No single product or service offered by a company attracts the attention of every consumer in a marketplace. Businesses must put together plans not only to decide on their target markets but also to market to those consumers in a way that resonates with them.

Overly broad marketing wastes a company's time and money by focusing efforts on a population that has no interest in its product or service. A focused marketing plan and its ongoing recommendations are essential to a company's success.

Defining a Marketing Plan

For businesses to grow, they need to be good at marketing and crafting marketing plans.

Marketing plans aim to answer three broad questions: who are the company's customers? How does the company plan to reach those customers? and How does the company intend to keep customers coming back for more products or services?

Any example of a good marketing plan is likely to be revised several times, as the plan is consistently revisited and improved. Any marketing plan should include concrete, measurable objectives that allow for accurate reviews and increased accountability.

Elements of a Marketing Plan

One of the first steps in making marketing strategy recommendations is to examine the seven elements of a marketing mix and marketing plan structure.

These are product, price, place, promotion, people, processes and physical evidence. Understanding these elements makes it easier to make recommendations regarding a marketing plan structure.

Product: A great marketing campaign entices customers to try a product initially but it is the quality of the product and the goodness of fit to the customers expectations that creates loyal customers. The product can be tangible or intangible (in the case of services), but either way, a company needs to make sure it has product-market fit.

Products have life cycles – growth phase, maturity phase and sales-decline phase – and marketers are responsible for marketing a product in ways that keep the demand high during the period of declining sales.

Price: The cost of an item goes beyond its monetary price because it can shape a consumer's perception of a product. It is not so much about having the cheapest product available but more about the perceived value received for the particular price.

Finding the optimal price for your products or services affects the company's revenue and profits, and it is also usually an essential proponent of the marketing plan. The three main pricing strategies: neutral, market penetration and market skimming.

Place: It does not matter how good a product is if a business cannot get it to its customers. Having a good understanding of target customers lets business strategize on the best means to get the products to that target market. For instance, marketing plans for e-commerce stores differ from those of brick-and-mortar stores.

Having this information at hand makes it easier to create an effective plan.

Promotion: The fundamental purpose of marketing is for companies to promote their products, services and brand to consumers. A marketing plan without promotion is bound to fail.

All aspects of the promotional marketing plan function together to deliver a company's message to its intended audience.

People: The people aspect of the marketing mix includes both customers and a company's employees. Accounting for people when developing marketing plans is particularly important when the company provides a service because employees are the ones delivering the service to the customers.

In addition to the employees that interact face-to-face with customers, employees are responsible for tasks such as copywriting and design, which play an integral role in marketing plans.

Processes: Much of a company's ability to execute has to do with the efficiencies of its processes and systems. These processes include how it receives its products through the distribution system, the payment process and other systems in place to minimize a company's costs and maximize its profits.

Physical evidence: With businesses that sell products, the physical evidence has to do with the actual product that it delivers to customers. When it comes to services, the physical evidence should be proof of some sort that confirms the service was completed.

Physical evidence also has to do with the position of a business and its brand in the marketplace. Physical cues help consumers evaluate a product or service before they buy it.

An Effective Promotional Mix

While creating a marketing mix and marketing plan structure, deciding on the role of promotions is vital because promotions are what companies use to inform and persuade targeted audiences. The four components of a promotional mix are advertising, sales promotion, public relations and direct marketing.

Advertising: A critical factor that contributes to how well consumers perceive a company and its brand is the effectiveness of its advertising. Advertising allows a company to have wide-reaching communications with existing and potential customers, for better or worse.

A good branding and advertising message can do wonders for a company's sales, while a failed advertising campaign can cause a product to flop.

Sales promotion: One of the more frequently used promotion types is sales promotions. Sales promotions work to increase sales and better a company's cash flow. They can be used to bring attention to a new product that is entering the market, or they can drive additional demand to products lacking in sales.

For example, a company may offer coupons or free trials to consumers to try a new product or service.

Public Relations: Public relations aims to promote a company's products, services and brand through the spreading of information by third parties and the general public. Companies should have a means of connecting with media organizations and platforms to communicate with both large and also niche audiences.

The primary benefit of PR is that, unlike advertising, it is usually free. Since media outlets need content, they benefit from the relationship as well. Large corporations often pay for PR efforts, but marketing recommendations for small businesses do not usually include paying for PR.

Direct Marketing: Sometimes referred to as direct selling, direct marketing involves a company communicating directly with consumers instead of through third-partyies such as advertising and public relations. A company can pursue direct market through cold calling and emailing, face-to-face presentations, traditional mail and other direct means.

With the presence of social media, direct marketing has become an easier and much cheaper task than in previous times because companies can reach large audiences with minimal effort and expense.

Analyzing and Reviewing Marketing Plans

When developing recommendations, a business should first look internally to analyze its marketing strengths and limitations. Doing so gives a company perspective on what needs to be done to meet marketing challenges and what should be highlighted to build on the company's niche.

When this is known, the company can put concrete plans into place.

Marketing plans are dynamic plans made with the intention of adjusting and updating them periodically. Marketing strategy recommendations are not one-size-fits-all, and their usefulness largely depends on when they are implemented.

For example, say a company puts together a 12-month marketing plan intending to generate $50,000 in revenue. If the company checks its progress in three months and only $5,000 in revenue has been generated, a decision to adjust its marketing plan to test different avenues is a timely recommendation.