Although it is usually referred to as a marketing plan, a thorough marketing plan should instead be thought of as a product plan. It should cover virtually all aspects of bringing a product or a service to market.

Typically, marketing plans are used in product-oriented businesses, but they are important for service companies as well. A separate plan should be devised at least once a year for each distinctive service or group of related services that the firm offers, or anytime you are launching a major new product or service.

A Great Marketing Plan Is More Than Just a List of Promotional Activities

A good marketing plan should begin with an evaluation of the entire potential market for each product category and include an analysis of consumer behavior, the competition and its products, and the strengths and weaknesses of the company as a competitor. Then you need to detail your product positioning and product attributes, including its benefits and features. Planned sales and promotional activities also need to be addressed. Next, you need to subject your spreadsheets to some heavy-duty number crunching and develop profit and loss pro formas (projections) for each product. The conclusion to a marketing plan predicts competitive reaction and a very brief consideration of possible longer-term product options.

Some steps in creating a marketing plan for your products or services may overlap with your other products or services or with companywide strategies—this is fine. Nonetheless, it important to look at each product line and service separately. Doing your homework for each product may reveal very different product characteristics or competitive positioning requirements that may not have been considered otherwise.

You are probably thinking, “Are you kidding? Are you suggesting a marketing plan for each major product or service, and in addition a totally separate business plan?”

Yes, I seriously am.

Most small companies don’t do it—but you should. It could dramatically increase your chances of success!

For example, at my book publishing company, where I published close to 200 new books a year, we would do a separate marketing plan on every single book that wasn’t in a series; this might have been as many as 80 books per year. For each series we did an especially careful marketing plan.

We didn’t even think about deciding to publish a book until we had made a plan for its profitability, which would always include a tentative marketing plan. So we actually created marketing plans not just for every single book we published, but also for many that we decided not to publish.

You may think it was overkill, but remember, our profit margins were three times the industry average. Our return on capital looked more like that from a winning lottery number than anyone else’s in the industry!

If you are really serious about running your business well, you will need to make the time for lots of thinking, strategizing, and planning, not just doing the usual day-to-day activities.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • A marketing plan is really a product plan.
  • Evaluate the potential market.
  • Every product or service should have its own marketing plan.