Very often, the marketing plan is included as a section within a company’s business plan. In that case, the marketing plan may not be as detailed or comprehensive as a standalone marketing plan. Still, whether the marketing plan is integrated in a business plan or a separate document, the core elements must exist within the plan.
It goes without saying that every plan should have a cover page, a legal page or non-disclosure agreement, and a table of contents.
Below is a quick primer on each of the key elements of a marketing plan. It’s based on the Duct Tape Marketing System by John Jantsch. For a detailed look into this highly effective approach to small business marketing planning, I strongly suggest you check out the Duct Tape Marketing System.
So let’s review the elements of a marketing plan now…
Your marketing vision is a summary of your marketing goals, purpose and picture – what your customers would experience if your business could do no wrong. This section should also include an analysis of your marketing goals and how far your business currently is from achieving them. Jantsch calls this the Gap Dashboard.
What’s next among the key elements of a marketing plan?
In this section, you describe your ideal customer. The idea here is to define your ideal customer so clearly and vividly that you then direct all of your marketing efforts towards your idea customer, and drop the rest!
To do this, you must identify an explicit need or frustration that your existing or would-be customers are experiencing.
Human psychology is motivated by two underlying emotions: avoiding pain and gaining pleasure. So how does your business or product help its customers avoid pain and gain pleasure? The only way to find out is to study or survey customers.
Beyond your customers’ needs, what trends affect your target market? Is it a growing market or a shrinking one, or one that’s evolving?
For example, as people become more tech savvy and more mobile in the way they live and function, is there a growing need for mobile communication devices?
Be sure to carefully study the demographics, lifestyles, beliefs and behaviors of your target market. Also pay close attention to geography – where your target customers are located and where they typically live.
Also study market trends – present the growth trends of the industry or sector your business is involved in.
Moving along to the next elements of a marketing plan…
Who are your competitors, how do you compare with them, and what sets you apart from them? Why should customers buy your product instead of the competition’s? Think about it – why do you buy the things you do, and why not buy the things you don’t?
This section of your marketing plan is important in letting investors, shareholders and management know and understand the landscape of your market in terms of your competition.
By clearly defining what sets you apart from your competitors, and proving why customers would buy your product over the competitors’, you’re laying the path for how you will market these distinguishers to your customers.
Besides focusing on your strengths, it’s also very important that you highlight the strengths of your competitors, especially those you consider to be pure competitors.
Now we’ll look at how the first three elements of a marketing plan will help you develop your…
You’ll design your core strategy based on what differentiates you from your competitors in the eyes and minds of your customers.
Your core strategy is your measurable plan for success in communicating your position and core message to your customers.
How will you communicate key marketing messages to customers?
What is your positioning goal? Remember that your positioning goal must be the overarching goal of your marketing strategy.
Also, how will you measure your progress and success towards your positioning goal? What indicators will you use to confirm that your core message is converting?
Of course, increases in sales and your clientele base are obvious indicators. But you want to know what specific actions customers are taking which translate into achieving your goal. Indicators like number of new appointments, referrals received, number of new visitors to your website, or number of online sales with a promotion code, are all good indications of whether your marketing efforts are working.
What about the visual elements of your positioning and core message? How do you present your brand or business to customers? Aspects such as colors, logo, images and fonts will shape the visual perceptions customers have towards your brand or business.
In this section of the marketing plan, you will list and describe the products and services you offer. For each, you should also include important information like pricing, what type of prospect or customer each product targets, and how buyers will benefit from purchasing and using the product or service.
But equally important to mention in this section is the process you will take your prospect through, converting them into customers, and ideally into repeat customers.
Careful planning of your product or service opens up opportunities for innovation, which is why Jantsch gave this section its name. It’s one of the elements of a marketing plan that lets your creativity shine.
Your marketing should go beyond brochures and business cards. What kinds of success stories and testimonials can you get from willing clients to include in your marketing kit?
What kinds of case studies can you present to prospects to show them how your product helped a customer solve a specific problem and produced a specific, desired result?
Your marketing materials should be geared not only to attract prospective customers, but also answer any questions or concerns they might have. Keep in mind that customers have become increasingly demanding in their expectations, and they are intelligent – they will do their own research before committing to a sale.
The internet is no longer a place where companies simply put up a website with beautiful graphics. Today, the internet is a powerful marketing tool and needs its own strategy. The key to winning online is by delivering highly relevant quality content for both for potential customers as well as the search engines.
Your web plan must enable you to deliver high content, win at the search engines, and implement strong email marketing and social networking campaigns.
Lead Generation Plan
How will you generate leads? Your plan must address where and how you will find potential buyers. You will likely focus your strategies on various methods, such as media and public relations, direct marketing, or performance marketing online.
Lead Generation Plan
Building your leads is only half the battle – you have to convert those leads into sales. How will you do that? Describe your sales strategy and sales process in this section.
How will you build customer loyalty? Not only is it critical that you generate leads and sales, but that you keep the customers you have by exceeding their expectations. Your strategy for building strong customer service and rewarding customers for their loyalty will prove to your success in the long-term.
All of the elements of a marketing plan, once defined, need to be mapped out on a timeframe. This section is one of the most important parts of a marketing plan because it shows how you will action your strategies.
Marketing costs. Your plan has to provide clear and justifiable numbers. Present a detailed sales forecast and marketing budget for your marketing plan.
Also show how you will measure the performance of your marketing plan – how you will collect the data that proves whether your plan is working or needs adjustment. Your key marketing metrics will provide that proof, so you must present them in your marketing plan.
Marketing Training Game
How do you plan to trickle your marketing plan down to staff members who will be involved in carrying it out? How will you educate them on the marketing plan and positioning goals, and on the core message? How will you train them on how to effectively use the marketing kit?
Also, what is each person’s role? Where do they fit in the organizational structure in regards to the marketing plan?
Tying all the Elements of a Marketing Plan Together
Your marketing plan isn’t just a document. It’s a set of detailed information and well-thought-out strategies, based on strong research and data. You’ve carefully done your homework, and your strategies are measurable, meaning you can quantify results from implementing the plan.
OK. I’ve given you a lot of information. Still, there’s a lot more to getting all the elements of a marketing plan together than what’s here. If you’re serious about preparing a solid, results-based marketing plan, I once again suggest you consider the Duct Tape Marketing System by John Jantsch. It really is a bull’s eye method to defining and planning your marketing strategy.