The Critical Elements of a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a critical element for communicating and discussing the expectations and responsibilities of all the key decision makers of a company. This is especially true for someone who is head of marketing or responsible for the firm’s marketing strategy. The plan should be written down so that everyone is able to look at and examine it. This is a key area of communicating how the marketing plan will affect the company in terms of its growth and focus on selling the product.

The elements of a plan will vary but should have some critical elements. More than anything the plan should answer the simple questions such as: What? Who? When? and Where? This might seem too simplistic, but when crafting your marketing plan, these are the main questions that should be consider that are the critical elements to be included in it. For example, a marketing plan for a airline company should list the products to be sold, who will be responsible for areas of the marketing strategy, and what type of people should the marketing strategy focus on.

When you get started, keep in mind that a plan is produced on a yearly basis. It will appear different in regards to when it is produced, what it does contain, and the overall components of it. Regardless, of how different it looks, the critical elements should not be overlooked. These critical elements include the an overview of the current situation and what are the expectations of the future, the market and what issues can affect the product, and the strategy that the company is currently following or hoping to adopt in the future. So regardless of how a company breaks these down or outlines these elements, they should be included in the plan.

The Overview

First of all, the overview. The person in charge of marketing should spend some time writing as much as possible about the current company and product overview. It can discuss what the issues for the coming year might be and what challenges the company faced previously while trying to get or hold onto its share of the market. This is a critical area, because it gives the general information, but it is also a summary of what the rest of the market plan is going to discuss. A manager should be able to read this area and get the complete gist of the market plan without any problems.

The Current Market and Promotion Strategy

These two topics are critical to the marketing plan. The analysis written here can show how the market has been in the past and what is expected in the future. The head of marketing should spend a considerable amount of time discussing the competitors and how they affected and will affect sales. However, the largest emphasis should be what the company is hoping to do to promote the product that it currently has. This should mean discussing detail the packaging, branding, and shipping of the product. This is key to have a worthwhile marketing plan.

Write Annual Marketing Plan in 90 Minutes

Ideally, marketing planning is like career or job planning. The development of the annual marketing strategy, whether it is for an internet/ecommerce business or offline business, should be done at the end of the year. It should be based on market research. This applies to small as well as corporate businesses and not for profit organizations.

How To Write An Annual Marketing Plan

This guide to an annual marketing plan shows what needs to be done, how to do it and pitfalls to look out for. This marketing plan should ideally support and complement business plan.

An annual marketing plan ideally should have the following elements (basics of marketing):

  • Mission statement
  • Description of your niche markets
  • Detailed description of your products or services
  • List of your closest competitors
  • Marketing goals
  • Marketing calendar with monthly and weekly list of marketing activities to be completed
  • Marketing mix – advertising, public relations, media, corporate communications, promotions, events etc
  • Description of how the marketing campaigns will be monitored and measured

When you have finished doing everything suggested in this easy How-To marketing tutorial, you will have a blueprint of your marketing efforts. It will give you a lot of clarity, especially when you are working in a team. Make sure you revisit the plan every year, as well as during the year.

Now, whether you are selling watches or digital products, it is important to watch your spend to make sure that your marketing ROI (return on investment) is on track.

But Why Should You Plan?

It gives you a lot of clarity of purpose

You can control your expenses

When you are working in a team, or with external agencies or suppliers, you everyone involved knows who-does-what

You can take corrective action if the marketing plan is not progressing as desired

Are You Ready To Begin?

Just answer the following questions, and you will have the blueprint of your marketing plan in less than 90 minutes:

  • Which of my marketing and selling activities brought the most business for me last year? Was it public relations, events and conferences, social media, print advertising, Google Adwords, SEO marketing and so on
  • What mistakes did I make that I should avoid this year?
  • What worked well, but I can improve on this year?
  • What can I learn from my successful campaigns last year?
  • What can I learn from my campaign that did not perform well last year?
  • What is my target market like this year? Which factors of my market changed – geography, demography, income, habits, culture etc.
  • Has my competition changed? How?
  • If my target market or competition has changed, what do I need to do to adopt to that change?
  • Now that I know my target market, and I know what worked last year, which marketing channels will I use this year?
  • How much am I willing to spend this year? What’s my marketing budget? How do i intend to spend it?
  • How will I monitor my campaign?

