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How to write a marketing plan

As part of your wider business plan, every small business should have a marketing plan which documents how you will let customers know that your business exists. Here are our tips for writing a winning marketing plan.

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Your marketing plan should provide the direction for all of your marketing activities. As we've mentioned, it will be part of your business plan, but it should also work as a standalone document that can be used by any members of staff involved in marketing and communications.

A marketing plan typically includes the following sections:

1. Executive summary

Like a business plan, your marketing plan will need to be summed up into a few paragraphs that explain your goals and exactly how you are going to achieve them. You will write this part once you've completed the rest of the document.

2. Mission statement

This is where you state your vision for the future of your business, i.e. to be the first company people think of when they need their car repairing locally or to help your customers save money and get good service. You should make sure that this reflects your business well and serves the needs of your customers.

3. Situation analysis

This section is all about your company and your existing marketing activity. It takes into account what are known as the ‘seven Ps of marketing'.

These are:

  • Product/service – What is it you are offering to the customer? What are the benefits to the customer and what makes it unique?
  • Pricing – How have you arrived at your pricing policy? How does it compare to that of your competitors? Do you offer discounts and how are they calculated?
  • Place – Where and how do you sell? Do you have a physical shop, sell online or both? Or do you sell through distributors?
  • Promotion – What do you currently do to market your business – i.e. advertising, PR, exhibitions – and approximately how much do you spend?
  • People – How are your staff trained on your product or service?
  • Processes – Do you have formal processes for delivering your product or service?
  • Physical evidence – What does your premises, website, packaging, etc. say about your business?

4. Customers

This is where you write what you know about your target market, including information on the size of the market in terms of the number of potential customers and the value of the industry as a whole. You should have a good idea of characteristics of your customers such as age, gender, location, average spend, etc., whether they are the person who actually purchases your product or whether they have it bought for them (i.e. a parent will usually buy on behalf of a child, but it is the child who will usually influence a purchase).

5. Competitors

Almost all businesses have competitors, either direct or indirect, competing for your customer's money, and it's important to know what they're doing to communicate with your target market.

Understanding their strengths and weaknesses will help you compare your performance against theirs.

6. SWOT analysis

This is where you look at your own strengths and weaknesses, plus look at where there are opportunities and threats posed by the market.

7. Objectives

Quantify what you want to achieve with your marketing activity. Set objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

8. Tactics

Here's where you say exactly what action you're going to take to meet your objectives. Again, this should take into account the seven Ps we mentioned before. Knowing what you now know about your market, competitors and your strengths and weaknesses, how – if at all - would you change your current marketing activities?

9. Budget and resources

Once you've decided how you'll reach your target market, it is important that you assign a budget to each activity. This will help to stop your marketing spend spiralling out of control. If you're on a tight budget, consider some cost-effective marketing tactics. You should also make it clear who will be putting your marketing plan into action. Will you manage it internally or outsource it to an external agency?

If you need help with marketing your small business, members can download a free guide to marketing or call us on 0845 130 1722 for more information.

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