How to Prepare a Marketing Plan and Define a Marketing Strategy

It is a brand new business day in brand spanking new year. How many entrepreneurs and marketing guys out there have already started planning on what to do for the new year? Well, for those who haven’t, here are some tips that could be useful. It is by no means comprehensive but hey, it’s better than not having any plans. 

Strategic marketing planning is the process of matching the present and future resources of a business with anticipated future opportunities in the marketplace. It is a formalized approach used to identify, evaluate, and choose alternative courses of action to accomplish desired objectives. To be meaningful, strategic marketing planning must become a way of life, an attitude, and an ongoing process of strategic thinking on the part of management.

The strategy statement in the marketing plan defines the approaches to be taken in the marketplace to accomplish the desired marketing goals. Developing a marketing strategy, however, is not merely the listing of objectives, courses of actions, or procedures, which that will be used to implement the marketing strategy.

Strategy development also addresses the concepts and methods a business will employ to best utilize its resources and competitive advantages to achieve the highest possible level of performance in the marketplace.

To establish an effective strategic marketing plan, it is necessary to first establish and/or define the following:

1. The Company

A. What is our business today?
B. What do we want our business to be one, two, five years from now?
C. What are our strengths?
D. What are our weaknesses?
E. What are our current goals?
F. What is our present market area?
G. What do we see as future market area?
H. Our performance, past, present, future?

2. The Customers

A. Who are our present customers?
B. What are their needs, present and future?
C. Who are potential customers?
D. What are our potential customers’ needs, present and future?
E. What needs are not being met for present and potential customers in the marketplace that fit within our present or future capabilities?

3. The Market(s)

A. Estimate size, utilizing available government, trade association, vendor, independent market surveys, etc.
B. Evaluate historical growth.
C. Determine reasonable market share goals.
D. Study buying trends in the marketplace.

4. The Competition

A. Who are our competitors?
B. Evaluate competitor’s strengths and weaknesses.
C. Estimate their market share.
D. Question customers about our competition.

i. Evaluate competition’s products and services, quality, designs, technical competence, production capabilities, financial strength, timely performance and delivery.

Upon completing a thorough evaluation of the above situation analysis outline, the initial elements of the marketing plan can now be written out categorically following the headings provided in 1-4 above.

Now, armed with a thorough understanding of what the company is, what it wants to be, present and future customer needs, plus increased knowledge of the market(s) and the competition, a statement of marketing strategy can be prepared and inserted into the plan. The statement should be concise, but meaningful.

The next step is to develop a list of objectives with appropriate action plans designed to accomplish the implementation of the marketing strategy developed.

Further, a system of management control must be developed and employed to monitor the action plans. The fundamental process of control is:

1. Preparing the action plan.
2. Measuring results.
3. Comparing results to the plan.
4. Taking corrective action where necessary.

Strategic marketing plans can become very detailed, all encompassing documents, depending upon the size and complexity of the business entity, and the experience and sophistication of the management group. The above guidelines are intended to provide only the fundamental considerations for the company making its first attempt at developing a strategic marketing plan.

More important is to begin the planning process now, without wasting valuable time agonizing over lack of detail or incompleteness of some information. Don’t succumb to “paralysis by analysis!” Refinements can always be made whenever additional or more accurate data becomes available.

Develop action plans that are affordable, realistic in content, and economically justified in comparison to the size and scope of the business entity. Be sure to carefully monitor and correspondingly control costs for these activities.

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