Creating a marketing plan will provide you with a roadmap of who you need to reach (target audience), how you will reach your target audience, and what you need to do to encourage them to purchase your product or service. Marketing plans guide you in how to bring business to you.
By outlining clear, realistic and measurable objectives, including deadlines, budgets, and the key performance indicators, you are able to understand the success of your efforts.
Marketing plans can include market research, which helps you to identify:
- your key customers, where they are located, their needs and values, and how much they’ll likely pay for your offering
- your key competitors, where they’re located, and how your offering stacks up
- your marketplace issues and how these can impact your business operations.
Regular market research can help you adjust your offering over time in line with your industry.
- Use the template as a guide. Don’t attempt to complete the plan straight away. First, decide which sections are relevant for your business. Feel free to add or remove sections if you need to. Then work your way through the plan by filling in the empty boxes section by section.
- Determine who the plan is for. Does it have more than one purpose? Will it be used internally or will it be provided to a third party, like a bank, accountant or potential business partner? Deciding the purpose of the plan can help you target your answers. If third parties are involved, what are they interested in? Don't assume they are just interested in the finance part of your business. They will be looking for the whole package.
- Do your research. You will need to make decisions about your business, including structure, marketing strategies and finances, before you can complete your plan. By having the right information to hand you can be more accurate in your forecasts and analysis.
- Reliable sources of data and statistics. See below in 'where to find data and statistics' for a list of reliable sources to find your information.
- Use the [italicised text]. The italicised text in the template is there to help guide you by providing more questions you may like to answer when preparing your response. If a question doesn’t apply to your business idea, you can ignore it.
- Write your summary last. Use as few words as possible. You want to be clear and concise but not overlook important facts. This is your opportunity to sell yourself. But don’t overdo it. You want third parties to quickly read your plan, find it realistic and be motivated by what they read.
- Seek help. If you aren’t confident in completing the plan yourself, you can enlist the help of a professional (i.e., Business Enterprise Centre, business adviser or marketing expert) to look through your plan and provide you with advice.
- Review. Review. Review. Your marketing plan is there to make a good impression. Errors will only detract from your professional image. Ask several impartial people to proofread your final plan.
A marketing plan can consist of these elements:
- Summary. The summary should be completed last and be no longer than a page. Your answers should summarise your more detailed answers provided throughout the body of the plan.
- Future aspiration. Prepare a brief vision statement for the future and clearly state your overall goals for your business.
- Environmental/industry analysis. This section should outline your market research results and should address several key questions. Is the area experiencing population growth? Are there long-term employers in the area? Is the region's economy stable? Are there seasonal variations? What is the size of the market? What recent trends have emerged in the market? What growth potential is available and where do you fit in? How will the market or customers change when you enter the market? What external factors will affect your customers?
- Customers. Describe your target customers. Is your market narrow or wide? Where are they located? What are their demographics (age, gender, income), values and needs? You can also explore how you’ll best serve them and what type of relationships you’ll develop.
- Competitors. Compare your business against your competitors, and how you could improve what they offer. Depending on your type of business, try comparing as many as five competitors.
- Unique selling position. Explore whether your offering will compete through low cost or differentiation. What makes your business stand out from your competition? What product gap or service need does it fill for your customers?
- Marketing strategy. What is your overall marketing strategy? What steps or activities will you undertake to achieve your goals/objectives? Who will be responsible and what are your deadlines?
- Advertising and promotion. What do you want to achieve/communicate (brand awareness, online sales, etc.)? What social media tools do your customers use (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)? What strategies can you use to network and communicate effectively with these customers? Who will maintain your social media presence – do you have the internal staff or would you need to engage an external organisation?
- Sales. What sales techniques could you use? What are your strategies behind these techniques? How is this different from/better than your competitors?
- Finances. This section includes a spreadsheet to enter expected marketing activity costs. These figures can be used in your business plan template.
- Monitoring/measurement activities. How will you measure success? What indicators will you use and when will you use them to help identify what worked and what didn't?
You may wish to use the following sources of data and statistics, which are divided into three categories: public, commercial and academic.
Government. Government sources are often the most economical, as they're usually free and offer a lot of useful information.
Australian Tax Office – Small Business Benchmarks
Australian Bureau of Statistics – Data Services
Australian Bureau of Statistics – Census Data
Australian Bureau of Statistics – South Australia Statistics
Commercial. Commercial sources are equally valuable, but may involve a cost. You should consider if buying reports will be better value than hiring a research team to collect data tailored to your needs.
IbisWorld - Australia’s largest provider of industry-based research
Academic. Academic institutions in South Australia and around the world can be a rich source of information and knowledge for market research.
Flinders University - Research
University of Adelaide - Research
University of South Australia - Research