A marketing plan is a layout of the strategies a marketing department will employ to do its job within the larger organisation. All businesses should have a formal marketing plan to help guide decisions. This is true even for small businesses. As business guru Michael Gerber points out, the success of small businesses is tied to the degree to which they act like large businesses.
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Sections of Marketing Plans
There are different ways to structure a marketing plan. It can be a few thoughts scrawled on a bar napkin or a high-tech PowerPoint show. One commonly accepted structure is the AOSTC format. This is an acronym standing for analysis, objectives, strategies, tactics and control. Each of these sections deals with a different consideration for marketing in your organisation.
The analysis section of a marketing plan deals with what is happening at the time the plan is written. It includes two subsections: internal audit and external audit. The internal audit looks at everything going on within the company that affects marketing, such as budgets, sales history and structure. The external audit looks at the outside environment in terms of its effects on the plan. Outside considerations include industry news, competition, opportunities and events.
The objectives section sets marketing goals for the time period covered in the marketing plan. Where analysis stated where the company is, the objectives section defines where you want to be. The most effective objectives are detailed and specific. Many organizational experts use the acronym SMART to describe well-defined objectives. SMART means that a good objective is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed.
Strategies and Tactics
The strategy and tactics section of a marketing plan outlines initiatives for reaching objectives one by one. Strategy deals with big picture, while tactics handle the details. "Increse Internet presence" is a strategy. "Redo Web page" and "establish a Facebook presence" would be two tactics within that strategy. Well-developed strategies and tactics take into account both the objectives and analysis sections of the marketing plan.
Control defines how you will measure progress toward your objectives. This section is formed by the measurable and timed nature of the objectives you set. Benchmarks are a key part of the control process, setting subgoals that rate your progress toward the completed objective. For example, an objective of a 12 per cent sales increase in six months should be controlled by examining sales statistics on a monthly basis. If sales increases by 2 per cent in a month, your company is on track for meeting its goals. If it falls short, you need to re-evaluate your strategies and tactics.
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