Why Is Having a Marketing Plan Important?
Every business, no matter how big or small, needs a marketing plan. A business cannot sustain without reaching out to people to promote its products or services. For people to take notice of your business or what you have to offer, a solid marketing strategy is imperative.
All that said, creating a good marketing plan or strategy is not everyone’s cup of tea. When you put in so much of your time, effort and resources into marketing for your business, it has to be fruitful too. For that, you first need to understand why a good marketing plan is crucial to your business and how you can find out different ways of creating a power-packed marketing strategy.
FAQ: Why do you need a marketing plan?
In the old times, word of mouth was enough for a business to make their presence known. But in today’s world, the competition that every business has to face is immense. There are at least a hundred other businesses offering the same things that you are. Customers have so many options to choose from that it is becoming all the more difficult to win their loyalty and goodwill.
To be noticed and known in this competitive market, a good marketing plan is your best bet. Your marketing plan has to be one that will take you a notch above the others. And what will this marketing plan do for you? The purpose of a marketing plan is to act as a road map of how your product or service needs to be sold.
FAQ: What does a marketing plan have?
Every business needs its own unique marketing strategy. However, certain things are common to most marketing plans. The first task is to allocate the marketing resources of a business in the best and most profitable way. Your plan has to have a detailed strategy of how you are going to use your marketing budget, on what platforms you plan to advertise and who your target audience should be.
Any marketing plan can be broken down to a few key components:
- Analysis of situation – Like planning in any other business operation, marketing planning too first needs an analysis of the status quo. Here, it mostly includes market analysis, your SWOT analysis and competition analysis. This analysis will give you a market forecast, customer information and an idea of where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
- Marketing strategy – The marketing strategy includes your objective, mission statement and your approach regarding which segment of the market you want to focus on and who will be your target customers.
- Forecast of sales – Your marketing plan should also include a method of forecasting sales, as well as tracking your actual monthly sales. The marketing plan should also lay down a method to follow up on how close the actual sales are to the forecast made. A good marketing plan should have a more detailed sales analysis specific to each region, or market segment, or channels through which customers make a purchase, and so on.
- Budget – One of the most important components of any marketing plan is the marketing budget. This should include all your expenses on marketing, that is, everything from advertising to paying your marketing executives to any other activity taken up for marketing.
This just gives you the basic structure of a good marketing plan. Depending on the type of business you run and your marketing needs, there are many more intricacies that will need to be added to the plan.
FAQ: Why is a marketing plan important?
It is a common misconception that only new or small businesses need a good marketing plan, and big businesses can survive on their reputation alone as people already identify with their brand. In this age of cut-throat competition, this idea has no relevance. Even the biggest of big companies can no longer sustain without a good marketing plan in place.
A marketing plan has been found to be more important than a business’ history when it comes to surviving in the long run. You may think that since you have started small or had trouble in establishing your business in the past, you have no chance of succeeding. But that too is not true. With the right marketing plan, you can surpass your competitors, even if you are lagging right now.
Here’s why a marketing plan is so important:
Helps a business strategise
A marketing plan is all about creating a strategy for the long run. Creating a marketing plan will force you to think ahead and anticipate the effects of any promotional activity undertaken, both on the sales and your brand image. It will help you to come up with innovative ideas to be implemented to meet your sales targets. According to a survey, marketers who have a documented strategy are 313% more likely to report success.
Document and formalise new ideas
For every new product or service created by your company, a marketing plan will allow you to document and formalise the idea behind developing this new product. When the idea is documented, you will be able to find out the areas where your product is still lagging or notice certain areas you had not considered earlier, which may affect how the new product will be received in the market. So, having a marketing plan gives you a better picture of how products might perform in the market and how you can improve upon them.
Helps you set and meet deadlines
Every process in a business has to be time-bound for the business to be successful. Without a proper plan of action, your marketing efforts may begin to slack in terms of keeping up with time. Businesses that have been around for some time and have a decent customer base, particularly, may tend to get a little laid-back over the years, and that is when things start slipping out of their hands. They fail to meet customer demands on time, miss out on new opportunities, and before they even realise, the whole business might crumble.
A marketing plan prevents that from happening. Your marketing plan will lay down strict but achievable timelines for each activity, and it will compel you and your marketing team to stick to it. Because when things are documented, you can track whether everything is going according to the preset timeline or if anyone has missed a deadline. This helps you maintain consistency and streamline your marketing operations.
