Essential Elements of a Marketing Plan


The marketing plan is a critically important part of the business plan for a new business owner. Even if you don’t include a detailed marketing plan in the business plan, you absolutely need to complete one before formally beginning your new business. There are many elements of a good marketing plan, and you’ll want to think about all of them. Here are 6 areas to keep in mind.

Advertising Materials

Your advertising materials can cover a wide range. There are many options to consider when it comes to advertising including: online, on-site, remote, print, traditional media and more. You also have options when it comes to producing advertising materials, whether you work through an advertising agency or directly with a production company or media outlet. Although you might think your budget can’t afford media advertising, it’s often possible to contract on a commission basis, where the media company is paid only when sales occur. You should also think about ways you can get free local publicity.

Sales Materials

With a new business, your sales materials can include a sales proposal, product brochures, flyers, business cards, and stationery. You only get one shot to make a good first impression, particularly with a new business, so have the marketing materials ready that you’ll need to make professional and organized presentations and sales calls.

Target Market

One of the most important parts of your marketing plan is identifying the target market for your business. It will be hard to secure funding or make progress with a marketing plan is you cannot make a convincing case for who will want your product or service. Once you know your market, you can start advertising to these people through any of the methods discussed above.

Online Marketing

Most businesses today will have to market themselves effectively online to succeed. How you choose to do this can depend on the type of product or service you are providing. If you’re selling your products or services on your own website, that will require developing and maintaining your website, which can be a major investment. On the other hand, if you’re advertising a service, you can use website marketing to drive attention and business to your company. In this scenario, not only would you use your own website, but you can also get ads on other business sites that might have similar customers to your own and put your company on Internet business directories, expanding your online footprint and the chance that someone may discover you. Most companies, especially startups, can also benefit from other, lower cost forms of advertising like social media marketing and Google Adwords.

Other Companies

Your marketing plan ought to account for other companies, both competitors and potential partners. It’s rare for a business not to have some competition in its field, so it’s important for you to outline in your marketing plan how you will distinguish your business from your competitors. Think about what makes you unique, and how you’ll be able to compete with other companies. On the other hand, there are many products and services that might be good complements to your own, making them natural partners rather than competitors. An efficient way to market your business is to network with other companies that share a similar customer base to your own. Possibilities include joint advertising or sale proposals, network events, and trade shows.

Alternative Strategies

The only constant in business is change, so your marketing plan must demonstrate that you have the flexibility to adapt to changes in the business environment. Your competition may change, technology may rapidly advance, or your products and services might be modified over time. Think about contingency plans for ways to adjust your marketing strategy to changing conditions, demonstrating that your business will have the adaptability to be a lasting success.

A well-researched, thoughtfully written marketing plan can be a great tool. How have you used yours to market yourself and your business?

Matt Tarkenton

Matt Tarkenton

Matt Tarkenton is Executive Vice President at Tarkenton Companies, and has started several businesses and is interested in business formation, strategy, and growth. He was part of a group that started Renova Partners, a boutique investment bank, and was recognized as a “40 Under 40: Up and Comer” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle in 2009. Matt performs business planning and marketing training for hundreds of professionals across the country, and co-hosts a weekly coaching program on entrepreneurial education. Matt graduated from Princeton University, and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. He maintains his Series 7, 63, and 79 licenses, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Youth Villages, on the Education Committee of the National Association of Fixed Annuities (NAFA), and in leadership positions in various organizations.