A marketing plan describes who the customer is, what the product is, how the product will compete, what steps will be taken to promote the product, and estimates the anticipated return on marketing investments.
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A marketing plan may be more important than a business plan, because it looks at a shorter time horizon, defines specific objectives, determines how those objectives are to be accomplished, and provides a mechanism for review to determine how successful the plan’s initiation has been, which allows for the improved accuracy of future marketing plans.
The essential quality of a marketing plan is that it must outline specific steps that will be taken. Often a detailed marketing plan will spell out a line-item budget, including the amount of money to be spent on various marketing channels, and the anticipated Return on Investment (ROI) for each of those marketing activities.
For example, a marketing plan for a business with a minimal budget might outline planned activities to be conducted by the owner, and achievable targets for those activities. This might include time spent networking on social media websites; other time spent engaging with industry-related enthusiasts; time spent making mailing lists and writing letters; or time spent cold-calling, if no better options are available. The expected cost and estimated financial return of each of these activities would be included in the plan.
A business with lofty ambitions might hire a consultant to spend the time taking care of many marketing functions, from social media activities to media placement of advertisements. A marketing plan for this business would specify how much is budgeted for which media channel, and the expected number of conversions for each of these channels. Line items might include the cost of developing a new website; the cost of creating a TV advertisement; the cost of producing a radio advertisement; the cost of designing a full-page advertisement for a magazine; the cost of hiring a photographer to take pictures of the full product line; the cost of producing mailers; the cost of a mailing list; the cost of postage, addressing, and fulfillment; the cost of running an advertisement on television; the cost of running an ad in a magazine; the cost of running an ad on the radio; and so on. Each cost would be justified with an expected Return on Investment. Strategy is an important consideration in a marketing plan. Some costs may be justified as defensive moves, even if the ROI is low, to maintain visibility and prevent a competitor from taking market share.
The important consideration is that the activities defined in the Marketing Plan must have a target that will eventually translate into measurable financial returns.
In other words, the purpose of a marketing plan is to put money in your pocket.
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