Marketing Planning Process: 5 Steps for Success

marketing planning processA marketing plan is one of the most important documents in a business for planning their long term success. Done right, it’s a road map that analyzes the business environment, threats and opportunities in the industry, and puts a marketing strategy in place to achieve business objectives. Don’t confuse this with a typical business plan. A marketing plan is more focused on strategy, whereas a business plan has its focus on the financials. In addition, a business plan is typically used as a tool to assist companies raising capital, while a marketing plan aims to give direction for a company, and is a core component of a business plan.

If you’re interested in running through the details, this recent post covers the four steps you need to follow for success in planning your marketing. Within the marketing plan, there is a specific process to follow to ensure you get it right, and plan out how each phase will be accomplished. All you need is to follow these basic process steps:

1. Determine the overall mission of the organization.

The starting point for your marketing plan is determining the goals and the basic objectives you are planning to achieve in your company. Sometimes these are already in place, but if you’re working on a new venture you may need to create this from scratch. This involves setting the company mission, defining what your company is all about, and identifying what makes it unique. Put your focus on the needs that your company solves for your customers, and not simply the products or services you plan to sell. Every good business solves a need. The company mission is the foundation from which all of your marketing plans will be built, and gives you a set of objectives with which you can strive for, and evaluate your performance against. For traditional marketers you can take this course and learn what it takes to be a digital manager in the internet age.

As you work on defining your goals and objectives, remember to clearly articulate the culture, values and philosophy of your company. This helps to give direction to all of your employees, customers, and suppliers – so that everyone knows where the organization is heading, and the ways you plan to get there. Getting these in place helps to motivate employees, and communicates that you’re not just concerned about profits. Once you have all of this together, form the objectives you plan to achieve. As you brainstorm and create the goals to strive for, remember to keep them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. By being clear in your objectives, everyone knows what you’re trying to accomplish.

As an example, typical objectives could be a certain market share percentage, a level of profitability, a specific brand image or a target amount of sales volume. For companies that are more focused on new development, perhaps a better objective could be centered on innovation, such as how many new products to be launched over the next year or the new distribution channels to be brought on board.

2. Assess the resources available.

One of the biggest factors that will determine how you go about achieving your objectives are the resources available to you. Companies with large amounts of capital can launch in a much different fashion than lean startups that begin in a garage with $100. Look at every single resource that is available to you, as this will greatly affect the marketing plan you are putting together.

As you work on this think of the production capabilities of your factories, or your suppliers, and a really great tool to use is a SWOT analysis. Standing for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats it has become somewhat of a buzzword today, but it is a fantastic analytical tool because it lets you learn much about your own operations.

Look at all the strengths within your existing organization. Perhaps there is a really strong sales team, or maybe your expertise is in research and development with a strong tech team. Do this analysis in detail, because it will let you form a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your resources, and help you to determine what you can work with, and build from.

Take all of your strengths, and make sure that you are capitalizing on what you do best to achieve your objectives. When you know your abilities inside and out, and are aware of the objectives you want to reach, you are perfectly position to take advantage of any opportunities that arise. In the same light, be aware of the weaknesses within your organization, and ensure you have adequate measures in place as safeguards for any difficult times, or do everything possible to eliminate them altogether.

3. Evaluate the opportunities and risks present.

Outside of your company’s own strengths and weaknesses, there are a huge range of environmental factors that impact your ability to plan your marketing efforts. As you reach this section perform a detailed analysis of the market, the competitors in the industry, any marketing channels available as well as the economy, political climate and any social factors that may have an influence.

New innovations in products often present new opportunities for a business, but external factors play a massive part in their success. For example, a newly developed drug may have the potential to grow into a billion dollar a year product, but government agencies and regulations may delay the release date of the product.

You also need to study internal factors that will influence your ability to compete in the marketplace, including the costs of production, profit margins, as well as the people, financial resources and equipment available. In addition you need to study the target markets, and ensure what you are producing really does satisfy a need, and there hasn’t been any changes in what customers are looking for. Think about how well your competition is satisfying the needs of your customers, and identify where your company can differentiate and excel. You should also touch on the marketing objectives you set in the first step, and ensure they are still reasonable now that you have more information on both the industry and the market

Ultimately, your company is going to excel only if there is a plan and a strategy in place to give it an advantage over the competition. This is usually a quality advantage, or a price advantage when compared to the competitors in the market.

4. Plan the marketing strategy.

After conducting the opportunity analysis, the next step is to put together the detailed marketing strategy that you will follow. If this is your first time putting this together, this course is fantastic as it takes you step-by-step through the process of getting your marketing strategy together.

Remember to plan out all of your efforts, and make sure that they are resource efficient, and adaptable in case you need to make sudden changes to your plan. The main goal of this segment is to select a target market, and determine how you’re going to reach them all. This is where the marketing mix that you’ve heard many times, the four P’s, comes into play.

  • Product: The item that satisfies the demand of the consumer
  • Price: Setting the right price for the product, and being aware of the customer’s perceived value of the product
  • Promotion: All of the different channels with which you can reach your target audience
  • Place (Distribution): The places where your product is sold, that makes it easy for consumers to purchase

In this section you need to be very specific, and ensure that the four P’s are satisfied. Spend the time and clearly write out how you are going to achieve each of them. If you’re feeling a little stuck, ask yourself some of the following questions to get your creativity running:

  • List all of the different places where you can advertise.
  • When will be the best time to run each of the ads?
  • How will you get your products into stores?
  • List the stores you plan to approach immediately.
  • What are competing products in the market being sold for?

In addition to developing a marketing strategy that meets the four P’s, allocate a budget to each specific aspect. You can’t make an adequate plan if you don’t have an idea what your total marketing efforts are going to cost.

In line with this, getting the right marketing mix is just as critical for online businesses as it is for traditional brick and mortar retailers. Social media today is a massive resource, and is unfortunately not always utilized in marketing plans. Check out this course and run through all the details that are critical to know, as well getting an update on the latest trends.

Don’t forget to assign responsibility in this stage for all the specific actions that need to be taken, and set guidelines on every task. Spell out clearly who is going to take charge, the action that needs to be completed, when it is to be finished, and the final cost of each. In a start-up this is often a difficult component, because there is never enough people to get on top of every task that needs to be done. If you’re in a similar position, you’ll benefit greatly with this course, which teaches you how to use lean marketing techniques as a startup and grow your business through growth hacking.

5. Implement the marketing plan and monitor it.

Once you’ve rolled out your marketing plan, you’re not yet finished. You’ve got the base in place with your marketing strategy, but you need to evaluate and track your development so you can identify what is working, and what needs to be tweaked even further.

Financial projections are needed at this stage, so that you can determine if the actions you’ve implemented are helping you achieve what you’ve set out to achieve. Put together detailed monthly and quarterly projections, including your sales volume targets, profit figures and estimated market share. In this analysis you should also include costs, which will help you to make decisions when specific points within the marketing plan are not working. This lets you pinpoint the cause immediately, and roll out your contingency plans as fast as possible.

Remember to not only look at the figures, but talk to your customers and get their feedback on what you’re implementing. This gives you an additional perspective, and can also help to bring new opportunities to light.

Following these five steps you’ll be able to build a marketing plan that will set your business up for success, and reach your customers with products and services that are exactly what they need. There’s no better recipe for success in business!