A great marketing plan is an important part of a great business plan.
You have a great new product or service. You have carried out market study sessions and these have indicated a need for your product or service either provincially or nationally. Now you need to raise financing either through a bank loan or from investors.
Any Canadian bank or investor is going to want to see the details of your corporate marketing strategy showing how you plan on bringing your product or service to market. Two important points in all marketing plans are market research and how the plan will be implemented.
Your marketing plan should clearly show how you plan on attracting customers to your product or service and then, how you will persuade them to buy. It will also serve you as a road map on how you are going to sell your company products or services in the short and long term. However, unlike a roadmap that is fixed, your marketing plan will be flexible.
The following are five essential points to writing a good marketing plan.
5 Components of a successful marketing plan
Good marketing plans are organic – in other words, they grow and change as your business moves forward. New systems and marketing services are constantly being developed. Y
ou may find a year from first opening your business, market conditions have changed or a similar product or service to what you are offering has entered the market. New technology could make your product less desirable.
Having an organic plan that will shift and adapt to new market conditions and economic conditions both good and bad is essential.
Your marketing plan is not a one-time effort, destined to be read once and left in a drawer. On the contrary; it should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to reflect the changing needs of your business and your customers.
1. Perform a SWOT analysis
Many companies start with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. This is an in-depth review of the strengths of the business; its weaknesses, wide-ranging opportunities, and potential threats.
This involves identifying the company’s competition and understanding exactly how they operate in the market. It also means becoming familiar with competition strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths are a competitive advantage. Skill, expertise, proficiency and talent that improve a marketplace position and if they cannot be easily copied, set a company apart. Just a few examples of strengths that are well within the control of the business are:
- A trained and well-motivated sales team.
- A loyal staff motivated by incentives.
- High consumer retention and low production costs due to leading-edge technology.
Weaknesses in company planning can reduce a company’s means to reach its objectives or goals. Examples include:
- Unhappy customers due to poor or unreliable delivery systems.
- Poor staff working conditions.
- Outdated production methods.
- Poor marketing efforts and a lack of planning.
- Underfunded marketing budget.
Opportunity can spring up at any time. It can include:
- New markets and market opportunities for your product or service.
- Technological changes can keep your company healthy and on the leading edge if you keep up with new technology.
- New consumer trends.
- Business owners need to look at ongoing staff training to take advantage of new market opportunities.
These are barriers to entry into the business’s primary markets. Examples include:
- Labour shortages.
- Government regulations.
- Unhealthy economic conditions.
- Political developments.
2. Develop a target market profile
Who are your customers? Here you must demonstrate you have a very good idea of your typical customer profile. This would include but not be limited to their needs, their expectations and their whims.
The customer profile should include demographic portraits that illustrate a clear profile of who your client is. Analyze carefully such matters as age, gender, national average incomes, levels of educational attainment and geographic location.
You need to mine down into your research to definitively show the estimated demand for your product or service is factual. Also required is a peek down the road. How the demand for your product or services is expected to grow.
This can be illustrated using an Excel spreadsheet with 3 – 5-year projections based on similar business. This builds confidence within financial institutions or investors that your business has growth potential.
3. Determine customers’ purchase motivation
You need to be very clear to readers of your marketing plan so they understand exactly what motivates customers to buy your products or services. Does your business product or service simplify their lives for example? Is your business model unique to attract customers away from competing products or services?
- Are they pricing competitive?
- Do they have unique properties?
These points will assist you in determining if your business can rise to be a leader in the marketplace.
4. Set marketing objectives
If you don’t know what your end goal is, where are you going? Setting a goal or ongoing milestones is paramount. A goal is not necessarily cast in stone, but you do have to have a good idea of what you want to have achieved at every year-end. Having quarterly goals in the first two to three years also helps keep a business on track.
Use market statistics to gauge your quarterly and annual performance. Examples of these are:
- The gross sales revenues of the business.
- Company net profit margins.
- Gross margins.
- Monthly Recurring Revenues or MRR
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a great management tool and can be used to gauge the loyalty of business/customer relationships.
Your NPS market objectives can include:
- The total market share of your company market segments and market share.
- Realizing the number of projected customers and the retention rate.
- What proportion of your potential market that will make purchases?
- What will be the average price, size or volume of customer purchases?
Once you have set your goals regardless of whether annual revenue dollars or number of clients or customers, you now have to plan on how you will bring prospective customers to your business.
Your choice of marketing methods will be set by your target market and your budget. You do need to understand how different marketing methods reach different audiences. You don’t always have to spend money on costly advertising.
If you have a niche audience, for example, you can take advantage of low-cost guerilla marketing strategies using a number of the following methods. Many of these are employed by mass marketers and businesses with a small beginning marketing budget.
5. Select marketing tactics
It is a low-cost marketing means where a company uses unconventional prospective customer interactions in order to promote a product or service.
This marketing ploy is an Internet-based system where one business rewards one or more affiliate businesses for every visitor or customer created by the affiliate’s marketing efforts.
This is an area of low-cost marketing importance. Company staff can join in and participate in discussions relating to the company’s core business. Topical discussions can also be carried on among subscribers by email.
Electronic Press Kit
The electronic press kit highlights the company’s best qualities and if professionally-produced can make a good first impression. Like all other marketing public dissemination materials, the press kit should be designed to grab the reader’s attention and generate prospective traffic.
This service allows websites to exchange URL links with other websites to drive traffic to each other’s websites. Exchanging links is an efficient way to get better rankings in the search engines.
On-premise events and live promotion
At local events, the company could demonstrate products, answer questions, build relationships with customers and prospects face-to-face and bring qualified buyers straight to the company for personal interactions.
Online social networks
Develop a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as a few examples.
Writing and posting online articles relating to your business products or services is a very cost-effective way to develop a huge amount of one-way links to your company website.
Just like writing and submitting articles, this is a very simple, cost-effective and extremely effective means of getting hundreds of links pointed at the company website.
Pay per click search engine marketing
This service allows bidding on keywords when a person online runs a search on a particular keyword or key phrase. Google, Yahoo, and MSN have pay per click internet marketing services.
Posting online content
This refers to posting articles and stories by staff at article sites inviting contributions. The company benefits with increased traffic, links and sales.
The key goal with PR is to get all company public promotional events scheduled and covered by broadcast department schedulers and producers, so they can allocate reporters, camera crews and photographers ahead of the event.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
This is the process of getting a website ranked higher in search engine results and has become known as “natural” or “organic” search engine optimization.
Finally, a marketing plan without an annual budget and financial forecasting information is incomplete.
This information does not have to be complex; in fact, it’s wise to keep it simple. Start with the following questions:
- How many products or services do you expect to sell quarterly and annually?
- Are your prices competitive?
- What is your cost of production for products or for delivering the services?
- What will be your fixed operating expenses?
- How much startup financing will you need for your business and to get you through the first year?
If you can provide answers to these questions, they will form the basis of your financial information.
Last but not least, a break-even analysis is important to both your marketing and your business plan. This analysis will show how much revenue you need to generate to cover the cost of doing business.
Your business will succeed if you exceed your break-even point on an annual basis. This means generating more cash than that required to run the business. Good luck.
Over to you
We’re interested to know: what are your thoughts about writing a marketing plan for your business in Canada? Do have any questions that we did not cover? How do you see the Canadian market as different from other markets?
Please let us know by leaving a comment below.