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Why you need a marketing plan

It helps you focus on your markets and customers, creates a strong, positive increase on profitability – combined with the business plan (which takes a much broader view!) – it enables you to plan in advance where the profits will come from.

I wrote this list of questions many years ago - despite the social media revolution and technological changes that have accompanied it - the same questions still need to be at least discussed and thought through - hope it helps . . .


What do you do, what is your expertise and where in general terms do you trade?


What is your marketing environment, specific marketing activity, internal marketing system? The company’s markets, customers, competitors – economic/political? What in-house data do you have? Targeting which sector?

Market Research:

Collection of data relating to your markets? Analysis in the context of marketing your products? Describe the market? How does it change? Primary data: do you speak to your customers directly to find out what they want? Secondary data: what desk research and from what sources? Government data, company information, trade directories, trade associations, reports – Mintel etc.

Marketing Audit:

Market Information:

How big is the market? How is it segmented/structured? Who are the main customers? Who are the main suppliers? What are the main products sold? What state is the market in: Is it a new market, a mature market, a saturated market? How well are companies doing? What are the normal/usual channels to market? (product to consumer – how does it get there?) What methods of communication are normally used? Are there any methods of funding for prospects? What legislation applies? Trademarks/copyright? Protection of intellectual property? What new areas of the market are developing? What new products are developing?

Product information:

Who are your potential customers? Where are they? Who are the market leaders – who do you want to be associated with? Do your products meet customers’ needs? Is product development necessary? Are completely new products required? What would be the potential of a new product? How is your company perceived in the market?

Internal Market Research:

What statistics do you possess? What can be used from the existing database? – Sales data, new business data, old data? What trade associations do you belong to? What information is available from them?

Market Segmentation:

Proposition tailored for individual markets? Generic? Different customers have different needs? Geographical?

Industry by Product? Size of end-user Distribution channel? Type of decision maker? Relevant historical sales?


To explore these we need to be very honest!! Strengths: The company and its products? Exploit these! Weaknesses: The company and its products? Overcome these!

Opportunities: External factors that you have no control over? Grasp these! Threats: External factors that you have no control over? Defend yourself against t he s e !


Political factors: Economic: Socia-cultural factors: Technological factors:


Who are your main competitors? How do they compare with your company in size? Where are they located?

Are they owned by key potential customers? Do they operate in the same market sectors as you? What products do they manufacture/sell? How does their pricing compare with yours? What sales/distribution channels do they use?

Where do they have a prominence? – region, sector etc. Have they recently introduced new products?

How do they use the 4ps Product/Price/Place/Promotion?


What services do you provide? Do you want this activity to enable cross-selling, up-selling?


What is your USP?

1. What are the key features of your product/service?

2. What are the key features of the competitive products/service?

3. Which of your product's key features are truly different?

4. If there's more than one, is one the most significant?

5. How does that most important unique feature, or combination of features, translate into a real benefit? (the answer!)

What are you good at? What do you do best? Create awareness? Pre-eminence in your sector – leading to new business leads? Generate revenue through what?

Specialise in?


New business? Funding? Available capital? Infrastructure? Client satisfaction? Repeat business 10% less marketing costs than finding new clients?


What image do you have in the market place? What are your customers first impressions? What do your customers like and dislike? Is the first experience positive?

Are you consistent and reliable? Do you show your customers respect? Do you add value to the experience? Always say thank you? Admit when you are wrong? The final experience – the customer always remembers it!


If relevant?


What is the driving force in your market place? New Technology – internet etc? Local, National, International Where are the growth areas predicted to be?


Mission statement: What is it?

Marketing Objectives:

Objectives are what we want to achieve – strategies are how we get there! Achieve objectives using strategies of price, promotion and distribution.

Objectives, strategies, tactics, action plans, budgets! Which products to which markets? Personal objectives? Sell existing products into existing markets? Sell existing products into new markets?

Sell new products into existing markets?

Sell new products into new markets?

Objectives definable, quantifiable and achievable?

What value/market share do you want to achieve?

Product life-cycle?

Relative market share – economies/dis-economies of scale?

Gap analysis: close the gap between what you need to achieve and what would happen if you did nothing?

Financial Objectives:

Increase sales by? Increase national/international sales by? Increase market share by? Sales turnover over the period of the plan by product and market segment? Market share over the period of the plan by product and market segment? Gross Profit on sales? Budget? All you can afford method? Percentage of sales method? Objective and task method? Competitor parity method?

Target Markets:

Target who? Who do you want to communicate with? What level? What position will the prospect hold? Scatter-gun/precise? Single sector/multi-sector? Financial stability? Two years’ trading min? High volume/high value buyers – place frequent large order?

(stars) High volume/low value buyers – place frequent small orders?

(cash cow) Low volume/high value buyers – place occasional large orders (question mark) Low volume/low value buyers – place occasional small orders (dog)


How do you want to be seen/perceived? What level do you want to work at? Local, National, International?

Marketing Mix – Method of Promotion:

Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Word of mouth – networking? Repeat business?

Main methods of communication:

1) Website

2) Social Media

3) PR: Press Releases, Events, Sponsorship, Corporate Communications, Exhibitions?

4) Sales Promotion: Money off coupons, Free Samples, 2 for 1 Promotions, Incentives/Gifts?

5) Personal Selling: Sales Calls, Telemarketing?

6) Direct Marketing: Database Marketing (mail, fax, telephone), Internet Marketing, Brochures, Leaflets.

7) Advertising: Press, TV, Radio, Ambient (shopping arcades, buses, billboards, mobile) .

Services Offered:

How do you communicate with the client? Pro-active service? Web-site – personal access? Client follow-up – satisfaction survey? Regular contact?

Personal visit? Regular Newsletter Communication?


Is it competitive? Is it price sensitive? Is it like for like? Change price, terms and conditions for different sectors/? Discounts?


Marketing activity defined in this plan will generate sales in the first year, second year, third year, fourth year of?

Gross profit margin? Net profit margin? ROI ? Ratio of sales to direct marketing costs? Break-even analysis:

Fixed costs, variable costs?

Sales Forecast:

Existing sales? Conservative? High Expectancy? Starting from – for how long? Sales Breakdown by Sector/Segment: Expected % breakdown?

Sales Breakdown by Region: Expected % breakdown?

Expense Forecast:

Expected marketing expenses? Spread over what term/how much? Expense Breakdown by Sector:

Expense Breakdown by Region: Linking Expenses to Strategy and Tactics: Contribution Margins: Breakdown of cost of sales after initial marketing costs % for first year in comparison to second?


This plan is worth nothing if it is not implemented – what will make it happen?


Critical path, milestones, list of activity. Measure and Control:

Marketing plan will give bench marks for assessment as you progress – the plan can be amended as you go

Expenditure on communications against cost of sales, number of customer gained, profitability, cost per lead etc.

Pretest? Coupon returns? Number of enquiries?

Marketing Organisation:

Who will carry out the tasks? Internal/external?

Contingency Planning - WHAT IT?

Hope some of the above resonate with you or at least provokes a thought process meaning you taken everything into consideration.

Paul Thompson

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