When developing a business plan, one of the most critical areas that every company pays meticulous attention to is the designing of a marketing plan. This is because a marketing plan is the most important part of a business plan, which helps in the introduction and maintenance of the business in a given market. Marketing plans vary from one company to another, as the nature of businesses varies between the different companies. In view of this, therefore, there is no established standard or criteria, upon which a marketing plan has to be developed, and quite honestly, there is no need for one. Thus, every firm and business entity is free to develop their own marketing plans based on the relevant factors surrounding the company. In the preparation of a marketing plan, several factors must be included in the plan if the business wants to succeed. These factors include the goals of the business, the mission strategy, the business environment, which the company intends to operate in, the market need, and the available opportunities that can be taken up by the firm. The marketing plan must also contain the target market, the intended positioning of the business, the communication analysis in the industry, and the pricing analysis of the intended product or service.
A marketing plan is a document prepared by a company or any other business, which introduces the products and services that the firm intends to offer to the consumers. It, however, is not limited to the introduction of the business in the industry; it serves a long-term purpose to the business, as it acts as a pivot in the sustainability of the business and long-term profit realization. A marketing plan, therefore, is a critical instrument, which every business should have in order to ensure its survival and success. A good marketing plan ensures that the business remains relevant even in the midst of the increased competition in the market.
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The preparation of a good marketing plan must remain consistent with the mission statement of the business, as it markets the entire business and not just its products and services. The process of preparing the plan, therefore, involves extensive research that covers both the internal and external environment of the business. Therefore, the research has to cover the business’s products and service lines. It must exhibit a clear picture of the firm’s strengths and weaknesses in the market, and it must involve an understanding of the prevailing conditions in the market, the customer demands, emerging trends in the market, and the impact of the new technological developments to the market.
Business Strategy and Goals
This primarily refers to the mechanisms, which the firm intends to utilize in achieving its goals and objectives. A good business strategy is critical in the development of a good marketing plan, as it sets the ground, on which the business is built. A business strategy, therefore, lays the basis for the construction of a good marketing plan, which develops goals and objectives based on the strategy. The marketing plan is able to develop specific goals and objectives, which are premised on the mission statement of the business.
The goals developed in the market plan must be those, which can be measured in a manner that is quantifiable. The goals must not be general or giving a lot of room for the business, which, in turn, does not confine the business to any achievable goals. The goals must, for instance, state the expected volume of sales or returns; thus, creating a clear target that the business works towards. Similarly, the goals or objectives developed in the marketing plan must also be achievable within a given time frame. The goals must state precisely, at which time period the expected sales must be achieved. For instance, the expected volume of sales must be achievable within a given time frame; for example, a year. In this way, the business is able to focus on the specific goals within a specified time frame. The given period, however, must not be neither too long, nor too shot; it must be a reasonable time frame arrived at after careful consideration of the factors in the market, thereby forming a period long enough to allow for the achievement of the set targets and short enough to allow for the formulation of the new targets. In the same vein, the set goals in the marketing plan must be based on an expected outcome. Thus, the question should be based on what is the expected outcome of the set targets. For instance, where the ending result is pegged on establishing the business as a leader in the provision of products or services. Thus, by setting a target volume of sales, the company sets itself to supply the market with the sufficient quantity of goods and services, so as to be regarded as the trusted supplier of such goods and services.
This is, basically, what is commonly referred to as the SWOT analysis, which combines the internal and external analysis of the environment, in which the business is operating. The situational analysis is important in every marketing plan, as it helps to identify the areas, which the business needs to capitalize on, and those, which the business has to improve on. SWOT analysis simply translates to the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. In categorizing these four aspects of analysis, one discovers that they represent both the internal and external environments. Strengths and weaknesses represent the internal setting of the business. Frankly, strengths refer to the assets of a company, which enable it to have an advantage in the market. This could range from a number of different things found within the business, for instance, good management and organizational set-up can be interpreted as strength for the business. Similarly, where the business has access to the certain facilities, such as tourist attraction centers, historical buildings, and good positional location among others, can also sum up to be strengths. Weaknesses, however, refer to the liabilities of a business, which inhibit its ability to compete and perform optimally in the market. The identification of these weaknesses is critical in the preparation of a good marketing plan. Many businesses operate poorly without being able to identify the places, where there real problems may lie. A business, which has a clear picture of its weaknesses, is able to allocate resources in a proper manner. Weaknesses in a business could include unmotivated employees, poor management, and organizational set-up among others.
The external environment in the situational analysis is represented by opportunities and threats in the market place. A good marketing plan has, therefore, to identify the existing opportunities in the market and be able to utilize such opportunities expeditiously; at the same time, it has to identify the threats and device the means of handling them. Opportunities, thus, can be closely related to the ways the business makes use of its strengths, leading to the creation of the situations, which turn into opportunities. For instance, if a business is located in a good location that attracts tourist, the opportunity could be to allow the business to diversify the types of products and services that it provides, with regard to what is demanded in the market. Thus, in case of a tourist company, which offers only accommodation, the business can diversify to include transportation services, and tour guiding among others. Threats, on the other hand, are related to the weaknesses, which a business has in its internal set-up. Consequently, if a business does not have good management, it faces the threat of collapsing. It is important, therefore, for a good marketing plan to have a thorough analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the business. This allows the business to have a proper rationale for the preparation of a marketing plan; thereby, enhancing the success of the particular business.
