What Is a Marketing Plan?

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When you start a business, you can’t just open your doors and expect customers to flood in. You need to put some thought into how you will acquire new clients or customers, retain them and grow your business, all while making a profit. The best way to do this is to sit down and strategize a marketing plan.

What Is a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan is a formal written document that lays out your strategy for targeting new customers or clients and increasing your market share. This plan is generally done annually and should include targets and goals for your marketing and sales teams to reach. If you don’t have a marketing team, you should still create a marketing plan to follow so that you know where to focus your energy and money.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a marketing plan. Sure, there are tactics that can work across industries and for businesses of any size, but you need to develop a plan that works for your particular business. What brings in clients in one industry may not be what works for another.

Why Is a Marketing Plan Important?

Taking time to lay out a marketing plan can help you strategize who your ideal customer is and what it takes to attract him. That includes figuring out marketing strategies and tactics that make sense for your business, such as advertising in print publications or holding networking events.

In the process of creating a marketing plan, you will likely examine your competitors and see how they attract customers. This can help you to differentiate yourself or come up with a unique new product or service.

A marketing plan also helps you visualize and put into writing your business goals. You may have already done this in a business plan, but it’s important to create measurable business goals. Doing so can make your marketing more targeted and give you a benchmark when comparing marketing efforts year over year.

Marketing efforts require time and money. In your marketing plan, you can create a budget that works for you and your business. Maybe you only want to spend a percentage on marketing in the first quarter but have a big spend near the end of the year. A plan can help you figure out what to spend and when to spend it instead of blindly throwing money at marketing.

It will also help you determine what marketing and sales resources you have in-house and which you may need to hire externally. You may have a few great salespeople on your team but nobody to handle your social media promotions. With a marketing plan, you can look at where you may need to fill in gaps in your marketing efforts.

What Are the Seven Ps of Marketing?

The "Seven Ps of Marketing" provides categories of things to consider when creating a marketing plan. It can help you to organize your thoughts and figure out the best way to spend your marketing dollars. The seven Ps are:

  1. Product. Does your product meet the needs of consumers, from a consumer perspective? This may require you to do some consumer research and look internally at what products are selling and which aren’t.
  2. Price. Is the price of your product competitive and does it result in a profit for you? This requires you to examine the costs associated with your product and the price point at which you sell it.
  3. Place. Where is your product being sold and how are customers buying it? You may have more success selling certain products online or at retail locations.
  4. Promotion. How do you generate interest in your product? Look at what type of advertising and other marketing you do, as well as your company branding.
  5. People. Who is selling your product? Whether it’s your employees or an external influencer, you need to know who is successfully selling your product and how.
  6. Process. How do you handle customer service and communication? Keeping customers happy can be vital to a business, and shouldn’t be overlooked.
  7. Positioning. How do consumers perceive your product and your brand? You want to know if they view your product as high-quality and worth the price or lower-quality and second-best.

If you take the time to sit down and work through each of the Ps, you’ll be well on your way to creating actionable items and a solid marketing plan.