Five Steps to Create a Marketing Plan [entrepreneur.com]

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Published on: August 12, 2011
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How business owners can put together a detailed marketing guide for business growth.

While your business plan generally outlines your entire business, a standalone marketing plan focuses specifically, and in more detail, on just that one function. When business owners want to dive deeper into their marketing strategy they will likely put together a detailed plan that outlines their marketing goals — as well as the steps needed to accomplish them.

The standard components of an effective marketing plan can vary depending on who you ask.

Step One: Look inward.
Think of your company as if it were a person with its own unique personality and identity. With that in mind, create separate lists that identify your business’s strengths, weaknesses and goals. Put everything down and create big lists. Don’t edit or reject anything.

Then, find priorities among the bullet points. If you’ve done this right, you’ll have more than you can use, and some more important than others. Kick some of the less important bullets off the list and move the ones that are important to the top.

This sometimes requires input from your managers as well. For example, your management team thinks being conservative on spending is a weakness but you don’t. That might be something to drop off the list.

Related: Guy Kawasaki on Writing an Effective Mission Statement

Step Two: Look outward.
The next list you’ll need to make outlines your business’s opportunities and threats. Think of both as external to your business — factors that you can’t control but can try to predict. Opportunities can include new markets, new products and trends that favor your business. Threats include competition and advances in technology that put you at a disadvantage.

Also make a list of invented people or organizations who serve as ideal buyers or your ideal target market. You can consider each one a persona, such as a grandmother discovering email or a college student getting his or her first credit card. These people are iconic and ideal, and stand for the best possible buyer.

Put yourself in the place of each of these ideal buyers and then think about what media he or she uses and what message would communicate your offering most effectively. Keep your identity in the back of your mind as you flesh out your target markets.

Step Three: Focus on strategy.
Now it’s time to pull your lists together. Look for the intersection of your unique identity and your target market. In terms of your business offerings, what could you drop off the list because it’s not strategic? Then think about dropping those who aren’t in your target market.

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