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What should I put in my marketing plan?

It is ‌ worth writing down your marketing plan even if you don’t need it to impress a potential investor or bank manager. The process of creating it will help you  arrange  your thoughts and justify your decisions.

Your marketing plan should include a detailed description of each Of the potential markets or customer groups that you feel your idea  could be  sold  to. For each group describe the problem you solve and  the  form  you  think  your idea  should take to satisfy the customers.

For each of these market opportunities, find out as much as possible about the potential market size and the behaviour of the market (is it growing, static or likely to change soon). 

Next,  identity and  justify  your  choice  for  your  first  target  market. This one will need to be investigated in more detail. You will need to know how many potential customers there are, what they would be willing to pay for your product, who they are currently buying from and as much as possible about the problem you are going to solve for them. 

If  there  is  competition  in  the  target market,  start  a  file  on  each  of them.  Collect  product  literature,  print  out  a  copy  of their  website and scrutinise it to find out how and why you are going to be better then them. Try  to imagine what they might be able  to do to  resist your entry into the market and how you will cope when they do.  Start  to  collect  lists  of  potential customers  so  that  when  the  time comes, you know who to call and see. Try to find out who the key opinion leaders are, where they meet, even where they socialise or network. It should go without saying, that if there is a networking event, society or club where your customers meet, then you should join and attend without delay.

Next, identify the next few market segments and describe the route you  plan  to  take  to  break  into  them.  You  will  not  need  as  much detail on  these  sectors  yet, but  it  is  best  to have  at  least  identified them and made a start early on. Creating  this  plan  should  not  be  done  in  isolation.  The  plan  will benefit greatly if the whole team takes part in the thinking process and decisions. If there are enough of you involved, you could even set  up  teams  to  investigate  different  opportunities,  everyone  then coming back  together  to decide on  the segmentation  strategy. The more  you  involve  all  your  team,  the  more  they  will  understand where the company is going and be in a position to help achieve the goals. Motivation can be a very welcome by product of this process.

Once the plan is written, don’t just put  it on a shelf, keep it up to date and refer to it. When it is time to move onto the next segment, use  the  plan  as  a  reference  to  judge  how  closely  your  original research matched what you found in the market. Use this to judge how much work you need to do to understand the next segment.

Remember, you can never know too much about your customers.

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