Marketing Calendar

Now that we have an overview, break this strategy down into monthly marketing plan. Chart out monthly and if required weekly activities.

Identify key events that are likely to influence your marketing calendar. Is there an industry event or international trade show coming up? Are there local elections? Is there a major sporting event?

Make sure you are realistic in your marketing strategies and in your marketing plan. Try to spell out as many details as possible. Leave some scope for contingencies.

Now that you have the blue print, don’t forget the key point – action. Act on your plan, re-visit it often and change your course if required.

Your marketing plan is just that – a plan. Nothing is set in stone. If marketing environment changes be prepared to change.

Create a Powerful Marketing Plan For Your Small Business

The marketing planning process need not be complex – it is simply a logical approach to looking at your business and its environment, deciding on your marketing objectives are and then deciding the marketing programs that need to be created to ensure that those objectives are met.

Marketing has been given many different definitions. It is sometimes confused with promotion – or even sales. It is neither. Marketing is concerned with the management of the ‘marketing mix,’ in other words the following: (sometimes referred to as the 4 Ps)

  • Price – how much you are selling the product or service for
  • Product (or service) – what you are designing, developing, manufacturing, providing and selling
  • Place (or channel strategy) – which channels you are using to sell your product or services (e.g. are you selling direct to customers over the Internet or are you selling through a retailer or other third party)
  • Promotion – what methods are you using to communicate what it is that you do to your market. This includes packaging, sales, brochures, exhibitions, advertising, direct mail, Internet marketing etc

Marketing planning is a creative process based on the solid analysis of your business and its environment. It also requires you to think about the future. We don’t know what is going to happen in the ‘invisible’ future – but there are things in the ‘visible’ future that we can take account of.

The Marketing Audit

Before developing a marketing plan, the first step is the marketing audit. In its simplest terms this means reviewing the marketing that you have done up until now to determine how effective it has been – preferably in quantitative terms. This information will give you practical guidance as to where to place your valuable resources in the future.

The SWOT Analysis

The first step in the process is to do a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats or SWOT analysis. The SWOT analysis, is an easy to remember and simple process. There are two main aspects of the SWOT – the inward looking, i.e. what are the strengths and weaknesses of your business, and the outward looking, i.e. what are the opportunities and threats coming from outside your business.

Strengths might include company reputation, quality of employees, marketing skills, on-line presence, social media footprint. Threats might include new legislation or regulations, a new competitor, cost of fuel or raw materials

The analysis is best done by a group of people.The ‘brainstorming’ technique is useful. Every idea is written down – preferably where everyone in the group can see it, WITHOUT editing. No matter how seemingly stupid the idea, write it down. You can always go back and edit after the brainstorming session is over. Brainstorming techniques can be applied to all of the creative and analytical phases of the marketing planning process.

The PEST Analysis

Another useful technique when preparing marketing plans is the ‘PEST’ analysis. PEST is an acronym for:

  • Political and Legal
  • Economic and demographic
  • Social and cultural
  • Technology

And how each of these factors may affect your business. It is another way to help you think about the environment in which your business operates. It may be helpful for you to use this analysis when working on the opportunities and threats part of the SWOT analysis. For example, a future legal change may result in you having to pay greater costs in order to meet new regulations. Demographic changes may result in a population shift to your part of the country. This may result in more customers and hence, potentially more business.

Setting marketing objectives

Before embarking on a journey to is usually a good idea to have some idea of where you are heading. The same is true for marketing planning. Before setting marketing objectives you need to know the overall objectives for your business. This could be a certain level of profitability or volume of sales. To meet this business objective will involve a number of different activities within you business including: production, customer service, finance, and marketing.

