You can be an online entity operating under a “one man” management structure or a multi billion manufacturing unit, the one thing that you absolutely cannot do without is a good marketing plan. For reasons, far too many to recount, a successful business is one which relies on and works around a strategic and structured marketing plan.

So what is a marketing plan?

In simple language, a marketing plan is a detailed outline of your marketing strategy. This plan is based on the following considerations:

· Client information (demographic classification, likes, preferences etc.)
· Market size
· Sales potential
· Prevailing marketing trends, tools and resources
· Competitors marketing strategies (already existing businesses)
· Available resources
· Available capital
· Best marketing approach with respect to the above points; this on a yearly basis

Once you are already in business your next year marketing plans will include information from all quarters of your business such as sales, supply, personnel and finance.

Large businesses make do with hundreds of pages of marketing ideas, tools, resources and plans. Some of which are pursued with zeal and diligence while others might fail to see the light of the day. A small business or enterprise on the other hand might limit their marketing plans to perhaps a few pages. Either way, these plans and ideas are vital for they give direction to how the business interests can be furthered and improved. What is vital is that you refer to it on a regular basis so as to analyze and study monthly reports generated from sales, so you know where you are headed and how far.

Envisaging a business is easy, it is the planning stage that is complicated. Big businesses have the resources and tools and the labor force to pursue goals and ideas on a long term basis. However, small business entrepreneurs would do a lot better to plan their marketing and business goals on a yearly basis. Firms that are successful in marketing invariably start with a marketing plan. Large companies have plans with hundreds of pages; small companies can get by with a half-dozen sheets. Put your marketing plan in a three-ring binder. Refer to it at least quarterly, but better yet monthly. Leave a tab for putting in monthly reports on sales/manufacturing; this will allow you to track performance as you follow the plan.

Benefits of a marketing plan

A marketing plan is not just vital to a business but it also carries certain benefits. Here are some of the benefits explained –

Focal point: A marketing plan is in a lot of ways the focal point of your business. It brings together the meaning of having planned a business by offering dimension and a vision to where your business is going to be in the next year or a few years from now.

Charting business success: A marketing plan may or may not be able to capture accurate information. Well where people and behavioral patterns are concerned it is never possible to be right on all counts. So while it is true that a marketing plan does not always give the best and most perfect interpretations of the consumer world, it is still a representation. Just remember without any kind of representation of facts and figures, however inaccurate they might be, planning ahead is impossible. And these days, one has the benefit of using several market indices that help in studying and analyzing market trends. Hence a marketing plan helps in charting your business course keeping in mind its goals and objectives.

Serves as a “to do list” for the coming year: One of the benefits of having a marketing plan in place is so you know what your future goals are and the tasks and duties that you need to perform in order to achieve those goals. Once you have carefully analyzed every aspect of your business, knowing how to plan and move ahead becomes a lot easier.

Reference point: Changes are an accepted aspect of business. Your products and services might take a new form, your clientele grows and changes, people you employee might come and go. These are all loose cannons that might force you to make adjustments and changes. However a well written and well documented marketing plan will ensure that you don’t loose focus of what your end goals and objectives are.

Assessing and planning against competition: You cannot be the only vendor for any specific product of service within a given market. You are bound to have competitors who will do everything possible to tip the scales in their favor. A marketing plan in place means you can asses your competition and plan your best possible approach to counter it.