How to Create a Marketing Plan for Your Startup

This is the final post in a four part series on how to create a marketing plan for your startup. We have looked at the 5 questions that you need to answer before you start marketing, the 5 factors that influence customers, and 3 popular types of marketing strategies. Now let’s look at what a basic marketing plan should include. You’ll also find a link to a template to get you started.

Part 4:  Want a Successful Marketing Plan? Be Sure to Include These 4 Elements

Once you have done all the necessary research, described your customers, competition, product and market, you have all the information you need to create a marketing plan that will implement your marketing strategy.

Be sure to write down your marketing plan—just like you did your strategy. It will help you stay focused on your goals, maintain a schedule, stay on budget and work consistently to promote your marketing strategy.

Whatever plan you prepare should include the following elements:

  1. Situation Analysis: Describe the current status of your company. This is basically a summary of the research discussed in the previous 3 parts of this marketing series. You should
    • describe your current products and services and your market
    • detail your marketing advantages and challenges
    • identify where your competitors are located and their strengths and weaknesses and determine how can you take advantage of those weaknesses
    • list the factors outside your control that can impact your business (e.g., if you are a local hardware store, knowing that a Home Depot is opening a mile away is a factor that will impact your business)
    • describe your target customer in as much detail as possible
  2. Goals:  Focus on the goals you want to reach in the next year. (Your overall business and marketing goals may be broader than these goals.) Describe milestones that will allow you to measure your success in reaching your goals (remember your goals should be SMART, that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific).
  3. Strategy and Tactics:  Summarize your marketing strategy and then list the specific steps you will take to implement your strategy and meet your goals. Be specific and lay it all out. Don’t simply say you will increase print advertising. Instead specify the nature and frequency of ads; list the publications that will reach your target audience; consider when your ads might have the biggest impact. Will you attend trade shows? Host community events that will bring people into your business? Create a social media campaign on specific platforms? Make sure you identify who will be responsible for each item and it is a good idea to include a schedule and realistic estimate of time it will take to perform each task.
  4. Budget:  Your marketing budget includes the expenses associated with your marketing plan. Calculate how much each item will cost to implement. If you have few to no sales, you will need to estimate expenses by looking at your initial sales goals and use that to develop your marketing budget. As your business generates more sales, you can determine your cost of marketing by dividing your sales by past marketing expenses.

There are a number of free templates you can find online for marketing plans. A good one to start with is the Small Business Marketing Plan  provided by SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives–a nonprofit association whose mission is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed).

Finally, remember to constantly evaluate the success of the marketing plan. If something isn’t working, change or drop it. Review and update your plan annually to take into account changes that have impacted your business, e.g., changes to your products and services, to your market and competitors, or in the regulatory and legislative environment.

I hope this series of posts on marketing programs will help you get started in creating a strategy and plan that will make your business successful.

If you already have completed your first marketing plan, let us know what worked best for you. Did you successfully meet your goals?

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