strategy is based on providing premium quality products and service. Your marketing strategy and plan will need to take this into account, targeting customers who appreciate quality, promoting your product in ways that help build the right image and so on.

Strategic Focus and Plan

To connect readers with your overall business plan and strategy, you use this section to connect it with your business unit and/or company strategy, depending on your company size. You should address your vision and mission, the environment in which you are marketing, and the results you expect from a marketing plan.

The vision statement is something that you will pursue over an extended timeframe. It is not
quantitative in nature and should be one or two sentences at most. The mission statement contains the ideas attainable in a five to seven year range. This is a general statement shared in one or two sentences. You want it to be something that can define your unit/company and its purpose. The best mission statements are those that staff””and eventually constituents””use as a guide for where you are heading.

You should also include your objectives at a high level. These are general statements about what you hope to accomplish through marketing. You will provide more specific marketing strategies and quantitative goals later in the document. These will also be a guide for setting priorities as you develop strategies for reaching target audiences. You may choose to include unit objectives with general program goals listed under each.

Next you should have a summary paragraph on your competition. This should show how your awareness of the competition will make you stronger. Outline the competitive environment of your market, including both direct and indirect competition. You should describe the competition, their strengths and weaknesses, how you are alike or different, and how you plan to effectively market with the competition in mind.

The last paragraph should capture a SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Within this analysis provide information about current marketing efforts, programs and services, client reactions and any other details that may be helpful as you develop marketing strategies.

Marketing Focus

In this sub-section, you will describe all of the objectives you wish to attain through your marketing program. You will start with measurable marketing goals and a detailed description of how you will accomplish each one. Based on your Marketing Goals, list markets that you plan to target. Include research about target marketa and reasons that you plan to direct marketing at this area. If you do not
have valid research or information regarding the target audience/market for your goals, this is
a good time to develop focus groups to learn more about the market.

Marketing Strategies

Generally, your overall marketing plan will focus on promotion strategies, although you will want to keep an eye on the product, price and distribution. Including all four factors in the marketing plan, provides you with opportunities to reach your target market more effectively. As for promotion strategies, it is one of the most important sections of the marketing plan and is your action plan based on your goals. You need to identify your target audience, channels for reaching them (advertising, media/ public relations, events, strategic alliances, direct contact, internet, etc.) and the consistent message and other branding techniques you will use to engage your target audience. You will need to prioritize these strategies, tie them into your marketing budget, assign tasks and set deadlines.

Marketing Evaluation

In this section, explain how you plan to gather data to show that your plan has worked. You may need to look for resources that already exist or develop surveys that can give you baseline data for comparison over a period of time. This is your proof of success, so you must work closely with your team and include key stakeholders to ensure this follow-up effort is completed.

Marketing Financial Strategy

As with all plans, the seem to hold the financial stuff for the big finale. The end of the summary is going to bring the full impact of the strategy laid out to bear in terms of costs and return on investment (ROI) for those that are the hard core numbers people. You will need to include the high level information on the various market share amounts each product and/or service line will garner over the life of this plan. You will also need to include a few sentences on break even, which is when the investment in this marketing strategy will start to pay for itself. Last should be how you will handle cash flow and when and how much you might need to dip into the well for the strategy you have laid out.

Other Summary Sections You Should Include?

Did I miss anything? Is there a critical section that you have included in your summary that is missing here and should be added to the list? Do you have a different opinion on what should go in the summary? Please let me know in the comments.

Next Time – Part 2 – Situational Analysis

Situational Analysis lays out the overall marketplace you are competing in and the various environments your business will have to address. We will discuss the market and the various types of environments that your marketing plan will need to address for your products and/or services.

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.