A marketing plan is one component of a business plan. Marketing plans contain information about a company's products and/or services and discuss how potential customers will be identified and how the company's products and/or services will be marketed to them.
Putting together a marketing plan is a time-intensive process that involves conducting a great deal of research using a variety of different resources and then synthesizing that research into one cohesive document that provides a detailed discussion of a company's target market, its competitors, industry trends, etc.
Below is a list of some of the elements generally included in a marketing plan, as well as -- for some of the elements -- suggestions on where to find more information regarding that element.
I. Executive summary - a brief synopsis of the marketing plan that provides highlights about a company's offerings and marketing strategies
II. Situation analysis- presents pertinent information about a company. Commonly included sections include:
- Mission statement - explains a company's purpose, goals, and/or strategy. See Finding a Company's Mission Statement for more information about how to find existing company mission statements and how to write a mission statement.
- Product or service description - provides a detailed description of a company's products and/or services
- Value proposition - explains the benefits that customers will receive from a company's products and/or services. For more information, see Value Proposition.
- SWOT analysis - explains a company's internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats. For more information, see SWOT Analysis Research.
- Critical issues - outlines the strategy that would best utilize a company's strengths and opportunities while minimizing the effects of its weaknesses and threats
III. Market analysis - includes information about market trends and dynamics, as well as about the target market and the competitive environment. Commonly included sections are:
- Macro environment - includes information about the political, economic, social, and technological factors affecting a company, as well as information about the industry in which the company operates
For information about establishing a company in another country, see Finding Country Information.
For information about establishing a company in a U.S. city or town, use Google, Bing, or another search engine to find the city's or town's chamber of commerce, which will provide information about existing area businesses and may provide information about establishing a new business in a particular locale, etc.
For economic information, see Economic Surveys in the Economic Census and/or Economic Indicators and/or Federal Reserve Economic Data.
For demographic and psychographic information, see Finding Demographic or Psychographic Information.
For technology research, search in some of the Library's Marketing databases, using a search strategy such as [your topic] AND technolog*
For industry research, see Finding Industry Overviews and Finding Industry Trends and Projections.
- Market size - discusses current market size as well as expected growth rate. See Finding Market Size Information.
- Market trends - discusses the market factors that may affect purchasing behavior. See Conducting Market Research and/or Finding Industry Trends and Projections.
- Target market analysis - explains which particular population will be the focus of a company's marketing efforts and why the population's characteristics are relevant to the company's marketing plans
- Consumer analysis - discusses demographic, psychographic, and behavior characteristics of the target market identified above. Search in some of the Library's Marketing databases, using a search strategy such as
[your target market] AND (demograph* OR psychograph* OR "consumer behavior")
- Need analysis - explains what needs the target market has and how a company's products and/or services could meet those needs. Target market needs may be identified from the consumer analysis conducted above.
- Competitive analysis - lists a company's major competitors and their marketing strategies. See Finding a Company's Competitors to find a company's major competitors. To find those companies' marketing strategies, search in some of the Library's Marketing databases, using a search strategy such as
[company name] AND "market* strategy"
IV. Market strategy- provides measurable information about how a company will meet its objectives and the time frame in which it will do this
- Marketing objectives - describes a company's goals, usually in terms of sales (units or dollars) or market share
- Financial objectives - describes a company's expected profits or revenue
- Positioning strategy - discusses how a company's products or services will be introduced to the marketplace and differentiated from the products or services of its competitors
- Product strategy - provides detailed information about a company's products or services, including potential future offerings
- Price strategy - explains how a company's products or services will be priced, taking into account internal as well as external factors that may affect supply and demand, etc.
- Distribution strategy - describes where and how a company's products or services will be provided to customers
- Integrated marketing communications strategy - discusses how customers will be informed about a company's products or services
- Branding strategy - describes how a company's name, logo, slogan, design, etc. will be marketed so that they will be increasingly recognized by members of the company's target market. For more information, see Brand Management.
- Marketing research - describes the market research activities that will be conducted during the period for which the marketing plan is being written -- for example, consumer research, industry research, forecasting, competitive analysis, etc.
V. Financial analysis - provides detailed information about a company's projected financial situation
- Break-even analysis - estimates how much of a company's products or services need to be sold in order to cover the company's costs
- Sales forecast - estimates a company's sales for a given period of time. For more information, see Business Forecasting.
- Expense forecast - lists the marketing expenses needed to achieve a company's marketing objectives
VI. Implementation and control - explains how a company's marketing plan will be implemented and what measures the company could in place in order to handle unexpected events
- Implementation - provides a detailed timeline for the execution of the various activities described in the company's marketing plan
- Controls - discusses the benchmarks a company will use to chart its progress against its implementation schedule
- Marketing organization chart - outlines the structure of a company's marketing team, specifying which person is responsible for which marketing activity
- Contingency planning - explains how a company will handle unexpected events
Additional Sources of Information
The print books, e-books, and websites listed below are good sources of additional information about marketing plans and the various elements that make up such plans.
- 30-minute social media marketing: Step-by-step techniques to spread the word about your business fast and free
- Guerrilla marketing in 30 days
- How to make money with social media: An insider's guide on using new and emerging media to grow your business
- Marketing plan handbook: Develop big picture marketing plans for pennies on the dollar
- The procrastinator's guide to marketing, or how to get off your butt and develop your marketing plan!
- 30 minutes to write a marketing plan
- Direct marketing: Strategy, planning, execution
- How to write a successful marketing plan: A disciplined and comprehensive approach
- The marketing plan: How to prepare and implement it
- Understanding consumer decision making: The means-end approach to marketing and advertising strategy
- Entrepreneur: How to create a marketing plan
This site, affiliated with the print Entrepreneur magazine, explains what marketing plans are and how to do the research needed to write one.
- Mplans: How to write a marketing plan
This site contains links to articles that describe the planning process for creating a marketing plan and that give tips for writing effective plans.
- Mplans: Sample marketing plans
This site provides access to hundreds of free sample marketing plans in a variety of categories.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Developing a marketing plan
This site provides numerous links related to creating a marketing plan.