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What is a marketing plan?

A business' marketing plan will serve as a roadmap. This roadmap will guide you in how your will be able to most effectively market your products and services. A well written marketing plan will have a clear outline as to what specific actions will need to be taken, in order to successfully market your products or services. These marketing actions are what will be the tools that convince your target market to buy from you, rather than buying, from your competitors.It is important to understand that writing your marketing plan does not need to be an expensive and time consuming operation. If your marketing plan is effective then it can either a single document, or function as part of your business plan. Remember, that your marketing plan should serve as only a guide to reach your ultimate marketing goals.

One of the major benefits of having a marketing plan is that it can help you to stay organized as you work to reach your marketing goals. Your marketing plan will help you to determine the best strategy that will help you achieve the ultimate amount of marketing success.Your marketing plan will need to include the following sections-
- A complete look at the past marketing history-This can be done by closely examining the internal structure of the marketing plans that have been used. This will help to determine the impact and the results of the marketing decisions that were made in the past.
- A complete outline of the intended target market-A successful marketing plan will need to have a complete outline of the demographics of the intended target market. This should include any pertinent information about the competition as well.
- A complete list of any goals, for future marketing-These should be complete and well thought out marketing goals that will be supported by the entire organization.
This information will need to be included in the following sections-
- Summary and Introduction-This is the section that will outline the main points of the marketing plan. It should function as a synopsis of what has been done, what is being done and what the results are intended to be, in terms of the company's market strategy.
- Marketing Objectives-This section should clearly outline the objectives of the marketing plan. It is important to remember that these objectives will need to be based on an honest understanding of the business culture and any strengths or weaknesses that could affect the marketing strategy. It is also crucial to make sure that the marketing strategy is connected to the overall business strategy. This section is also where any information should be listed in relation to specific markets that will be targeted.
- Situation Analysis-This section will outline the details of your marketing efforts. You will want to take an in-depth look at any factors that could influence your marketing.
- Target Markets-This is perhaps the most important section of your marketing plan. Successful marketers understand that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to marketing. You must be able to clearly identify your target market. The bottom line is that no one company can be everything to everyone. Clearly defining your target market will allow you to determine where to best spend your marketing resources, for the best possible return on investment.
- Marketing strategies-This section will outline the specific ways that you will market to your target market. This section should clearly outline all marketing variables such as: product, price, location and promotional methods that will be used, to achieve the overall marketing goals.
- Tracking and Evaluation-Too often business owners put a well developed marketing plan into effect, only to fail to follow it. You should make sure that your marketing plan includes the necessary strategies that will allow you to determine its efficacy. By tracking your marketing program, you can judge the effectiveness of each marketing strategy, and make changes if you need to.

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