A marketing plan should be designed to suit the needs of a business and its external environment. If you are selling products or services to businesses, then the plan has to be customized to reflect this B2B reality. Here are the essentials.
Situation analysis: You will have to include: SWOT analysis (business “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats”); market analysis (segmentation, market forecast, customer profiling, and market needs analysis); and competitive analysis (analysis of direct and indirect competitors). A market forecast would involve analyzing the market by segments and forecast market growth for, say, five years.
Marketing strategy: A marketing plan has to include your marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy obviously depends on your goals; it also includes the purpose of your business, the segment that you are targeting, and the specific actions that you are going to take up to achieve your goals. The strategy would also include information on product positioning.
Sales forecast: The marketing plan would include expected/projected sales by product/model, by geography, by channel, and by manager for one to five years (week by week or month by month); the forecast is later analyzed against actual sales.
Expense budget: The expense budget will keep a record of all expenses on a monthly basis; how much money is required? What are the areas that will require capital outlay? How does expenditure relate to strategy? This usually also involves analysis of planned expenditure and actual figures. The expense budget usually includes management responsibilities and programs.
Milestones: An important element in a marketing plan are milestones. Specific milestones, which usually includes deadlines and budgets, help managers and team members to plan their efforts in a systematic manner.
And there’s more
A marketing plan can have other elements such as an executive summary, a review of risks and any pending issues. As mentioned earlier, a marketing plan has to be designed taking into account the company’s needs, skills and environment. These elements are the minimum requirements of a marketing plan, but you can include as many elements as you see fit.
Specific action plan is the way to go: Planning is not so much about the plan as it is about achieving results. Whether a marketing plan has served its purpose will have to be judged on the basis of actual performance. The execution of a marketing plan is more important than any innovative marketing strategies that are included in the plan. You can aid the proper implementation of a marketing plan by creating a plan that has measurable and specific goals that can be followed up on. Analysis of actual performance against planned performance is something that has to built into your marketing plan.