Every marketing plan has to fit the needs and situation. Even so, there are standard components you just can't do without. A marketing plan should always have a situation analysis, marketing strategy, sales forecast, and expense budget.
Situation Analysis: Normally this will include a market analysis, a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), and a competitive analysis. The market analysis will include market forecast, segmentation, customer information, and market needs analysis.
Marketing Strategy: This should include at least a mission statement, objectives, and focused strategy including market segment focus and product positioning.
Sales Forecast: This would include enough detail to track sales month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis. Normally a plan will also include specific sales by product, by region or market segment, by channels, by manager responsibilities, and other elements. The forecast alone is a bare minimum.
Expense Budget: This ought to include enough detail to track expenses month by month and follow up on plan-vs.-actual analysis. Normally a plan will also include specific sales tactics, programs, management responsibilities, promotion, and other elements. The expense budget is a bare minimum.
Are They Enough?
These minimum requirements above are not the ideal, just the minimum. In most cases you'll begin a marketing plan with an Executive Summary, and you'll also follow those essentials just described with a review of organizational impact, risks and contingencies, and pending issues.
Include a Specific Action Plan
You should also remember that planning is about the results, not the plan itself. A marketing plan must be measured by the results it produces. The implementation of your plan is much more important than its brilliant ideas or massive market research. You can influence implementation by building a plan full of specific, measurable and concrete plans that can be tracked and followed up. Plan-vs.-actual analysis is critical to the eventual results, and you should build it into your plan.
Business Plan Basics
The best way to show bankers, venture capitalists, and angel investors that you are worthy of financial support is to show them a great business plan. Make sure that your plan is clear, focused and realistic. Then show them that you have the tools, talent and team to make it happen. Your business plan is like your calling card, it will get you in the door where you'll have to convince investors and loan officers that you can put your plan into action.
Once you have raised the money to start or expand your business, your plan will serve as a road map for your business. It is not a static document that you write once and put away. You will reference it often, making sure you stay focused and on track, and meet milestones. It will change and develop as your business evolves.
Do I need a business plan?
Not everyone who starts and runs a business begins with a business plan, but it certainly helps to have one. If you are seeking funding from a venture capitalist, you will certainly need a comprehensive business plan that is well thought out and contains sound business reasoning.
If you are approaching a banker for a loan for a start-up business, your loan officer may suggest a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, which will require a business plan. If you have an existing business and are approaching a bank for capital to expand the business, they often will not require a business plan, but they may look more favorably on your application if you have one.
Reasons for writing a business plan include:
Support a loan application
Raise equity funding
Define and fix objectives and programs to achieve those objectives
Create regular business review and course correction
Define a new business
Define agreements between partners
Set a value on a business for sale or legal purposes
Evaluate a new product line, promotion, or expansion
What's in a business plan?
A business plan should prove that your business will generate enough revenue to cover your expenses and make a satisfactory return for bankers or investors.
Executive Summary--features the highlights of your plan and sells your idea in two pages or less.
Company Summary--a factual description of your company, ownership, and history.
Products (or Services or both)--describes your products and/or services and how they stand out from competitive products and services.
Market Analysis-provides a summary of your typical customers, competitive landscape, market size, and expected market growth.
Strategy and Implementation-describes how you will sell your product, how you will put your plan into action, and establishes milestones.
Management Summary-provides background on the management team, their experiences, and key accomplishments.
Financial Plan-contains key financials including sales, cash flow, and profits.
What makes a successful business plan?
A well thought out idea
Clear and concise writing
A clear and logical structure
Illustrates management's ability to make the business a success
How do you write a business plan?
Sitting down looking at a blank computer screen as you prepare to start your business plan can be daunting. You may want to look at some alternatives that will make the process a bit easier.
Hire a Professional
A professional consultant will create the business plan for you, but you still have to be prepared to think through your business and understand the underlying concepts in your business idea. You will have to work closely with the consultant to ensure that he or she develops a good plan that accurately represents your business or business idea. You can find a list of business planning consultants at www.planconsultants.com.
Buy a Book
There are many good books on the market that will help you to understand what needs to go into a good business plan. You can read Timothy Berry's "Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning".
Use Business Planning Software
A good business planning software package will provide you with an outline for a well-developed, objective-based and professional business plan. Software packages will remove the problem of starting from scratch by structuring your plan for you. The software should ask you the right questions that will pull out the most important underlying concepts within your business idea.