This part outlines the key essentials you need to include in your marketing plan. No matter how it’s organized, your marketing plan should be a straightforward and easily understood-to anyone. It should provide you with a clear direction for your marketing efforts for the coming year, and it should give an insightful look into your company for all readers.
The “market situation” section should contain your best and most clear-headed description of the current state of the marketplace (this is no place for hunches).
- What are your products/services or product/service lines?
- What is the dollar size of your markets?
- What is your sales and distribution setup?
- What geographic area do you sell to?
- Describe your audience in terms of population, demographics, income levels and so on.
- What competitors exist in this marketplace?
- Historically, how well have your products sold?
Your market situation section might read like this:
XYZ and Associates is a bookkeeping and accounting firm started in 1981. We provide tax services to individuals and to businesses under $500,000 in annual sales. We provide bookkeeping and payroll support to those same businesses. Our market area Coffey County, Kansas, and its neighboring counties.
For the personal market, our clients typically are in the $75,000 and higher income range, or they are retired with assets of $200,000 or more. For the business market, most of our work is for restaurants, service stations, independent convenience stores and a large courier service.
With the exception of a slump from 1988 through 1991, XYZ and Associates has grown steadily from its inception. Gross sales in 1997 were $145,000.
Competition for our immediate market is a group of eight firms roughly comparable to our company. Only one of these firms, Acme Bookkeeping, has an interest in marketing itself. We believe we rank second in the group of competitors, behind Acme.
We have a strong position in the restaurant portion of our business.
Much of this information exists in the heads of the management team, the way it is at many companies. But now is when you write it down. For example, how much information do you have in your office–right now–on your competition? A marketing plan gives you a chance to pull all this relevant information together in one place, to spur ideas and justify actions.
Consider each of your products or services up against the matching products or services of your competitors. How well do you stack up? Is there any significant market opportunity for you that neither you nor your competitors are currently exploiting? You’ll also find that the best thinkers in your company may well have different ideas about elements of the current situation. Your marketing plan will provide a good arena to test different snapshots of the market against each other.