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The marketing plan is an important part of your business plan*. Your marketing plan should include as much detail as possible. The more detailed your plan is, the easier it is to properly focus your marketing dollars.

Important Components of a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan should include detailed information on the following:

  • Product or service features and benefits. There is a benefit for every feature. A feature is something you want to highlight about your product like (in our t-shirt example) the t-shirt is made from 100% Organically Grown Cotton. The benefit to this feature is that there is less impact on the environment.
  • Competition. Study your competition for product features, target market, distribution channels, pricing, and promotion. By knowing your competition’s strengths, you can steal ideas. And you can sell your product against their weaknesses.
  • Pricing. Include all of your costs in the price. As in our example, include the original t-shirt cost, the screen printing cost, the cost of the tags or labels, and the final cost to the consumer. Understanding your costs can help you analyze how to reduce them in the future.
  • Target Market. Who is going to buy your product? Define the person who will buy your product (or use your service). What’s your customer’s age, income, gender, and where do they shop? Find out where your customer goes or what they read to collect information on your product. What do your customers look for in a product such as yours? Do your features match their needs/wants? Think of new potential target markets (use your competitive analysis for this information).
  • Distribution. Research the many ways in which your product can be distributed. Include all areas, like events, markets, fairs, brick and mortar retail, and online retail locations. Are you selling directly to your customer or can you use distributors?
  • Promotion. How is your product being sold? How are you communicating to your customers? List all the areas where you could possibly sell your product – even if you don’t have the dollars now, you might possibly be able to get publicity in the publication in which you would like to advertise.
    • Advertising can include newspapers, magazines, outdoor (for example: billboards, banners, etc.), flyers, direct mail, radio, and television. Online advertising can include a website, e-mails sent out to your clients, link and banner advertising. Be creative, get as many links pointing to your website as possible – especially in places that reach your target market. Make sure your cross-promote. Make sure your all of your communication vehicles support each other and are consistent. For example, your brochure should look like and include your website.
    • Public Relations can include communicating with the press, promotional events, and even contests or sweepstakes.
    • Sales are the most expensive avenue of marketing.
  • Budget. Budgeting for a marketing plan: marketing is an investment more than an expense! During hard times, companies often cut back on marketing dollars due to budget cuts, but if you want your product to sell in these times, your marketing budget should increase. If marketing dollars are well placed, and the right audience is targeted with the right amount of exposure and frequency, your product will sell. There are different ways of setting a marketing budget. The most common is based upon sales figures. You can base your marketing budget upon a percentage of total sales (usually 10%). For example, last year’s sales totaled $20,000 and so this year you will put 10% or $2,000 toward marketing this year. You can also put a dollar amount based upon each sale toward your marketing budget. For example, for every $24 t-shirt sold, you would put $2.00 toward marketing. This way if you project selling 1,000 t-shirts, then you would put $2,000 toward your marketing efforts.
  • Set Objectives. What are your sales expectations? What is your cost compared to sales (can you reduce your overhead in the future?). Where do you want to focus your marketing dollars?
Elements of Public Relations in a Marketing Plan

Press Kit. Your press kit needs to include a Company Fact Sheet, Product/Service Fact Sheet (a list of all products or services, including the features and benefits), Press Releases (current only), Awards list (list any awards you or your product has ever received on one page), Biographies (short paragraphs) on the president and any relevant personnel, Photos and/or Product Samples, Brochure, Testimonial Sheet, Calendar of any upcoming events that will feature your product.

Press Releases. Press releases should announce any ‘new’ news. Whenever you launch a new product (or website), whenever you hire someone new, win an award or contest, participate in an event or partnership/alliance, be sure to communicate with the media about it. The media wants to know about it if it helps its readers in some way.

  • The most important elements of a press release include a catchy headline and answers to the following questions: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Who are you, What are you announcing, When is it going to happen, Where can the reader find it, and Why is this relevant to these readers? These answers should all be in the first paragraph.
  • The second paragraph should go into any extra detail on the announcement and include quotes from a customer or industry spokesperson talking about how your product or service is relevant to the media’s readers. It should also include a quote from someone inside the company, like the president or marketing contact, reinforcing the benefits of this announcement (product, service, etc.). Subsequent paragraphs should include pricing and availability of product or service.
  • The final paragraph should summarize your company, it’s mission, how long it’s been in business and any other relevant answers to questions a reporter might ask about the company. This is called the ‘boilerplate.’
  • Format. The press release should be written clearly and concisely. It should be double-spaced, include contact information at the top and ‘more’ if it runs to two pages, and ‘###’ below the last paragraph.

Media List. Create a list of media contacts that might be interested in your company or product. This list needs to be very accurate (be sure the reporter's beat and contact information on your list is current and up-to-date). Send the reporters (who might be most interested) samples of your product with your press kit. Follow up with a phone call, but be sure to be respectful of their time and communicate with them in a very brief, clear, and concise manner. Your list should include local/general media (newspapers and radio) and targeted media (those publications that are specific to your service or product subject area or industry). Watch for reporters who write articles on your competition, include those reporters in your media list.

  • Calendars
  • Promotions/Events
  • Charity Element

* You should already have a business plan in place, if not, there are some great resources for you through the SBA.