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How to prepare a marketing plan

Checklist

  1. 1 Describe your market and the characteristics and size of each market segment; review key market trends.
  2. 2 Research what customers value, such as product features, quality, service, image.
  3. 3 Compare the distribution channels for reaching customers (eg direct sales or through retailers).
  4. 4 Profile your competitors and what they're offering.
  5. 5 Identify other key factors influencing your business environment; carry out a SWOT analysis of your competitive position (SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).
  6. 6 Review the effectiveness of previous marketing initiatives such as advertising campaigns or seasonal sales.
  7. 7 Assess the profitability and sales potential of different customers and market segments, and of different products or activities.
  8. 8 Decide who to target among both existing and potential customers; decide which products to push and those which need updating or replacing.
  9. 9 Set specific objectives: for example, retaining existing customers, increasing order sizes, selling new products or winning new customers.
  10. 10 Decide how you will price each product or service.
  11. 11 Decide how you will distribute and sell; plan how you can improve customer service and satisfaction.
  12. 12 Plan how you will promote your products or services, and how you will keep in touch with customers.
  13. 13 Identify customers' purchasing cycles to timetable marketing activities.
  14. 14 Confirm the implications of your marketing plan for the rest of your business: production and training requirements, for instance.
  15. 15 Prepare realistic sales forecasts and budgets.
  16. 16 Include key indicators (eg new enquiries, conversion rates, customers lost, average order value) and a system for measuring them in your plan.

Cardinal rules

Do:

  • base your plan on solid market research
  • focus on target customers
  • build an action plan to achieve specific objectives
  • learn from experience
  • measure the effectiveness of your plan

Don't:

  • spread your efforts too widely
  • make plans you can't fulfil
  • make unrealistic assumptions and forecasts