Why do I need a marketing plan?

A marketing plan helps you promote products and services in your business that meet the needs of your target market. It requires research, time and commitment, but is a very valuable process that can greatly contribute to your business success.

Writing and researching for your marketing plan gives you the chance to:

  1. Identify your target market and understand how your product or service meets their needs.
  2. Identify your competitors and what your target customers think about your competitors' strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Position your brand, products and services so that your target market sees your business as better than, or different from, the competition.
  4. Set specific, measurable goals and time frames for your marketing activities.
  5. Map out a strategy to reach your target audience, including the messages, channels and tools you will use.

Marketing plan template and guide

Our marketing plan template and guide gives you a clear process to follow as you develop your marketing plan. It helps you identify who your customers are, how you'll meet their needs and how you'll differentiate yourself from the competition.

The following steps will take you through the basics to developing your marketing plan.

1. Look at your industry structure

Find out about your industry, including industry associations, statistics and benchmarks to help you understand how your business will run compared to others in the industry.

Consider the following when researching your industry:

  • What size is the industry?
  • Is the industry growing or shrinking?
  • What factors might influence how the industry does?
  • Does the industry have a strong or weak presence domestically or overseas?
  • Where does the industry make most of its profit?
  • Who are the leading businesses in the industry?
  • What is the size of the market that these leading businesses operate in?

2. Conduct market research

Carry out market research to gather and organise information about your target market, consumer needs and understand where your business fits within the market. 

To work out your market and business positioning, you may need to know:

  • Who your target customers are?
  • What they’re interested in?
  • What their problems are?
  • What needs do your target customers have?
  • How do your competitors meet the needs of your target market?
  • How can you do it better?

There are two market research methods you can apply. These include:

  • Primary research - new research you can collect first-hand through surveys, interviews and by talking directly to the customer.
  • Secondary research - publicly available information that has already been gathered, such as research reports, government statistics and trade publications.

3. Define your market and customer profiles

Your target market is a group of customers that you plan to sell your products or services to. Your target audience are the customers most likely to buy your products or services.

To determine your market segments you need to determine the needs of each. For example, was the need for you product or service already there? Are there different products or services that fulfil the same need? Will potential customers have a need for your product or service over others?

By evaluating each segment of your target market, you can determine whether there are enough customers to sell your product or service to. It also ensures you don't waste your resources on market segments that won't buy your products. 

You can segment your ideal customers into groups sharing the same characteristics such as gender, location, income, family size, preferred media channels and likes and dislikes. You can then tailor your marketing strategies to suit your target customer segments.

4. Conduct a SWOT analysis

Identify your business's internal strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats (SWOT). They can have an impact on your business.

Developing a SWOT analysis can help you analyse where your business and products fit within the market and your unique selling position. It can also help you discover how your business can improve, what you excel at and what practices other businesses are using.

  • Strengths - What does your business do well? What do you do better than your competition?
  • Weaknesses - What does your business need to improve to stay competitive? What does your competitor do better than you? What's holding your business back?
  • Opportunities - What market trends could lead to increased sales? What can you use to your businesses advantage?
  • Threats - what are the advantages competitors have over your business? What could harm your business?

5. Study the competition

Who are your competitors? By analysing your competition you can find out what your competitors are doing, how you compare and what potential threat they present to your business.

You can identify your competitors from two main groups:

  • Direct competitors – businesses that offer the same products or services as you.
  • Indirect competitors – businesses that sell products or services that are different but may satisfy the same consumer need.

For example, a fish and chip shop competes indirectly with a pizza shop but directly with another fish and chip shop.

Once you have identified who your competitors are determine their profile:

  • What products or services do they sell?
  • Do they offer a similar product or service?
  • What do they offer their customers?
  • How do they engage with their customers?
  • Where are they located?
  • How competitive are they?
  • How much market share do they have?
  • What type of media channels do they use to market their products or services?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

The more you know about your competitors the better you'll be at identifying where you fit in the market and the potential opportunities available for your business.

6. Set your goals and objectives

Once you're clear about your business and its positioning, you can start thinking about what you want to achieve.

First, think long-term and figure out your main business goals, whether it's the size of your business, expansion plans or profit figures.

Then, figure out what your immediate objectives are, whether it's to establish your business in the market or to increase sales or customers.

7. Outline your marketing strategies

Once you know what you want, start analysing your short-term business objectives and try and figure out what marketing activity, process or price will help you achieve your objectives.

When choosing marketing activities, try and choose activities that suit your business and your customers. For example, it's not a good idea choosing newspaper advertising if your customers are primarily young adults who might not necessarily read the paper.

It's a good idea to choose multiple activities that complement each other, to help you get your message across. For example, if you're trying to establish a new product in the market, you may choose to advertise on the local radio, as well as setting up social media channels and introduce a low-cost pricing strategy for first-time buyers. When used together, these strategies start to complement each other and help you reach a broader market.

8. Set your marketing budget

Knowing how much you have to spend on marketing and how to spend it is critical to the success of your business. A marketing budget will ensure you accurately calculate your marketing campaign or advertising. 

When developing your marketing budget, make sure you're only spending money on the requirements of your current marketing goals. Advertising and promotion can be expensive. Make sure to pick options that will give you the best bang for your buck, while still reaching your target customers.

9. Keep your marketing plan up-to-date

Many factors can impact your marketing results and it’s important you’re aware of them. Analysing your results and keeping up to date with new marketing trends is important in keeping your marketing plan up to date and reaching your business goals. Remember your marketing plan is a living guide that you should tweak and change as your business and market grow and change.

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