Marketing Plans

Often businesses have a mental marketing plan but very little – or nothing at all – on paper. The process of documenting it all may seem arduous but it is worthwhile because it means everyone understands your objectives and how you are going to achieve them.

It also means you can experiment with various scenarios such as considering changing a price, altering a product or developing a new promotion – and easily see how your marketing plan may have to change to accommodate this.

Your marketing plan is a part of your overall business plan. For more on this, visit Business Planning.

Your marketing plan needs to answer these questions:

  • Why am I in business and how do I define ‘success’ for my business? (This can be in terms of sales, market penetration, size of your business and what you want to achieve personally as well)
  • What do my customers and consumers want?
  •  Why will customers buy from me and consumers use my products rather than those of my competitors?
  •  How will I communicate with my customers and consumers about my product’s attributes/benefits?

Your marketing plan is the documentation of the answers to these questions and details the necessary actions you will take to achieve your marketing goals. Marketing plans can be for a single product or service, a product line or an entire brand. Marketing plans cover between one and five years, and should be a component of your overall business plan because your marketing objectives must coordinate with your overall business objectives.

Competitive positioning

Brands and products can be positioned in the market through a number of attributes and these all will be considered in developing your marketing plans and individual activities such as promotions and advertising. Examples of this are to position, or focus your marketing messages and activities:

  • by specific product attributes—i.e. health benefits, flavour
  • by usage occasions—i.e. summer, celebrations, everyday
  • by classes of users—i.e. children, sport orientated, low carbohydrate diet
  • directly against a competitor—head to head
  • directly away from competitors—e.g. emphasising the direct differences

To develop the brand or product’s own position in the market place, the business must develop a group of competitive advantages that are unique.

The marketing mix

Put simply, any business will aim to identify, attract and satisfy customers and consumers. The traditional approach to creating a marketing plan is based on four components; these being having the right product (or service), at the right price, in the right place at the right time, and actively promoted to your chosen target market . These four elements are often referred to as the ‘4 P’s of the marketing mix’:


Product’ is the ‘goods and services’ combination the business offers to the target market. This includes research, development and testing, the number of items to be included in the product mix, portion size, packaging, branding and product launch.


Price’ is the amount of money customers and consumers have to pay to obtain the product. Pricing decisions will include assessment of the market conditions and competition, desired returns on investment, product positioning and image through price/quality relationships.


Place’ includes all business activities, such as distribution, that make the product available to the target market. Decisions must be made as to whether you retail or wholesale, how many participants there will be in the distribution process, and in which physical locations the product will be made available. Will you be selling direct online? You will need to decide how to do that and what impact it will have on any other sales channels.


Promotion’ includes all activities that communicate the benefits of the product and persuade the target market to buy it. This is not just advertising , it also includes activities such as participating in  trade shows, media campaigns, presentations, developing point of sale) material, websites and social media.

The 4P model was developed over fifty years ago, when mass marketing first became widespread, and it continues to be the most commonly used approach for product and service marketing. In the years since, other ‘P’ factors have been added, including People (both the people in your own business and the people who purchase your product or service), Packaging (really part of getting the product right) and Process (which can cover both production and distribution and, if not considered separately, should be considered as part of the product and place analyses).

These elements are intertwined and cannot be considered in isolation from each other because if all the factors are not considered together it is very difficult to come up with a plan that can be executed successfully. The 4 P’s is an excellent starting point for getting your marketing plan down in simple and easy to understand terms.

Want more information?

There are many sources of advice and assistance to help develop a marketing plan to suit your type of business and your products or service. Getting your market research and market intelligence right is an important part of the preparation needed to write your plan. This can include talking to knowledgeable peers in the industry, existing and potential customers, consumers and suppliers and of course researching your target audience, product category, competitors and market characteristics such as size and consumer behaviours and trends.

Making the most of your network, including membership of industry groups such as Food SA, attending meetings, tours and workshops are all important ways to find out what’s happening in the sector and to get ideas for your marketing plan.

These are also useful guides to getting started:

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