Management Basics

Part 8- The Big Splash

By Gary Hart

In part 7 we looked at the parts of a business plan and how to write one. Now we have to tie in how you will market and sell your services to meet your business plan objectives. It's time to write a marketing plan. Just as we did in other parts of this series, we once again have to put pen to paper and write out our strategy. Committing your marketing plan to writing gives you a guide to work from; it provides goals to strive for; and it organizes all those creative ideas you have floating around your brain.

What's the relationship between your marketing plan and your business plan? Your business plan spells out what your business is about--what you do and don't do, and what your ultimate goals are. Your company's business plan provides the environment in which your marketing plan must flourish. The two documents must be consistent. A marketing plan, on the other hand, is plump with meaning. It provides you with several major benefits.

Essentially a marketing plan does the following:

  • Sets future goals and provides direction for future marketing efforts that everyone within the company should understand and support.
  • Forces personnel to look internally in order to fully understand the results of past marketing decisions.
  • Forces personnel to look externally in order to fully understand the market in which they operate.
  • Is a key component in the ongoing success of your business.

There are six parts to a marketing plan:

1. Purpose and Mission
2. Situational Analysis
3. Strategies and Objectives
4. Tactical Marketing Programs
5. Budgeting, Performance Analysis and Implementation
6. Additional Considerations

You will find that you can use information from your business plan to fill in some of the blanks as you address each section. In general, you should write with focus and keep things simple. You will want to write the plan with one year in mind because in the real world market conditions change and you will very likely have to adapt to these changes; therefore you will revisit this document as the year presses on.

Allow yourself a couple of months to write the plan and make sure you involve everyone in your company. Your key people can provide realistic input on what's achievable and how your goals can be reached. They can share insight on any potential, as-yet-unrealized marketing opportunities, adding another dimension to your plan. If you're essentially a one-person management operation, you'll have to wear all of the hats at one time.

Let's take a brief look at each part of the marketing plan.

Purpose and Mission

Offer a brief explanation for why this plan was produced, such as: you are introducing a new product, entering new markets, continuing growth of existing products, or using it as a yearly review and planning document. Suggest what may be done with the information contained in the plan (e.g., set targets to be achieved in the next year, become a departmental report to be included in larger business or strategic plan, etc.).

The mission statement consists of a short, finely-honed paragraph that will focus on the company history, resources and competencies, and the industry environment.

Situational Analysis

The situational analysis is designed to take a snapshot of where things stand at the time the plan is presented. This part of the marketing plan is extremely important and quite time consuming. Here are the areas you will elaborate on:

  • Current Product Analysis
  • Current Target Market(s)
  • Current Distributor Network
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Financial Analysis for Services or Product Line
  • Environmental Problems and Opportunities
  • Summary of Current Situation (S.W.O.T.) - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

As I recommended with the writing of the business plan, there are many software packages available that will help and guide you in each area. I suggest you purchase one if you are not familiar with these areas or writing a marketing plan in general.

Strategies and Objectives

Anyone reading a marketing plan need a clear picture of the direction the product will take. Also, they want to see that some accountability has been built in so that the plan is not just hype but results in measurable actions. The best way to provide this information is through a section devoted to identifying the key strategies and objectives for the services and/or product(s). This section consists of three major issues: marketing strategy, marketing objectives and financial objectives.

Tactical Marketing Programs

This is the heart of the marketing plan. It contains descriptions of detailed tactics to be carried out to achieve the objectives and goals established in setting the strategies and objectives, Step 3. It is typically the longest section of the plan, often representing 50 percent or more of total page count. In this section details and timetables are presented for six key decision areas: target marketing, product, promotion, pricing, distribution and others areas. Ideally this section includes a brief summary of current marketing decisions so that readers of the plan can easily compare what was planned with what is planned.

Budgeting, Performance Analysis and Implementation

This step consists of three key topics. First, a budget for marketing expenses will present a clear picture of the financial implications of the plan. Second, a performance analysis will be presented that shows the expected results of the plan including its financial impact. Finally, an implementation schedule will show timelines and identify those responsible for performing the work. In many ways, this part of the marketing plan is the area that will ultimately "sell" the plan.

Additional Considerations

The final major section in the marketing plan prepares the reader for potential situations that may affect the plan. In this way the reader is provided with a somewhat more balanced picture of what the company may face as it attempts to implement the plan such as the following.

  • Internal factors such as the loss of funding sources, loss of key personnel, the current plan is linked to success to other products that may not reach their goals, service problems, etc.
  • External factors such as supply chain problems, competitor reaction, economic issues, governmental concerns, etc.
  • Research limitations such as difficulty finding solid data on a certain subject.

As you can see, budgeting several months of your time is necessary to achieve a written marketing plan. This will probably be the most difficult document you will write in your life; however, just accomplishing some of it will give your business a leg up on your competition and give you a clearer vision of the future of you company.

Don't get frustrated by the amount of work and time it will take and remember to keep it simple. If needed, write a very short plan that only hits on the major points and then each month go back to the plan and add or modify it. This document is a living and breathing part of your business, don't neglect it.

Gary Hart is CEO of eDirectGlass.

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