How to Write a Marketing Plan Tutorial

The Marketing Plan is a highly detailed, heavily researched and, hopefully, well written report that many inside and possibly outside the organization will evaluate. In many respects, the Marketing Plan is the most important document produced by marketers as it not only helps to justify what has occurred in the past, but is critical for explaining where a company intends to go in the future. 

Th Marketing Plan is widely used by both large large corporate marketing departments and also by small startup companies.  It is particularly important for marketers who seek funding for new projects or to expand existing products or services.

Essentially the Marketing Plan:

  • forces the marketing personnel to look internally in order to fully understand the results of past marketing decisions.
  • forces the marketing personnel to look externally in order to fully understand the market in which they operate.
  • sets future goals and provides direction for future marketing efforts that everyone within the organization should understand and support.
  • is a key component in obtaining funding to pursue new initiatives.

The Marketing Plan is generally undertaken for one of the following reasons:

  1. Needed as part of the yearly planning process within the marketing functional area.
  2. Needed for a specialized strategy to introduce something new, such as new product planning, entering new markets, or trying a new strategy to fix an existing problem.
  3. Is a component within an overall business plan, such as a new business proposal to the financial community.

There are many ways to develop and format a marketing plan. The approach taken here is to present a 6-Part plan that includes:

  1. Purpose and Mission
  2. Situational Analysis
  3. Marketing Strategy and Objectives
  4. Tactical Programs
  5. Budgets, Performance Analysis and Implementation
  6. Additional Consideration

This plan is aimed at individual products and product lines, however, it can be adapted fairly easily for use in planning one or more strategic business units (SBU). The page length suggested for each section represents a single-spaced typed format for a plan focused on a single product. Obviously for multi-product plans lengths will be somewhat longer.

It is assumed that anyone developing a Marketing Plan possesses a working understanding of marketing principles. If you do not, it is suggested you spend considerable time learning about basic marketing through the previous sections of the Principles of Marketing Tutorials.

Note, throughout the plan the word "product" is used. However, the information presented in the Marketing Plan tutorials applies to both products and services.

Part 1 of the plan is designed to provide the reader with the necessary information to fully understand the purpose of the marketing plan. This part also includes organizational background information, which may be particularly important if the audience for the plan is not familiar with the company, such as potential financial backers.

This part of the plan contains two key components:

  1. Purpose of the Marketing Plan
  2. Organization Mission Statement

Some of the information, in particular the mission statement, may require the input of upper-management. The information in this part will prove useful later in the plan as a point of reference for material that will be introduced (e.g., may help explain pricing decisions). In cases in which there are separately operated divisions or SBU, there may also be mission statements for each.

For larger firms this may already exist in a public way (e.g., found in annual report, found on corporate website) but for many others this may need to be formulated.
The organization mission statement consists of a short, finely-honed paragraph that considers the following issues (Length: 1 paragraph):

1. Identifies a stable (i.e., not dramatically changing every year), long-run vision of the organization that can answer such questions as:

  • Why is the company in business?
  • What markets do we serve and why do we serve these markets?
  • In general terms, what are the main benefits we offer our customers?
    • e.g., a low price software provider may state they offer “practical and highly affordable business solutions”
  • What does this company want to be known for?
  • What is the company out to prove to the industry, customers, partners, employees, etc.?
  • What is the general corporate philosophy for doing business?
  • What products/services does the company offer?

2. In developing the vision presented in the mission statement consider:

  • Company History
    • How company started and major events of the company, products, markets served, etc.
  • Resources and Competencies
    • Consider what the company currently possesses by answering the following:
      • What are we good at?
      • What is special about us compared to current and future competitors (in general terms do not need to mention names)?
      • What do we do that gives us a competitive advantage?
    • Consider the questions above in terms of:
      • people, products, financial position, technical and research capabilities, partnership/supply chain relations, others
  • Environment
    • Consider the conditions in which company operates including:
      • physical (e.g., facilities), equipment, political regulatory, competitive, economic, technological, others

The main body of the Marketing Plan often starts with the planner providing the rationale for the plan. The tasks associated with this section are to (Length: 1 paragraph):

1. Offer brief explanation for why this plan was produced

  • e.g., introduce new product, enter new markets, continue growth of existing product, yearly review and planning document, etc.

2. Suggest what may be done with the information contained in the plan

  • e.g., set targets to be achieved in the next year, represents a departmental report to be included in larger business or strategic plan, etc.

The situational analysis is designed to take a snapshot of where things stand at the time the plan is presented. It covers much of the same ground covered in the Preparing a Market Study tutorial, so those preparing a Marketing Plan should check this out as well.

This part of the Marketing Plan is extremely important and quite time consuming. For many, finding the metric needed in this section may be difficult, especially for those entering new markets. Anyone in need of numbers should look the Data Collection: Low-Cost Secondary Research tutorial, which may offer ideas for inexpensively locating the numbers Marketing Plan writers may need. For those who can afford to spend to locate marketing metrics, the Data Collection: High-Cost Secondary Research tutorial will also be of value.

The situational analysis covers the following key areas:

  • Current Products
  • Current Target Market
  • Current Distributor Network
  • Current Competitors
  • Financial Analysis
  • External Forces