Marketing objectives are what you are aiming to achieve through the marketing plan in order to meet the overall business objectives. Marketing objectives fall into four categories as follows:

  • Existing products or services in existing markets (penetration)
  • New products or services in existing markets (product development)
  • Existing products or services in new markets (market extension)
  • New products and services in new markets (diversification)

Marketing objectives should always be quantifiable, for example, sell a certain amount of product to existing customers (market penetration) or achieve a certain market share in a new market (market extension).

The Product or Service Lifecycle

All products have, what is called in ‘marketing speak’, a product or service lifecycle. The lifecycle describes the natural process by which a new product is introduced, is gradually accepted, sells well for a while and is then gradually superseded before, potentially, being phased out.

The product life cycle is a useful concept to consider when reviewing your product or service set (product/service portfolio). It is important to consider where a product is on the lifecycle in order to set marketing objectives and appropriate marketing programs. For example, if a product is in the introduction phase it may be appropriate to spend more on promotion than for a product in decline.

Set marketing strategies

Marketing objectives are concerned with what you would like to achieve, marketing strategies are how you are going to try and achieve these objectives.

Having set the strategies, individual marketing tactics will be created in the form of specific marketing programs. The difference between the marketing strategy and marketing tactics can be illustrated as follows. A valid marketing strategy would be to create an exhibition program in a new market. The tactic associated with this strategy would be a specific exhibition, the dates, logistics, size of trade show booth, and promotional events surrounding the exhibition.

The following are some of your marketing strategy options:


When you first think about pricing your first inclination may be to apply a simple mechanism which adds a percentage to the cost of producing the product or providing the service, this is known as cost-plus pricing. This may be the best way of pricing your product, but you must also think about premium pricing. An expensive product may create an idea of prestige or luxury, irrespective of how much it cost to create the product. Branded perfumes and designer clothing labels fall into this category.

Other factors you will likely taken into account are the cost of competitor products and services together with the distribution costs that may need to be built into your pricing (for example, the amount you will need to pay your distributor).


An area of enormous importance to be considered when you look at your products is the concept of the product and service portfolio. A portfolio implies that you are marketing more than one product or service. In actual fact, even if you only have one product, you will likely have at least one service offering connected to that product. In developing the tactical aspect of your marketing plan your need to analyze each product in turn.

Portfolio management involves managing the portfolio such that there is a balance between cash generated and cash required. It is important to visualize where products are likely to be in the future and how you can achieve those positions. For example, a new, but highly promising product has a low market share, but a high market growth rate.


The channel strategy is your plan as to how you are going to get you product or service to market. It’s likely that you have already made some plans here. A business needs to find new and innovative ways in which you can gain the widest market coverage at the lowest cost. Options may include:

  • Setting up a distributor network
  • Finding ‘business partners’
  • Selling directly over the Internet
  • Creating retail outlets
  • Developing export markets
  • Find alliance partners
  • User new channels to market
  • Change delivery options


Promotion is a highly creative process. You never really know which promotional method is going to be the most effective until you try it. The answer is to try different promotional methods and to measure and test each one’s effectiveness.

  • Marketers have the many methods at their disposal, including:
  • Internet marketing (both ‘organic’ Web site search engine positioning and PPC (Pay-per-click) Web advertising)
  • Social media marketing (e.g using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc)
  • E-mail marketing
  • Advertising (also known as ‘above the line expenditure.’)
  • Merchandizing
  • Sales – personal selling
  • Trade shows and exhibitions
  • Media relations (public relations – PR)
  • Direct mail
  • Network marketing
  • Branding


A marketing plan is not an end in itself, rather, it represents a process of examining and rethinking your business from a marketing perspective. By thinking through the issues you should get a greater appreciation of all the different marketing options as well as a few new ideas about things to try in your business.

MLM Marketing Plan

No doubt if you are trying to progress on your journey to MLM success and you have been doing some training and some research then you will have discovered the importance of having a good MLM marketing plan in place.

