unspecifiedCreating a marketing plan is a daunting task for many entrepreneurs, but it doesn’t have to be if you keep it simple. According to an article in Inc. Magazine, you can break the process down into several sub-tasks and end up with a finished product that is less than 15 pages. However, it’s important to decide on the following before you start:

  • Task Delegation: To avoid conflict and wasted effort later, your team should decide upfront who is going to take responsibility for certain tasks. Set completion dates for each of the sub-tasks that are well in advance of the final due date of the marketing plan so each person has time to correct or adjust their work if necessary.
  • Budget: Be sure to establish an amount you want to spend on preparing the marketing plan as well as implementing each objective you include in it.
  • Marketing Plan Due Date: As a team, come up with a final due date that is agreeable to all of you. Just keep in mind that you may need to be flexible with the final due date if members of the team run into obstacles while completing their section of the marketing plan.

A Simple Five-Step Marketing Plan

When creating a marketing plan for in-house use, keep in mind that content matters the most. Don’t be concerned about writing in a certain style or adding more than is absolutely necessary. To keep things flowing and simple, Entrepreneur Magazine recommends the following five-step approach:

  • Analyze Your Current Situation: It’s important to be objective in this section by stating how things really are, not how you would like them to be. This gives you the opportunity to change your marketing tactics to meet your company’s long-term goals. Start by describing the product or service your business offers and then explore any challenges you expect to face. This could include new competition, laws that may affect how you manufacture products, and other situations out of your control.
  • Define Your Ideal Customer: Whether you have been in business a few months or a few decades, you should have a good idea of the type or person or industry you serve. If you sell directly to consumers, determine an average age, income level, education level, family status, and other important demographic statistics. If you’re in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, determine the category of professionals you serve and write your marketing plan accordingly.
  • Establish Measurable Goals: If your company’s sales aren’t where you would like them to be, write goals for how you plan to increase sales and by what date. For example, “XYZ Company will increase sales of widgets by 10 percent in the first quarter by increasing television ads directed at the target audience in prime viewing hours.” That gives you specific direction on how to meet sales objectives while vague statements are easily disregarded.
  • Specific Action Steps: This will likely be the largest section of your marketing plan. You should feel free to take as much time and space as you need to describe individual marketing strategies as well as the specific actions your company will take to meet them. This may include such steps as attending trade shows, starting a direct mail campaign, online advertising campaigns, and determining the public relations strategy of your business. Once you have described each of these areas, transfer them to a calendar and assign staff and due dates to ensure that you have the resources to meet every action step.
  • Money Breakdown of Each Action Item: For the last section of your marketing plan, determine an approximate cost for each strategy you would like to implement. For example, if the team agreed to participate in two trade shows and hire an online marketing company to develop a pay per click strategy, find out how much it will cost to follow through with these plans. If you find that the financial output is more than your business can absorb at this time, you and your team will need to make revisions to earlier sections of the plan to align them with your budget.

Because your marketing plans will change as your business grows, decide how often you want to get together as a team to establish a new five-step plan. For as much effort as you put into establishing a marketing plan now, the ultimate goal is to outgrow it and write a new one that better reflects the needs of your growing business.