Planning Your Overall Marketing Program

Marketing is a strategic function that starts with a marketing plan encompassing the Four P’s: Product, Price, Promotion and Place of Distribution. As with any investment you make, money you spend on marketing should generate a return. While that return simply could be greater cash flow, the best marketing plans result in higher sales and profits.

Crafting an effective marketing plan entails some basic elements, although details may vary. The following outline presents the most critical actions.

  • Identify your target markets. Who are your customers? Who will you target? Who makes purchasing decisions? Create a Customer Profile to help you understand how best to reach potential customers. Follow this with a Market Analysis so you can better understand the nature of your market and how to position your business within those demographics.
  • Describe your products and services. What are you selling and why does your target market want to buy it? What are the features and benefits of your products and services?
  • Think benefits. Customers don't think in terms of products; they think in terms of benefits and solutions. Your marketing plan should clearly identify what customers are getting when they purchase your goods or services. That way marketing efforts like Mass Market Advertising, Building Market Awareness with Promotions, and Partnering with the Media will be more likely to pay off.
  • Evaluate the competition. Your marketing plan must set you apart from the competition and this means understanding them. Know your Competition by gathering information about their products, services, quality, prices and advertising. What does the competition do that works? What are their weaknesses? How can you create a marketing plan that highlights the advantages you offer to customers?
  • Consider your brand. How customers perceive your business makes a dramatic impact on your sales. Your marketing program should consistently reinforce and extend your Brand. You should further that effort by developing a clear, professional Business Identity. In short, before you start your campaign, think about how you want it to reflect on your business as a whole.
  • Think differentiation. Your products and services must stand out from your Competition. How will you compete on a product and service level?
  • Price appropriately. Make sure you consider Pricing for Sales and also how to Sell More Before Customers Leave the Store.
  • Promote your company. Advertising, public relations, websites, digital marketing and in-store promotions all create awareness and demand for your products and services.
  • Evaluate the results. Always seek the greatest possible return on your marketing spending. Evaluate the results of each element of your marketing program. Measuring Advertising Effectiveness provides a simple way to objectively analyze your results. Don't simply throw dollars at advertising. Find out what works and constantly seek to improve your returns.
  • Develop Goals and a Budget. What do you want to achieve in the next year? Three years? How much will you spend to achieve those results?

If developing an overall marketing plan seems complicated or too time-consuming, get outside help. You can find several free templates for marketing plans on the Internet.

If you plan to contract a marketing firm, look for one that can advise you on a broad range of initiatives. Explain your objectives, share the results of your market analysis and customer profiles, and let a professional help you determine how to implement the right marketing program.