A good MLM marketing plan is vital for many reasons. Four of the most important ones are detailed below:

• It provides you with structure and guidance.
• It helps to support effective time management.
• It actively supports you in achieving your goals.
• It gives you the ability to be able to evaluate your progress.

So you understand the importance of having a good MLM marketing plan in place but how do you go about creating one? Well you could search for basic templates that you could use to start you off, however in my experience these are never as helpful as I hope they will be. That’s because everyone has a different way of working and generally ‘one size fits all’ plans are difficult to find. Instead I recommend that you pull your own plan together, sticking some simple principles and guidelines:

Step 1

Think carefully about the marketing methods that you are going to select to focus on. If you are new to MLM marketing, I suggest that you select one method at a time with the aim of perfecting it before introducing a second method.

Step 2

Split each marketing method out in to its own MLM marketing plan. Each plan should focus purely upon the actions required for that method, where possible detailing the time involved for each action.

Step 3

Provide as much structure as possible within each marketing plan. Break all actions down in to bite size chunks. If you have a monthly action, consider what you need to do on a daily or weekly basis in order for that monthly action to be effective. For big tasks, break them down so you can see step by step, all of the actions required for you to complete the task.

Step 4

Don’t be afraid to go back to your plan and update or re-schedule as often as necessary. Especially in the early days it’s easy to underestimate the time required for certain actions or miss some important actions all together. Make all of your MLM marketing plans work in progress so that you can constantly tweak them until they are as effective as they can be.

Step 5

Pull together one overall plan that incorporates all of your MLM marketing plans. This plan is going to be the key to your time management as well as a guide to keep you on track with all of your individual plans and actions. Without this it is easy to become so consumed with one plan and one set of actions that other plans and required actions start to suffer. Allocate specific amounts of time to each plan and try your best to stick to it.

Step 6

Have scope within your plans to be able to update your progress against your actions. This is vital to being able to plan future actions and required time allocations as well as giving you the opportunity to be able to regularly track your progress against your plan.

Step 7

Before you put any plans in place you should have spent some time setting your goals. These goals should be very clear and burned in to your mind. Make sure these goals are clearly visible on your MLM marketing plans. Even if only at a subconscious level, this will help you to focus on each action with a clear understanding of how it is taking you one step closer to your goals.

As well as these steps there are some general considerations you should have when developing your marketing plans:

• Be realistic. Don’t schedule 10 hour days if you know that there is no chance of you ever working more than 5 hours. This will be completely counter-productive as you will not be able to stick to the timescales allocated and will constantly be chasing your tail and playing catch up. That’s not the most productive way to work!

• Don’t waste too much time on the cosmetics. It’s not how this plan looks that is important. After all, it’s only for your own use. As long as you are comfortable that it provides you with everything that you need then that’s enough – even if it’s not particularly pleasing on the eye.

• Organisation is key. Although it may seem like a waste of time to be planning rather than completing actions, you will complete your actions far more effectively and in a much more timely manner if you have spent some time planning your approach.

Once you have your MLM marketing plans and overall time management plan in place then do your best to stick to it. Try not to procrastinate. I know how easy it is to put the jobs that you don’t really enjoy off until tomorrow and focus on the more enjoyable ones now. To make sure you don’t do this try always to complete your least favourite tasks first. You will be pleased to have them out of the way and you can then enjoy your remaining actions without the constant nag of that task that you’re not looking forward to.

Another good approach to use whenever you need a little boost or head start is to allocate your own action hours or even go the whole hog and have an action day. It’s amazing how much you can get down in an hour if you really put your mind to it. Challenge yourself to see how many actions you can tick off your list in an hour, it can really give you a head start along with a huge sense of satisfaction when you see you list being quickly ticked off! And if you achieve than in an hour – imagine what you could achieve in a day!

So do yourself a favour and whatever you do, do not put this off until tomorrow! Start now, straight away, and pull yourself together a plan that is really going to drive the right actions required to ensure you see the best results possible!

