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If marketing is everything you do to place your product (or service) in the hands of potential customers, how do you do it all — especially if you’re all alone? It helps to have a plan.

A marketing plan is more than your map for success. It’s actually a map-making process that when complete will reveal a clear route to your prospective customers.

A good map reveals specific items of information. A good marketing plan should do the same for you. Here are six things your marketing plan should help you accomplish.

1) Prove that you understand your industry. Knowing your product isn’t enough.

2) Identify your target market. These are the people most likely to buy your product or use your services.

3) Identify your competition. Who’s out there and what are they doing?

4) Establish your pricing, distribution, and product positioning. How much will it cost plus a fair profit? How will you get it there? And where do you fit into the marketplace?

5) Get someone to subsidize your dream. If you want to attract investors, a written marketing plan is essential.

6) Focus on a single effective marketing concept. Define your strongest strength and lead with that. For example, Little Caesar’s “pizza pizza” may not be the most innovative idea ever conceived — but it’s certainly one of the more effective. Why? Because it’s simple and consistent.

Here are the major components that you should consider when writing your marketing plan.

Mission (or vision) statement:
This is an external communication of your company’s values. Like Admiral Stockdale, you’re answering the question, “Who am I and what am I doing here”.

Company objective:
This section communicates what you want to do, by when, and how (what are your resources?). It is specific, quantifiable, and is inclusive of your entire company. It is not merely a sales goal. If you’re an entrepreneur, your company objective might also serve as your marketing objective.

Market analysis:
This section reports on the findings of the extensive research that you have pursued and prepared. You need to discuss various factors of the market environment in relation to your product. These factors include legal, social, political, economic, and technological considerations.

Target audience:
Based on your research, discuss who your customers are and how you can reach them. Here’s where you decide whether to niche or not, or to segment your audience either vertically or horizontally.

Competitive analysis:
Your advance research should reveal your competitors, the obvious and especially the others. How does what they’re doing relate to your product? What advantages do you have? How can you keep the advantage?

Action plan:
As Shakespeare said, “Action is eloquence”. You’ve made your map. Now you can define the best route to reach your customers. This section of your marketing plan outlines what media mix you’ll use to reach your audience. Advertising — where, how often, and at what cost. Public relations — specific programs and promotions of interest to the community. Sales strategies — incentive programs for representatives and distributors as well as prospective customers.

A successful marketing plan is based on research and analysis. But because information can be manipulated to prove almost anything, insight is equally important. As Edward de Bono says, “Proof is often no more than a lack of imagination”.

This Marketing Contributed Content article was written by Jan Welborn-Nichols on 3/1/2005

An article provided by Jan Welborn-Nichols, 734-429-2267, Market Arts, Ann Arbor, MI, a provider of marketing services for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Provided by: The Entrepreneur Network