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6 essentials of a business marketing plan

Get prospective customers interested in your business.

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Smiling woman writing a marketing plan on sticky notes

A business marketing plan is an outline of your business’s goals and its strategy to reach them in the current market. While less essential to getting funding and investors, this document can help you come up with a strategy and stay on track when you’re getting started. Like a business plan, it should be a living document that you continually review and update as your business grows.

6 main elements of a marketing plan

While each business is different, most successful marketing plans contain these key elements:

1. Description of your product or service

Start out by describing the product or service you offer and what makes it unique compared to the competition. Include the following information:

  • Product or service summary. Briefly outline what your business offers, how it works and where customers can buy it.
  • Unique selling proposition. Describe what sets your business apart from other similar products or services in a sentence.
  • Customer benefits. Tell the reader why your customer might want to buy your product or pay for your service — as opposed to your competitors’.
  • Potential drawbacks — and solutions. Mention any roadblocks you might face and how your business might overcome them.

You might also want to mention packaging information, warranties and guarantees that will be provided with the products, information relating to repair of damaged products and also customer support information.

2. Market analysis

This is where you describe your business’s target audience. If you’re planning to sell your products to different audiences, include a complete analysis of all the market segments and a customer profile. Your analysis should answer the following:

  • Defining factors. What are the factors that define your target market?
  • Appeal. Why will your products or services appeal to your audience?
  • Goals. What are your customers’ goals?
  • Motivations. What motivates your target audience?
  • Problems. What are your target audience’s biggest problems?
  • How your product fits in. How does your product or service help your target audience reach its goals or solve a problem?
Pro tip: Invest in research

This section requires some research if you want to do it right. Some popular strategies include interviewing customers, holding focus groups, conducting surveys and looking into the competition. Consider factors in your customers’ daily lives that would affect their interaction with your company — including how they spend their time, salaries, living arrangements and general habits.

3. Marketing goals and objectives

Aside from bringing in more customers, describe what your business wants to achieve by marketing. This might include:

  • Brand awareness. Will your campaign be considered a success if more people know the name of your brand?
  • Brand perception. Do you want your target audience to view your products or services in a different light?
  • Making way for another product or service. Will your marketing strategy set the stage for future products or services down the line?

After you’ve laid out your marketing goals, describe how you’re planning to achieve these goals through your marketing and promotional activities.

4. Pricing details

This section describes on how much you charge for your products or services and the reason for those prices. You need to show that you’re still competitive in your current market, while also bringing in a profit. You might want to include the following details:

  • Pricing breakdown. List the prices your business charges for all products and services it offers.
  • Cost of production. Break down all of the costs involved with creating and distributing your product or services.
  • Competitor prices. How much do your competitors charge for similar products? And how does it compare with yours?
  • Justification of pricing. Explain why you chose those prices and, if you charge less than the competition, how you can afford to do so.
  • Return on investment. How much of a profit do you expect to make based on the prices and costs?
  • Promotions. Include information regarding discounts and rebates, such as holiday discounts or seasonal sales.

5. Advertising plan

This is the heart of your marketing plan. Your advertising plan should outline how you plan on reaching out to your target audience and its different stages. You might want to discuss how you plan on using all of the following advertising methods:

  • Social media. Which platforms do you plan on using, which is the priority and what types of targeted ads do you intend to use?
  • Online campaigns. Describe any banners or other online ads you intend on purchasing and why.
  • Email. Explain who you intend on reaching through email, describe the content and why you chose this method.
  • Ads in public space. List any billboards, subway advertisements and other ads that appear in public space and how that would best reach your target audience.
  • Television or radio ads. Which TV channels, stations or streaming services do you plan on advertising on and what will the ads contain?

Also, discuss any other strategies you might use to promote your company, such as special events, community service, articles and testimonials.

6. Marketing budget

In this section, you’ll break down the costs involved in each stage of your advertising plan. This will help you determine your exact financial needs for thorough marketing and advertising of your products.

You should also break down costs depending on the media you’re using for advertising, such as social media campaigns or paid online ads. And include a budget for initial promotional activities when you first launch your products, as well as for continued advertising once you have established yourself in the market.

Got a startup? Get started with a SWOT analysis

If you’ve never written a marketing plan for your business before, this type of analysis is an easy way to get started. Brainstorm all strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to your business and create a bulleted list. Then, edit it down to 2 or 3 key factors. Some people like to include a SWOT analysis in their marketing plan, while others use it as a starting point.

How to get financing for your marketing plan

As part of your marketing plan, you’ll touch upon several other important aspects of your overall business plan, including money. Working on your marketing plan is also a great time to start looking into how you’ll get your funding. Some of the most common options include:

  • Business loans. These traditional business funding options are flexible, with a variety of loan options to choose from.
  • Business credit cards. Business credit cards are ideal for smaller scale business investments, including marketing plans. Some cards even offer rewards on ads and other similar purchases.

Compare business credit cards

Name Product Purchase Interest Rate Cash Advance Rate Annual Fee Minimum Income Welcome Offer
American Express Business Edge Card
19.99%
21.99%
$99
N/A
Earn up to 42,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year. Earn a Welcome Bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months, and earn 1,000 Membership Rewards points each month (a total of 12,000 annually) when you spend a minimum of $3,000 on eligible purchases
BMO Rewards Business Mastercard
14.99%
22.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
N/A
Get up to $470 in value in your first year. Get 50,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months. Plus, the primary cardholder will get the first year $120 annual fee waived.
BMO Air Miles Business Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$120
N/A
Get up to 3,000 AIR MILES Bonus Miles ($310 towards your purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
BMO Cashback Business Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
N/A
Get 10% cash back on gas, office supplies, cell phone bills and internet bills for 3 months.
BMO Air Miles No-Fee Business Mastercard
19.99%
22.99%
$0
N/A
Get 1,150 AIR MILES Bonus Miles ($120 towards your purchases with AIR MILES Cash).
American Express AIR MILES for Business Card
N/A
N/A
$180
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
Business Platinum Card from American Express
N/A
N/A
$499
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 50,000 Membership Rewards points when you charge $7,000 in purchases to your Card in your first three months of Cardmembership.
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express Card
19.99%
21.99%
$150
N/A
Receive 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy™ points when you charge $1,500 in the first 3 months of card membership. Terms apply
American Express Business Gold Rewards Card
N/A
N/A
$250
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 30,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend at least $5,000 on eligible purchases within the first three months
American Express AIR MILES Gold Business Card
19.99%
21.99%
$0
N/A
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 150 AIR MILES when you spend at least $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months
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Compare up to 4 providers

Bottom line

A marketing plan can be as essential to setting and reaching your business’s goals as a business plan. Keep in mind that while these 6 sections are a good start, you might want to include even more depending on the nature of your company. Once you have a plan in place and have started reaching goals, you might be ready to scale your business.

You can learn how to finance a marketing plan or growth by checking out our guide to business loans.

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