The Target Market
This is a critical aspect of making a marketing plan, because it is almost impossible for a given business to become successful, if there is no defined target market for the products and services that the business intends to produce. The marketing plan needs to identify with a degree of clarity and precision, the target market, for which products and services are intended. This is because identifying the target market will help in understanding the market needs; thereby, facilitating the success of the business. This is essentially the most basic concept in the market and it plays a pivotal role in the establishment and growth of a business. The marketing plan cannot, therefore, refer to the target market as the “general public”; there is no such thing in the world of business. This is because every business is usually established in order to address a unique need that the existing businesses have not been able to address. This unique need could be indeed unique, addressing a specific type of population, not the whole of it. It is impossible to please everyone in business; thus, a marketing plan cannot purport to have the general public as its target market.
The target market must be broken down to meet the unique characteristics of the different types of consumers and\or markets that are in existence at any given time. There are many types of consumers, who can be classified into groups that are determined based on the different characteristics. Firstly, the target market must be defined in accordance to the existing demographics. This involves the identification of a market based on the age of the consumers, the existing income of these consumers, marital status, and employment status. Secondly, a target market can be identified in terms of psychographics, which refers to the type of consumers, who are associated with reading magazines, attending sporting or cultural events, preferring dining out at least once or twice every month, and possibly being members of frequent flyers clubs. This is a unique group, whose demands may not be similar to those of other types of markets.
Thirdly, the target market can also be identified with regard to the place of residence. This is important, especially considering the place, where the business is located. It has to be placed close to the area of residence of the target market representatives, so that in this area there will be a need for the products and services that the business supplies. There is also the social group, which represents another type of a target market. This refers to the rich couples without children, the families who are rich but have one or more children, the young families, and the singles in the society. These market group shares the unique demand and cannot, therefore, be generalized as the general public. A market can also be identified in relation to the types of activities that they do. This looks to the normal day-to-day activities that individual does and the things he/she may need to make such activities easier. A good marketing plan should, therefore, be able to define its target market with complete clarity, while remembering to remain diversified.
A marketing strategy refers to the specific part of a marketing plan, which offers details on the ways how marketing variables of the product, price, place, and promotion are used to attain the set goals and objectives. The marketing plan, therefore, is the breakdown on the ways the marketing strategy is going to be achieved in the course of time. The strategy, therefore, where it is well-defined, deals with the precise aspects of the business, which are commonly referred to as the 4P’s. The strategy, thus, gives a definition of the type of the product that the business will be providing for the consumers. The product is defined with clarity, and its importance is also addressed by the strategy in a persuasive and formal language meant for the target market. The strategy similarly gives the price of the product and the justification of that price. This helps the target market to understand why the particular price is given to the product; thereby, making them be able to adjust their budgets in order to accommodate the product. The justification for the pricing must, however, be made giving the due consideration to the type of language used, as too much financial analysis and jargon that the consumer may find too complicated will not achieve the intended aim. It must, therefore, be framed in a clear, simple, and understandable language that the very average consumer can understand with ease. The marketing strategy also gives a location, which is the place, where the product can be found. This includes the means of distribution of the product to the closest place, where the target market can reach the commodity. The provision of a place of distribution is critical for the success of the business, as the target market will be aware of where to go in order to find the commodity. This will help to overcome the competitors; thus, creating the brand loyalty. Finally, in the definition of the 4P’s, the marketing strategy provides a definition of the means of promotion for the product. This includes advertising, publicity, sales promotion, and public relations strategies. The marketing strategy is, therefore, very specific on the means it will employ in order to promote its products and services. This helps in planning, as the business is able to identify the best means of promotion and engage with such means; thereby, being able to achieve maximum benefits.
However, a good marketing strategy does not just limit itself to products, price, place, and promotion. A good marketing plan should even go further and provide 7 instead of the 4 P’s. These will mean the marketing strategy will look at the people it employs to execute its plan. Thus, the strategy ensures that the employees have the rights skills to carry out their respective duties with professionalism and discipline that is required. The employees, thus, facilitate the success of the business, when they are hired, based on merit. A marketing strategy also looks at establishing a good process for the production of its goods and services. This, therefore, ensures that the business is able to set a standard process, upon which it provides goods and services in a manner consistent to the set standards. It is this process that the business is being identified with. Finally, the strategy also ensures that there is proper physical evidence, which instills confidence in the consumers of the quality of services and products that the business provides. This is achieved by ensuring that the working conditions of the employees are properly prepared and maintained in a manner that is presentable, the employees have to be very presentable to the public as well; thereby, creating confidence in the work they do. This is critical to the success of any business, as it allows for motivated workers and confident and trusting consumers.
In conclusion, therefore, a good marketing plan must have a proper tracking mechanism, which assesses and does a follow-up on the marketing plans that have been set. It includes plans and procedures for tracking each type of activity, and assists in monitoring the effectiveness of every plan as set in the marketing strategy. It is an evaluation of the set targets and goals, which helps the business to revise the failed objectives and come up with the new ones. It assists in identifying what worked and what did not work, and formulating new, better, and improved plans that can work. A good marketing plan is not just meant for the entry of a business into the market, it is essentially, the difference between success and failure of a business.