Marketing plans are meant to be reviewed and updated periodically; doing so annually is a good practice. Mention marketing plans though and some owners and managers groan at the thought of time-consuming research. To simplify the process, make a marketing plan personal, relevant and timely. 

A marketing plan evolves from your own mission and value statements, your unique product story and the people you have identified as your customers. These elements act as the foundational building blocks upon which your business grows, expands, sprouts new wings and continues to flourish.

To personalize a plan, identify the unique slot where your product or service fits into the marketplace. It may be farm-gate sales are where you will excel, or that a wider distribution chain more likely suits your product, labor and pricing strategies. Only you can decide how to best match product with people. This decision comes from careful analysis of who is buying your product, in what specific platforms and for what price. If you are a start-up, researching where competitors are finding success will give you ideas and information on how your product or service may stack up.

Today, sales take place in fluid environments which turn on a dime. Keeping a product or service relevant in such markets is challenging. Ask yourself some key questions: What can I change or add to my product that will distinguish it from others? Is the background story on my product or service bold enough to make customers take a second look? What benefits can I promote to add relevancy to my product or service? One definition of relevance is being “closely connected.” Building that connection is the basis for customer loyalty and drawing in new buyers.

A marketing plan needs to be timely and in step with trends. This does not mean straying away from foundational business strategies on a whim, but doing enough research to see how consumers are reacting to new buying habits. The upswing in producing and distributing meal packages is a perfect example. Food chains discovered consumers would pay more for pre-packaged, pre-cut and pre-cooked meal components. The next step was distributing groceries directly to the consumer’s doorstep via home delivery. Now the entire idea has grown into a fresh, nutritious complete meal package arriving at the home in time to make dinner.

You can glean marketing ideas from many sources, but talking to your customers is a good place to start. Customer feedback sparks ideas and identifies trends which will help you adapt your marketing plan to the changing needs of buyers. You can also visit trade shows or attend conferences and observe what is being written, discussed and visualized for your product category now and in the future.

Creating a marketing plan asks you to identify your target audiences, price points and projected sales. You can tailor this information to serve you best by making it personal to your own situation, keeping it relevant to a changing marketplace and making timely decisions that reflect consumer trends. This represents a starting point from which more sophisticated marketing research will add to your business success.

The above information is for educational purposes and should not be substituted for professional business or legal counseling.