Write your marketing plan as a road map that will steer customers to purchase whatever you are selling. This means you need to research their wants, needs, habits and what will make it easy for them to get from thinking about buying to actually doing it. It requires listening to them, as well as communicating to them persuasively. You can adapt your marketing plan as situations change, but don’t lose sight of its primary objective: influencing customers’ purchasing decisions.
Set your objectives using the SMART criteria: make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and within a time frame. Early on in your business your objectives may be broad and then narrow later on. An example would be increasing the number of calls inquiring about a product by a certain percentage within a three-month period. Over time your objective may be to convert a percentage of calls into qualified leads, or prospects, that become sales opportunities.
The Marketing Mix
Your marketing plan needs to contain four key ingredients necessary for meeting your objectives; what is commonly known as the “marketing mix” or the four Ps: price, product, promotion and place. When addressing price, you need to justify the price you are charging. This includes what the market will bear, what the competition charges and profit margin required. Product details the features and benefits of your product or service. Promotion is how you will communicate your product information, and place is where and how you will distribute it.
The Marketing Funnel
The marketing funnel is a visual system that theoretically tracks the stages prospective consumers go through as they make purchasing decisions. The funnel is used to depict that several prospects may start out considering your product, but fewer actually go through the process to making a final purchase, illustrated by the narrowing of the funnel base. Your marketing plan should contain research that details what the percentage of prospects are at each stage and find ways to determine why a particular purchasing decision was made.
The Buyer's Journey
Understanding the buyer’s journey expands on the funnel concept and is based on the premise that your prospective customers already have brands or specific products in mind prior to making a final decision. This is based in large part on the amount of information that is currently available on the Internet; consumers often undertake their own research or read reviews on social media sites early on in the process. Your marketing plan needs to be strong in your branding efforts and provide accessible information online to increase your visibility.
Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.