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Business Research

Creating a Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is one component of a business plan. Marketing plans contain information about a company's products and/or services and discuss how potential customers will be identified and how the company's products and/or services will be marketed to them.

Putting together a marketing plan is a time-intensive process that involves conducting a great deal of research using a variety of different resources and then synthesizing that research into one cohesive document that provides a detailed discussion of a company's target market, its competitors, industry trends, etc.

Below is a list of some of the elements generally included in a marketing plan, as well as -- for some of the elements -- suggestions on where to find more information regarding that element.

I. Executive summary

A brief synopsis of the marketing plan that provides highlights about a company's offerings and marketing strategies

II. Situation analysis

Presents pertinent information about a company. Commonly included sections include:

  1. Mission statement - explains a company's purpose, goals, and/or strategy. See Finding a Company's Mission Statement for more information about how to find existing company mission statements and how to write a mission statement.
  2. Product or service description - provides a detailed description of a company's products and/or services
  3. Value proposition - explains the benefits that customers will receive from a company's products and/or services. For more information, see How to Create an Effective Value Proposition.
  4. SWOT analysis - explains a company's internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities and threats. For more information, see SWOT Analysis Research.
  5. Critical issues - outlines the strategy that would best utilize a company's strengths and opportunities while minimizing the effects of its weaknesses and threats

III. Market analysis

includes information about market trends and dynamics, as well as about the target market and the competitive environment. Commonly included sections are:

  1. Macro environment - includes information about the political, economic, social, and technological factors affecting a company, as well as information about the industry in which the company operates
    Suggested resources:

    For information about establishing a company in another country, see Finding Country Information.

    For information about establishing a company in a U.S. city or town, use Google, Bing, or another search engine to find the city's or town's chamber of commerce, which will provide information about existing area businesses and may provide information about establishing a new business in a particular locale, etc.

    For economic information, see Economic Surveys in the Economic Census and/or Economic Indicators and/or Federal Reserve Economic Data.

    For demographic and psychographic information, see Finding Demographic or Psychographic Information.

    For technology research, search in some of the Library's Marketing databases, using a search strategy such as [your topic] AND technolog*

    For industry research, see Finding Industry Overviews and Finding Industry Trends and Projections.
  2. Market size - discusses current market size as well as expected growth rate. See Finding Market Size Information.
  3. Market trends - discusses the market factors that may affect purchasing behavior. See Conducting Market Research and/or Finding Industry Trends and Projections.
  4. Target market analysis - explains which particular population will be the focus of a company's marketing efforts and why the population's characteristics are relevant to the company's marketing plans
  5. Consumer analysis - discusses demographic, psychographic, and behavior characteristics of the target market identified above. Search in some of the Library's Marketing databases, using a search strategy such as
    [your target market] AND (demograph* OR psychograph* OR "consumer behavior")
  6. Need analysis - explains what needs the target market has and how a company's products and/or services could meet those needs. Target market needs may be identified from the consumer analysis conducted above.
  7. Competitive analysis - lists a company's major competitors and their marketing strategies. See Finding a Company's Competitors to find a company's major competitors. To find those companies' marketing strategies, search in some of the Library's Marketing databases, using a search strategy such as
    [company name] AND "market* strategy"

IV. Market strategy

Provides measurable information about how a company will meet its objectives and the time frame in which it will do this

  1. Marketing objectives - describes a company's goals, usually in terms of sales (units or dollars) or market share
  2. Financial objectives - describes a company's expected profits or revenue
  3. Positioning strategy - discusses how a company's products or services will be introduced to the marketplace and differentiated from the products or services of its competitors
  4. Product strategy - provides detailed information about a company's products or services, including potential future offerings
  5. Price strategy - explains how a company's products or services will be priced, taking into account internal as well as external factors that may affect supply and demand, etc.
  6. Distribution strategy - describes where and how a company's products or services will be provided to customers
  7. Integrated marketing communications strategy - discusses how customers will be informed about a company's products or services
  8. Branding strategy - describes how a company's name, logo, slogan, design, etc. will be marketed so that they will be increasingly recognized by members of the company's target market. For more information, see Brand Management.
  9. Marketing research - describes the market research activities that will be conducted during the period for which the marketing plan is being written -- for example, consumer research, industry research, forecasting, competitive analysis, etc.

V. Financial analysis

Provides detailed information about a company's projected financial situation

  1. Break-even analysis - estimates how much of a company's products or services need to be sold in order to cover the company's costs
  2. Sales forecast - estimates a company's sales for a given period of time. For more information, see Business Forecasting.
  3. Expense forecast - lists the marketing expenses needed to achieve a company's marketing objectives

VI. Implementation and control

Explains how a company's marketing plan will be implemented and what measures the company could in place in order to handle unexpected events

  1. Implementation - provides a detailed timeline for the execution of the various activities described in the company's marketing plan
  2. Controls - discusses the benchmarks a company will use to chart its progress against its implementation schedule
  3. Marketing organization chart - outlines the structure of a company's marketing team, specifying which person is responsible for which marketing activity
  4. Contingency planning - explains how a company will handle unexpected events

Additional Sources of Information

The print books, ebooks, and websites listed below are good sources of additional information about marketing plans and the various elements that make up such plans.

Print books