Your marketing plan converts your company's business or financial objectives into specific "boots-on-the-ground" activities that are necessary to achieve those objectives. It is your road map that guides your promotion and sales activities to harmonize your products or services with the markets they serve. As the legendary philosopher, Yogi Berra, wisely cautioned, "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
Making the Numbers
Every business owner has a financial objective. It may not be as specific as "obtain an operating profit of $5 million," for example. Your financial objective could be as down-to-earth as making payroll next month or paying the monthly installments on your small-business loan. Regardless of how rarified or down-to-earth your financial objectives may be, you do have them if you're in business. Successful business owners find that concrete marketing plans to "make their numbers" are quite useful in staying the course toward attaining their financial objectives. You may even sleep better at night with a solid marketing plan to make your numbers. The risk in not having one is that "you might not get there."
The Marketing Plan
When you strip away all the marketing gobbledygook, your marketing plan is simply your plan to "make your numbers." Marketing plans have a shelf life with an expiration date, which is usually one year. Your typical plan expressly describes the selling and promotional activities that are to be accomplished, how they are to be accomplished and specifically when they are to be accomplished. Selling and promotional activities normally refer to some variation of the 4 Ps in the marketing mix: product, placement, promotion and price.
The Marketing 4 Ps
"Product" attempts to match your merchandise or service with markets that use your goods or services. "Placement" refers to making your goods or services available at locations where users expect to find similar merchandise. "Promotion" refers to the advertising and sales promotions you employ to drive demand for your products or services. "Price" refers to how you price your goods or services to make your numbers while maintaining a competitive position in the marketplace. Your plan can be elaborate or simplified. However, it should be realistic as opposed to an exercise in futility that has no bearing on what's achievable with your available resources.
Your marketing plan actually is a compilation of mini-plans for each of the Ps in the marketing 4 Ps. Each P has an objective or objectives that articulate a desired outcome, a strategy or strategies that describe how the objectives will be achieved, and the tactics you will employ to execute the strategies. Your plan would be incomplete without a SWOT analysis that assesses the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the component parts of your plan. This will confirm the viability of each component.
Because your marketing plan is your road map to making the numbers, it would be incomplete without financial projections consisting of, at a minimum, a pro-forma income statement that converts your plans, strategies and tactics into anticipated revenue and expenditures. This will help you validate your company's financial objectives.
George Boykin started writing in 2009 after retiring from a career in marketing management spanning 35 years, including several years as CMO for two consumer products national advertisers and as VP for an AAAA consumer products advertising agency. Boykin mainly writes about advertising and marketing for SMBs.