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Part 1: Sales & Market Review

In Part 1 of Marketing Plan Builder you will learn the importance of doing a thorough assessment of your company's position in the market and the size, shape and state of the market in which you compete as the first step in developing a realistic and effective strategic marketing plan.

You will develop an understanding that sound marketing plans are based on objective data - not fanciful and wishful thinking. You cannot know too much about your customers and prospects. Facts and figures make the difference between a plan that is realistic and objective and one that is subjective and lacking a firm foundation.

Without a solid basis, the objectives you set and the strategies you develop to achieve them may be unrealistic and unattainable. This section covers the means by which to develop at least a broad understanding of the dynamics of the market in which you compete and your position within that market.

You will be guided through the process that will include how to summarise the recent progress of your products or services in terms of sales and their contribution to profit or loss and how to categorise them as 'cash cows, dogs, 'rising stars' or 'question marks'. You will learn how to conduct an objective assessment of your products or services and to understand their 'competitive edge'. You will gain an appreciation of 'market segmentation' and how to rate your prospects in the different market segments. You will learn how the market in which you compete may be further broken down into product segments in order to sharpen your focus further.

You will gain insights into the means by which you can conduct a competitor analysis and how you can learn from the strategies your most direct competitors are following. You will be able to determine if you need to conduct marketing research and what form it should take to validate your theories, impressions and conclusions. When you have completed a structured sales and market review you will be able to realistically assess your current market position, define where you want to go in the market and understand the problems and opportunities that you may encounter along the way.

Part 2: Situation Analysis

This section of the plan concentrates on summarizing the conclusions you have drawn from Part 1 of the plan - the sales and market review - and starts with the SWOT analysis.

The SWOT analysis is a method of analyzing the business and the external environment to decide what to stress, what to minimize, and how. It enables you to review both internal and external forces and draw together the conclusions you have drawn from your research and analysis thus far.

You will then be able to proceed to create a 'Mission Statement'. This is a 'big picture' reference point for the determination of future strategic decisions. It encompasses a realistic summary of the business you are in, the products you produce, the customers and market area you serve, the benefits you offer to customers, the community your employees and yourself.

In this section you will then go on to break your market up further by defining target markets within market segments and sub segments. This enables you to focus your resources on the most cost effective strategies.You will then go on to define your "Keys to Success'. This defines the components of the plan you will need to have in place to ensure its successful implementation. Examples of this include such considerations as a meaningful competitive edge, an ability to charge a premium price or an accurately targeted promotional program that reaches the right people at the right time with the right message.

The final component in Part 2 of the plan is the section that deals with 'critical issues'. These are the assumptions you make in the plan which will cause the plan to succeed or fail if they do or do not occur.

Part 3: Marketing & Sales Objectives

Before setting out to write your plan you should think carefully about what exactly you want to achieve for your products or services in the market overall. These are marketing objectives and should not be confused with subordinate goals such as those for sales, profit or other goals.

The strategies you devise in the plan will flow from the objectives you set so they need to be thought through very carefully. It is essential to clearly define exactly what you want to achieve as this makes how you are going to achieve it so much more clear. Setting the objectives is often the most complex part of the planning process as they have to be realistic and achievable within a given time frame. Determining what is realistic and achievable must stem from the ground you have covered in Parts 1 & 2 of the plan.

In this section you will learn what constitutes a marketing objective and what you need to consider in setting them. You will also be given a framework to help you in completing this process.

The section also deals with setting sales objectives that are consistent with the marketing objectives you have set. You will learn that sales objectives should be set on a product by product basis within a given time frame and should include sales targets by volume and value. This will assist you to evaluate if they are realistic in practical terms such as production and distribution capacity and people resources.

Part 4: Marketing Strategies

This section sets out how you are going to achieve the objectives you have set in PART 3. . It identifies which elements of the marketing mix you have selected to achieve your marketing, sales and profit objectives. In this section you will be introduced to the concept of the Four P's of the 'marketing mix' - Product, Place, Price and Promotion.

Each one of the four P's is multi faceted. The Marketing Plan Builder e-Book will give you a basis upon which to select the strategies you feel will achieve the set objectives. Because marketing is somewhere between an art and a science; selecting cost effective strategies requires analytical skills combined with creative flair and a strategic mindset.

It is always a good idea to get as much informed opinion about which strategies are appropriate before committing them to writing. Furthermore strategies should be 'in sync' with the target markets and market segments you have defined in Part 2. You need to be reassured that the media you select reaches the right people, with the right message at the right time and with the least cost. Today's technology has created the means to accurately reach your target market with previously unattainable cost efficiency. Where once marketers relied on mass media - with which only a small percentage reached the target market - now web based developments such as on line marketing and e-commerce allow you to 'home in' on the set target with minimum waste.

Workshopping different ideas with employees and others involved in the business is often a good idea as this gathers a broad cross section of ideas and gives everyone a sense of 'ownership' of the plan so that when completed the entire organization will work toward a common purpose in its implementation.

One of the golden rules to remember in selecting your strategies is do not fritter money or effort. It is better to concentrate your budget in one or two marketing activities than to spread your funds too thinly across many.

Part 5: Financial Statements

The 'best laid plans of mice and men' are meaningless if they don't make elementary financial sense. In this section you will gain an appreciation of how to set a practical marketing budget within the context of a basic financial statement. Framing the marketing budget is a complex and painstaking exercise as there is no standard formula. The amount spent on marketing proportionate to revenue varies considerably from one industry and set of circumstances to another.

Many businesses fail because they do not allocate sufficient funds for marketing. It is difficult if not impossible to grow businesses without adequate marketing funding. Once the total amount is set the budget should be itemized by product/item/time frame. If finance for the budget is stretched or impractical the strategies you have set in Part 4 of the plan will need to be revisited with a view to culling items considered 'nice to have' as opposed to 'need to have' for the fulfilment of the plan.

The practicality of the budget when set should be assessed in the financial statement in terms of its 'fit' with corporate goals and objectives. The financial statement is an examination of the fiscal practicality of the marketing plan and its ability to meet corporate expectations. It sets out forecast revenue, marketing and other costs and overheads and projected profit levels and margins. Depending on the degree of investment in the plan, in some cases it might be acceptable to set 'break even' or even negative returns for a predetermined period on the understanding of substantial gains in the longer term. This scenario would be more likely when the plan is based on the development of a new product or a new product range where the costs of development could be borne by established 'cash cows' in the company's product portfolio.

Part 6: Implementation & Controls

This part of the plan addresses the personnel you will need to implement the plan, an action plan an implementation schedule and a review and evaluation schedule. The personnel section addresses the personnel resources you will have in place to implement the plan. As this is a marketing plan this section is confined to sales and marketing employees and does not address administration, production and other departments.

Some of the marketing functions will be implemented within the company while other more specialist roles may be outsourced. Outsourcing is becoming more and more prevalent to keep fixed overheads to an absolute minimum. The action plan clarifies "who is responsible for what and when" and provides accountability to the plan. The implementation schedule is a graphic representation of the plan that sets out the sequential and overlapping timing of the different components parts.

The aim is to ensure that each component part is completed in time for the implementation of the next part of the plan. The component parts will vary from one plan to another according to whether the plan is for new or existing products or services and the degree of complexity.

The review and evaluation schedule is the final part of the plan. It reviews the steps you have taken after a specified period (usually a year). It evaluates progress, estimates effectiveness and suggests any changes based on the experience gained to date. Such recommended changes should be incorporated in a plan update which may be an abridged update of the initial plan.

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