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How To Develop And Structure A Formal Marketing Plan

Although creativity is often seen as a key part of of good marketing, it is not always necessary in a formal marketing plan.

Because if you have got to a stage where a marketing plan is required, you would have already got past the stage where you need a little creativity and innovation to get noticed. That is usually the time when you have to make a pitch to get investors’ attention.

In fact, if you try to get too clever with your marketing plan, you could actually distract the reader away from what is most important in your report.

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Let me try to paraphrase that to drive home the point.

Once you get to a stage where a marketing plan is required, attention seeking gimmicks will seldom help you score extra brownie points. The investor(s) is already sold on your idea or business plan. Now is the time to scrutinize the execution.

This is why developing a formal marketing plan could be more appropriate at this point.

At the same time, do trust your judgment of what is most appealing to the audience… unless you have been proven to have bad judgment… And if in doubt, for formal.

What constitutes to a structured marketing plan?

Above all else, your report should answer 5 key questions of any stakeholder.

  1. Who are your customers?
  2. When will the various stages of the marketing activities commence and end?
  3. What is your unique selling proposition (USP) and competitive advantage?
  4. Where are the main marketing channels you will be using?
  5. How much sales will you generate and at a cost of how much?

Any plan that is conceptualized which does not clearly answer any 1 or more of the above questions will render your report as incomplete… and incompetent.

Now that we have the goals written down, it’s time to dive into the details.

Section 1 – Executive summary

It can feel being unappreciated when you have drawn up a 50-page attack plan but the reader has no time to read all your hard work. Yet this is a reality that many business owners and marketing managers face.

Not everyone will have all the time in the world to read through your thesis-like report.

This is why the overview of your plan has to be crisp and clear in the executive summary so as to explain the gist of the report.

Be sure to include:

  • Overall marketing plan
  • Goals of the marketing activities
  • The focus and message of the strategies
  • Specific markets and niches being targeted
  • Specific products being marketed
  • Projected revenue and expense budget

Elaborating on this section can be suicidal as readers really don’t expect to be filled in with the nitty-gritty here. People little patience can actually feel anxiety when reading summaries that are not summaries.

Section 2 – Objectives

This is the part where you translate your goals into numbers for readers to digest.

The reason why this section can be crucial for the future of the company is that numbers provide a means to measure actual performance against projected performance.

This allows analysts to measure how well the business is doing.

And from an operations standpoint, it could become a benchmark to motivate staff to strive for predetermined performance targets.

This section should include:

  • Goals (i.e. To grow to $10 million in sales in 3 years)
  • Marketing objective (i.e. To become the go-to online portal for dieting supplements)
  • Projected marketing numbers (i.e. number of units sold, number of commercials being run, current market share and target for year end, 70% of sales will be generated online, etc)
  • Overall financial goals (e.g. To hit $1 million in sales in the current financial year with 22% profits)

Section 3 – Situation analysis

This is where all your market research comes into play. All those nights you spent scouring the internet for information on the market and your competitors is meant for this area.

The key factor here is to demonstrate your understanding of what is happening in the very market which you are taking investors’ money to war in.

This means that this segment of the report will undoubtedly have to contain meticulous details on:

  • Population demographics
  • Economic indicators and trends
  • Industry trends
  • Technological factors
  • Social trends
  • Detailed breakdown of your target prospect (sometimes called the customer avatar)
  • Competitors’ market share, strengths, weaknesses (SWOT analysis), and their products, etc
  • Your products and their advantages and disadvantages against the competition
  • Logistics plan and distribution channels
  • Your competitive advantage that is hard to replicate (if any)

Section 4 – Strategies and tactics

You can’t have 1 strategy to meet all your different objectives. You might get away with theory in school, but it just does not work this way in the real corporate world.

You will look like a marketing rookie if you don’t have specific plans to conquer each objective you have listed in the plan.

Specifics is what this section is all about.

  • List the retail, wholesale, and promotional prices of all your products or services
  • State when and how each price point comes into play
  • Key benefit(s) that will be communicated in marketing message for each product
  • Key feature(s) that will be focused on in advertisements for each product
  • Specific avenues that will be used for promoting each product
  • Specific sales channel(s) for each product

Section 5 – Financials

Now that you have put all your research into words in the previous sections, it is now time to determine what all those information will translate to in numbers upon the full execution of the marketing plan.

The numbers you want to pay attention to are:

  • Revenue
  • Expenses
  • Margins
  • Inventory at start and end of year
  • Gross profits and net profits
  • Projected annual rate of growth
  • Cost per client acquisition

Break down these numbers by each product if possible.

Final words

The road to success in business is not set in stone. Some methods work for some while can turn out to be catastrophic to others.

Although the formal marketing plan structure is set out above, it is up to you to develop your own plan and improvise or elaborate when necessary. Who knows what your personal goals are?

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