How To Write A Basic Marketing Plan

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Marketing plans are critical for any size company, especially in this economy. An effective marketing plan helps you identify your sales goals and position your product or service within the overall competitive landscape. Over time the plan can become an ongoing blueprint for business development.

A well-written marketing plan helps you think through how you will reach prospects and customers with your message. It demonstrates how you will acquire leads and convert them into paying customers. While high-end Harvard MBA-type marketing plans have their appropriate place, I’m going to show you how to create a quick n’ dirty marketing plan that you can use right now. Assuming you have already developed your product or service, this very basic plan will help you get your business going and growing.

Executive Summary

Like a business plan, this section gives a short description of your company, product and/or service, and should state your high-level marketing goals. An example of a high-level marketing goal would be something like “We plan to sell 100,000 units online by the end of our fiscal year and achieve a 10-15% profit margin”.     

Target Audience

Rather than trying to sell to everyone, identify the people most interested in your product or service. Ask yourself these questions and write down the answers in your plan:  
  • Who is your audience? What are their demographics?
  • What are their hot buttons?
  • What will move them to take action?
Products and Services 

Use this section to describe your products, services and pricing in more detail.  

Competitive Advantage    

What is it about your product or service that truly separates you from your competition? Who is your competition, and what is your remarkable difference?


Core Messaging Strategy
What’s the core message for your product or service? Is it the right message? How do you know? You may think you know what your audience will respond to, but it’s much more effective to prove it in the real world by doing research. This is the best way to develop the right messaging for your customers.   
Customer Research    

First, identify the most promising target audience in as much detail as possible. In other words, find these people in the real world and find out what makes them tick. How do you do that? There are two main ways, both of which are equally important:

1) Online research such as Google News Alerts, relevant blogs and forums
2) Interviews with 5-10 potential customers (you probably have them in your database or existing network)

These two steps will help you identify issues that are important to your audience. They will also help identify online communities, trade associations, publications and any other vehicles you can use to reach them with your message.

Next, test some preliminary messages to confirm they resonate with your target audience and elicit the desired response. If they don’t, revise them until they do. Once you get the messaging locked you can start getting the word out.

Based on your research, your marketing plan might include the following proposed tactics:   

  • Elevator pitch with the key value proposition
  • Key benefits/selling points
  • A sales kit with a powerpoint presentation, business cards, company backgrounder
  • Viral marketing through Twitter/Facebook
  • PR
  • Testimonials
  • Email marketing
  • Blogging/community building
  • Trade shows
  • Test Plan
Each proposed tactic should be fleshed out in more detail stating how it will be executed and measured.
You need to understand why you are going to spend money on a given marketing tactic. Some companies redesign their website because they saw it in the latest marketing newsletter. That’s not a good reason to shell out your hard-earned cash. Instead, ask yourself, for every dollar you spend on marketing, what’s the expected return? Go in with the expectation that marketing dollars and associated projects must generate revenue. Each tactic will have an associated cost, whether it’s your own time or outside costs such as email vendors, printing costs or consulting fees. So make sure your plan is both practical and within your budget.
Success Metrics 
How do you know if any of these things are going to work? Effective online marketing is easily measured. It either works or it doesn’t. This is why Google is so successful and traditional advertising is dwindling. For every tactic you use to support your marketing strategy, make sure you can measure its overall effectiveness. Google Analytics and services like Crazy Egg are best for websites and blogs, and many online marketing vendors have dashboards that let you measure things like open rates and clickthroughs. Just remember that what gets measured gets managed. Know what you want to accomplish before you launch your campaigns.

Test and Test Again

Finally, keep testing and revising your message and tactics as often as possible. Stay close to your market and listen to what they say. Successful marketing is all about fulfilling customer needs. Ask your customers what they want and deliver it to them in a memorable, professional, and profitable way.

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