Helps you create a reputation for your business
A good marketing plan can help you build a reputation for your company. A company that thinks ahead plans diligently, knows who and where it needs to focus on and is consistent in its marketing efforts, is bound to impress people. A good marketing plan can also establish your business as a trusted thought leader that even your competitors look up to.
FAQ: What happens if you don’t have a marketing plan?
You’ve seen businesses running fine even without a very robust marketing plan. So, why do you need one? What happens if you don’t have a marketing plan? You may ask. To answer this, you must first know that nearly 50% of small businesses fail after the first five years. And what is the reason behind this? The failure to plan ahead.
If you do not have a marketing plan in place, although your business appears to be running smoothly in the beginning, it will gradually begin to face some of the issues like:
- Losing out to competition
- Failing to retain customers
- Gaining fewer customers
- Losing market share to new competitors
- Missing out on opportunities for more targeted publicity
- Giving more opportunities to competitors to fill in the loopholes that your service has, drawing away your existing customers.
So, yes, there may be businesses running fine without a proper marketing plan right now, but in about five years, you wouldn’t feel the same way. It is rather better to look at businesses that have been performing well consistently, for years on end. On studying such businesses, you will surely be able to appreciate the amount of importance given to marketing planning.
FAQ: What are the challenges faced by businesses in creating a marketing plan?
It is obvious that like all other business processes, creating a marketing plan will also be quite challenging for first-timers. The first and most common challenge that new businesses face in marketing planning is, “Where do we start?” Marketing planning is an extensive process, and it may be intimidating in the beginning. It is natural to feel clueless at first, but there are ways of tackling that too.
The first thing to do here is to break down this Herculean task into smaller sections and include more people in your team. For instance, you have to break down your marketing plan into smaller sections, like digital marketing, print media advertising, television advertising, or whatever applies to your business. Then, assign a separate team to manage each section so that no one person is overburdened.
This way, you gradually put everything into place, and things will get easier to manage and more organised.
Then again, there are challenges like deciding which platforms and which channels to include in your marketing plan. Whether social media marketing would be more profitable to your business or should you go for print ads and television ads? These kinds of questions will be answered as you move ahead with your planning. Once you have identified your target customers, you will be able to study on which platforms that section of people spend more time and accordingly choose your marketing platforms.
So, though challenges will come up in planning from time to time, you can overcome them with just a little patience and some diligent research.
FAQ: How can you write a good marketing plan?
There is a difference between having a marketing plan and a good marketing plan. Depending on the activities that every business takes up for marketing, anyone can write a marketing plan. But to create a good one, specifically for your business, requires some hard work and skill.
Your customised marketing plan will only prove to be fruitful when you have done sufficient research. Here’s how you can create a good marketing plan:
Study your industry structure – What works for the food industry will not always work for the textile industry too, for instance. So, you cannot just expect to have the same agenda as any other business. Study your industry associations, statistics and benchmarks. See who your competitions in the industry are, what is the future of the industry you’re in, whether it has a local or a global presence, and what factors influence the industry’s performance.
Carry out market research – Before you make a marketing plan, you need to know who you are marketing for. So, identify your target market and customers. Gather as much information on both as possible. Try to understand the consumer demands and how your business fits into this market. Gather first-hand information through surveys and interviews or study existing reports and statistics to understand the market. In fact, according to reports, 56% of the best marketers conduct monthly research on their audience.
Study the competition – Identify your competitors, both direct and indirect. Direct competitors are those who offer the same product or service as you. Indirect competitors are those who offer different products but satisfy the same customer needs as your products. Find out what these competitors offer to their customers, how they engage customers, how much market share they have, what channels do they use for marketing, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Set your goals – Once the research is done, go ahead and set a marketing goal for your business. First, look at a long term goal and then figure out what your immediate objectives are that will take you closer to your goal.
Lay down your marketing strategy – Now that your goal is set, you can begin to lay down your marketing strategy. Decide what marketing activities you need to take up and on which platforms. Instead of just following what your competitors are doing, try to find out innovative ways of reaching out to your target audience. Build a strategy that best suits your business. Also, pay attention to the marketing budget when building your strategy.
Keep updating your marketing plan – Market scenarios keep changing. It is important that you keep up with the changes and update your marketing plans to meet the need of the hour.
A marketing plan can certainly make a big impact on your business, especially in today’s world where the competition is so intense that you need to make use of all the tools available to you to make your business a great success. Keep in mind that it is also imperative that as your business grows and expands, your marketing plan will have to adapt to the changes as well.