This course is designed to help you understand what should go into a marketing plan and how to put it together. As well as the various components a solid marketing plan will contain, you’ll see how to assess your needs and goals, determine your target audience, and make informed decisions based on marketing data. With this information, you’ll be able to write a strong marketing plan for your company or organization.

A Marketing Plan is a written strategy for selling the products/services of a new business. It is a reflection of how serious a company is in meeting the competition head on, with strategies and plans to increase market share and attract customers.

What is a sales plan?

A sales plan lays out your objectives, high-level tactics, target audience, and potential obstacles. It’s like a traditional business plan but focuses specifically on your sales strategy. A business plan lays out your goals — a sales plan describes exactly how you’ll make those happen.

Sales plans often include information about the business’ target customers, revenue goals, team structure, and the strategies and resources necessary for achieving its targets.

An effective sales plan should do the following:

  • Communicate your company’s goals and objectives to your sales team.
  • Provide strategic direction for your sales team.
  • Outline roles and responsibilities for your sales team and leadership.
  • Monitor your sales team’s progress on organizational goals.

Sales Planning Process

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that sales planning doesn’t just encompass the creation of a sales plan document. In order for that document to be more than something that gathers dust on the bookshelf, a high-level strategy is required.

You should:

  • Gather sales data from the previous year and search for trends.
  • Define your objective and create sales targets that meet your revenue goals.
  • Determine the metrics that will be used to gauge success.
  • Assess your current situation, including weaknesses that will act as roadblocks and strengths that will help.
  • Start sales forecasting based on demand trends and historical data.
  • Identify any gaps that need to be filled to achieve your targets.
  • Ideate new initiatives based on opportunities you may have passed on in previous years.
  • Involve stakeholders from departments that affect your outcomes such as Marketing and Product.
  • Outline action items based on capacity and quota numbers.

One thing to keep in mind is that sales planning shouldn’t end with the creation of the document.

You’ll want to reiterate this process every year to maintain your organization’s sales excellence.

Now that you’re committed to the sales planning process, let’s dive into the written execution component of sales planning.

What Goes in a Sales Plan Template?

A typical sales plan includes the following sections:

  • Target customers: Who your company aims to serve with its products and services.
  • Revenue targets: How much revenue your team aims to bring in each period.
  • Strategies and tactics: The specific actions your team will take to reach revenue targets.
  • Pricing and promotions: Documentation of your offering’s prices and any upcoming promotions that can convert customers.
  • Deadlines and DRIs (Directly Responsible Individuals): Outline any important dates for deliverables and list who is accountable for their completion.
  • Team structure: Who is on your team, and what their role is.
  • Resources: The tools your team uses to reach revenue targets.
  • Market conditions: Pertinent information about your industry and the competitive landscape.

Which Comes First?

When it comes to sales plans and sales projections, it’s often a chicken or egg question — do you create the sales plan first, or the sales projections? For some organizations, sales projections are forecast, then a sales plan is created to help determine how to reach those projections. In other organizations, a sales plan is created in order to determine how expanding business into new sectors will affect sales projections; then, projections are made incorporating these new sales. And sometimes, sales plans and sales projections are created in tandem, with information from one informing the decisions made for the other.

Does My Business Need Both?

While sales projections and sales plans can work independently of each other, both are tools that can help your organization to reach sales goals. Sales projections can help you to get a better idea of how much you need to generate in sales in order to break even or make a profit, while sales plans can be an essential part of planning for staffing, creating advertising and travel budgets or just identifying sales markets that you have not previously considered.

Why You Need a Business and Marketing Plan

There is some debate regarding the need for home business owners to have a formal business plan, especially if you’re not asking for startup funding. However, a business plan isn’t only about appealing to banks and investors. The truth is, every business, regardless of size needs a business plan. A business plan helps you:

  • Determine where you are now in relation to where you want to go in your business
  • Identify needed resources to start and run your business
  • Develop clarity and focus on what needs to be done
  • Gain insight to and understanding of your industry, market, and more
  • Calculate start up costs and what you need to charge to build a profitable business
  • Hone in on your offer, how its different from your competitors, and how it benefits your potential client/customer
  • Obtain financing
  • Decide if you need to hire or contract outside help

What to Include in the Marketing & Sales Strategies Section

The basics of the marketing and sales section have to do with knowing your market and competition, and designing your product messaging, pricing, and other marketing strategies to maximize sales. It involves the 5 P’s of marketing, as well as figuring out how you’ll measure your marketing mix‘s success. 

Here are the 5 P’s of marketing:

  • Product – Describe the product or service offered to the customer by your home business, including the physical attributes of your products or services, what they do, how they differ from your competitors and what benefits they provide to your potential customers.
  • Price – Outline your pricing strategies that will help you reach your target profit margin. How you will price your product or service so that the price remains competitive while still allowing you to make a good profit? When calculating price, make sure you take into consideration both fixed expenses (those that don’t change) and variable expenses (costs that aren’t set), as well as your time and expertise, to insure you’re charging enough to make a profit. Also discuss if your price will be lower or higher than your competition, and how you can justify the difference (i.e. what do buyers get by paying more for your product?).
  • Place (Distribution) – Indicate where your business will sell its products or services, and how it will get those products or services to consumers. For example, will you sell online? Will you consign your products into local stores? When you know what outlets our product and services will be available, indicate how much you expect to sell in each location. For example, will 65 percent of your sales be done online and 35 percent through face-to-face appointments? Also include any delivery terms and costs, and how those expenses will be covered (i.e. added to the sale of the item). Indicate if there any shipping or labeling requirements that need to be considered and how you will meet those requirements. Finally, outline the transaction process and your return policies.
  • Promotion – What methods of promotion you will use to communicate the features and benefits of your products or services to your target customers? Will you advertise? If so, where? What percentage of advertising will be handled by each advertising option? How much business do you anticipate each form of advertising will result in? How much is this all going to cost? Also indicate if you plan to offer coupons or other incentives to get customers in the door.
  • People – Decide your sales strategy and the people who will provide sales and service that will be used in marketing your products or services to the customer. Who are the people or sales team that will be providing this service, and what kind of sales training will they receive? Do you plan to offer any incentives to your customer service representatives and how do you plan to measure customer satisfaction?

Essentially, the 5 P’s of marketing forms the basis of your marketing plan. If you want to make your marketing plan a standalone document, you’ll also want to include the information you prepared in the Market Analysis section for your business plan.

What is a Sales Projection?

A sales projection is a forecast used to estimate sales for defined time in the future. Often the product of research that combines in-house past sales figures and speculation about the market for sales during the next quarter, year or other time period, a sales projection is useful tool for budgeting, forecasting inventory needs or determining staffing needs. Sales projections are often essential for creating a projected budget, and without some idea of how much of a product or service you intend to sell in the future, it can be difficult to determine how much you’ll need to spend for inventory and/or staffing.

Conclusion

Even if you have a great idea for a product or service, you may still fall short of your goals if you don’t have a plan to sell it. A marketing plan allows you to identify important steps, tasks and deadlines to make your business successful.

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