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As a business owner, a marketing plan will help you to define who you are going to speak to, how your are going to reach them, what action you want them to take, how much this activity is going to cost your company and how you plan to get the product to your customers. Some of the issues you need to address in your marketing plan are:

1. Your target market

You need to know and understand your potential customer. Is it any man or woman in the street? Or are you talking to specific people? What do the people you want to like? Is what you provide an essential item in their lives? Or is it an item they like but do not need? For example, a sewing machine, fabric and threads are a necessity to a seamstress, not a luxury. Without them, she will not be able to operate her business. So someone who sells sewing material will understand her business needs and wants, and cater for them.

One way to help you to understand your target market is to create a customer profile. This profile will give you an idea of who you want to speak to, and help you focus your efforts to people who likely need what you offer.

Some of the issues you should take into consideration when creating a profile are:

What is the age range of the people you plan to sell to?

How much, on average, do the people you plan to sell to earn?

Are you planning to sell mostly to men or women? Or are planning to sell equally to both?

Is your potential customer defined by geography? Where can she be found?

3. Your product positioning
You need to position your product with your customers. For example, if you position your restaurant an appropriate place to eat for young, middle-class families, then your marketing and advertising will talk to these people. Your menu and service will be geared to meeting their needs.
When a young couple go on a date and would like a quiet, romantic place to eat and some dancing, they won't come to your restaurant because that is not what you offer. They will find that ambience elsewhere.

You need to be careful how you position your company, as this will have tremendous impact on your business.

4. Your advertising and promotion activities

It doesn’t matter how wonderful your product is. If people don’t know about it, they won’t buy it. So you need to find interesting and effective ways to advertise your product. Some of the ways you can use to promote your products are:

Go where your clients are: in their homes, work place, on their way somewhere( cars, taxis and trains), where they shop, eat, play and so on and give them pamphlets about your products.

Hang posters where your potential customers are likely to go by, and hopefully stop. Your posters need to draw their attention and hopefully, induce your customers to stop and read further.

Should your budget allow it, advertise in general newspapers and magazines. If your product serves as niche market advertise in related in related papers.

Is there a professional body that you or your company is registered with? Do they have the facility to advertise the services offered by members? If so, register with them.

Can you be found easily in the Yellow Pages?

Where possible, get the media interested in your business. If you are selling something that is unique, or would make an interesting story, or if your company provides a vital community service, then the local newspapers and magazines are likely to be interested in what you are doing. Phone them and find out.

Do you have non-perishable products?
Can you use direct mail to advertise your product?

Would you be wiling to make cold calls each morning, ro set up a appointment or presentation, or even to offer a free sample of your product to selected people?

How can you convince your prospective client to try your product? Sampling is one way of doing it. When you offer samples of your product, you are in effect saying: ‘try it; I know you’ll like it.’ This also separates the potential customers from those who don't need or want your product. There is an old saying in sales: 'if you can't give it away, you can't sell it.'

Does your company have any strategic alliances with people or companies who can either provide financing, contacts, or even support to your business? List all the alliances you have/would like to have, and what they will provide.

. Your distribution methods

How do you plan to distribute your products? Do you have a distribution system in place?
List all the ways you plan to distribute your product. Investigate to find out if these distribution methods are feasible, how much they will cost you and what the potential problems are.

6. Finance
Do you have cash on hand to allow you to implement your plans? One of the pitfalls you should avoid is making a marketing plan with the idea that your initial efforts will fund the rest of your plan. The problem is that there is no guarantee that your promotion efforts will yield the results that you projected. So you may find yourself halfway through a marketing plan you cannot afford.

Should funds be limited, the best thing to do is to phase your marketing efforts, with clearly defined activities planned for a specific period of time. Once the first phase is done, you would have the opportunity to evaluate your activities, and perhaps adjust your plans using what you have learned works best for your customer.