What is a Marketing Plan?

What is a Marketing Plan?

What is a Marketing Plan?

In a three part series, Entrepreneur.com describes the essentials of creating a marketing plan.  The long and the short of it:  A successful business owner or entrepreneur has to understand who the customer is, who the competition is, and create a plan on how to move forward within this environment.

Key tips:

  • The plan should cover at least a year, but look beyond that to several years out as well.
  • It should be used every day by everyone in the company.  It is the flag everyone follows.
  • It takes time to develop, and should be an effort that includes staff, customers, and outside stakeholders.
  • The first step in developing a marketing plan is to research your market.  Sounds daunting, what does that mean anyway?  Simple ways of conducting this may be:
  • Surveying potential customers about their needs and wants.  Do they have needs your business could fulfill?
  • Doing phone surveys or interviews in person.  Are you sure your concept is needed and wanted?  What are people willing to pay?  What do they do now to satisfy the need, who is the competition?
  •  The two methods above are known as primary research.  You are gathering the information yourself.

Another way of finding out about the marketplace is to find what others already have published, known as secondary research.  You are learning from information that others have gathered.  What are some sources for this?

Entrepreneur.com states, “Government statistics are among the most plentiful and wide-ranging public sources of information. Start with the Census Bureau’s helpful Hidden Treasures–Census Bureau Data and Where to Find It! In seconds, you’ll find out where to find federal and state information. Other government publications that are helpful include:

  • Statistical and Metropolitan Area Data Book. Offers statistics for metropolitan areas, central cities and counties.
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States. Data books with statistics from numerous sources, government to private.
  • U.S. Global Outlook. Traces the growth of 200 industries and gives five-year forecasts for each.

Don’t neglect to contact specific government agencies such as the Small Business Administration (SBA). They sponsor several helpful programs such as SCORE and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) which can provide you with free counseling and a wealth of business information. The Department of Commerce not only publishes helpful books like the U.S. Global Outlook, it also produces an array of products with information regarding both domestic industries and foreign markets through its International Trade Administration (ITA) branch. The above items are available from the U.S. Government Printing Office .

One of the best public sources is the business section of public libraries. The services provided vary from city to city, but usually include a wide range of government and market statistics, a large collection of directories including information on domestic and foreign businesses, as well as a wide selection of magazines, newspapers and newsletters.”

Getting down to the actual components of your marketing plan, you will be

  • Summarizing your current situation:  Products, financials, customers.
  • Identifying Threats and Opportunities facing you now and in the future.
  • Devising Objectives and Goals for your company, and your various product lines.
  • Creating Tracking mechanisms:  how will you measure your progress, and when.

Success for your company, maintaining revenues, and supporting your employees, requires thoughtful planning.  A Marketing Plan is a key component of understanding the niche your company occupies in the greater marketplace.

Content contributed by Maria Brown, SoMNSourceLink.  SoMNSourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.

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