And as always, if I can be of any help along your way, you know where I am. I’ll be happy to help!

Signing off for now! Speak soon..

Laura x

Discover Your Web Market From the Inside Out

For you to see web marketing in a different light I first need to introduce a new picture of the web, and then a different understanding of web marketing can emerge. Following that introduction this article can then talk about what is important about social media, along with beliefs and values, as they pertain to search engines and web marketing.

In the mid 90’s a lot of media pundits were trying to say what the Internet, and more specifically the web, was all about – but no one really knew. Some compared it to television and some compared it to newspapers and others said it was most like the telephone because it behaved like a one-to- one communication media.

It looked like television because of the screen similarity, and it looked like newspapers because of the text content, and it acted like a phone conversation in how it behaved as a one-to- one communication media.

All of these different metaphors missed the primary difference that the web brought into being and that was the search engine. Without a search engine the web would be as useless as a library without index cards. It would be a tangled mess of invisible and unsorted web sites, and the great pool of information would largely be invisible.

Search engines ground the web into a usable reality through the written word when a search is conducted, and then search engines became the eyes of web users for finding their way around in the depths and darkness of billions of web pages.

Search engines give us social media

In the same way that you and I search for information others search for other people and find their groups to belong to. Just as the search engines make finding specific information a reality they also make it possible for groups to form and for people to find the group they have affinity with.

How do people find their groups? How do they search? And why do we need to know how this works in order to develop a web marketing strategy?

Deep Pockets

If your business has deep pockets then you can use contemporary marketing research methods by conducting expensive testing with market research firms. But what if you don’t have deep pockets? And what if your market is anonymous like the web market is? What options do you have?

As you are probably aware, a web market does not provide you with demographic data to help you target a market. Until a visitor to your web site has decided to contact you they remain anonymous and you do not know a thing about them in terms of marketing information. How could you even conduct a proper test if you do not have any boundaries to work within?

Your web market is an intangible, yet very real market. Your web site is simply on a fishing expedition with your keyword signals that you are using for bait. What does your market feed on and what should your keywords be?

Who is your market and where are they?

Are you going to throw your line into the big pond with all your competition and fish with popular keywords for bait? You have to wonder if your market is really in the big pond, especially if you are looking for a niche market. How can you possibly find your market without very deep pockets? And what if you are fishing in the wrong pond with the wrong bait?

I suppose, with enough time and experience, you will find out which pond to fish in and what keywords your market feeds on, but this could take years of gathering information and hours of analysis. And even then you may still be guessing.

Turn the focus inward

So far I have asked external questions and the answers you would get back are not the answers you want to hear. What keywords to use? Where to find your market? Who are they and where are they? The answers are all the same… more testing and keyword research.

What if you turned the questions inward instead? What if you asked questions you already have the answers for? Suppose you asked yourself what you value the most about your business? What is your attitude toward your market? What gives you the greatest sense of reward in running your business?

Answer those questions and you’ve got the beginnings of a marketing strategy to send signals to your market – and let them find you.

On the web, this makes finding your market easier than by using demographics because the search engines do the work for you. For those that have difficulty leaving factual data behind they could use demographic keywords and try to signal income levels, for example, but your business values will cover more ground and work better.

Why do values work on the web?

On the web people find their groups. News Groups were one of the first social networks long before they were called social networks, and people found their groups by the values they shared. The same is true for Facebook, MySpace and YouTube. Add to this list other web connections like blogs and article sources and you see that the web is a unique media for sharing values.

If you prefer to market yourself in true fashion to who you are then you would need to look on the inside of who you are and the values you hold. This sounds easier than it is, and yet it is all about integrity in marketing. In either method you need to play with psychological values, or you need to hire a marketing shrink to sort it out for you.

You can see why most web marketers are sticking to the demographic style of marketing because it feels more tangible even though the web as a medium is anything but tangible.

We’ve discussed briefly why demographic marketing has difficulty dealing with anonymous web users, and why looking inward can provide a marketing strategy to target anonymous market segments.