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Creating A Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a key component of a business plan, a document written by an individual or group of individuals interested in launching a new business. Creating a marketing plan allows new business owners to understand their customer base, determine exactly how products or services will meet the needs of a customer base, and devise promotional and sales strategies to target that specific market. Marketing plans can also be written throughout the life of a business to determine appropriate strategies for things like public relations campaigns designed to raise the general awareness level of a company or advertising efforts designed to position products and services as superior to those of competitors. Although many businesses create marketing plans to detail their firm's overall marketing strategy, some use more focused marketing plans for specific brands or products.

In the late 1990s, as World Wide Web-based advertising began its surge in popularity, many traditional companies scrambled to gain a presence online. Web sites for all sorts of companies, as well as for specific brands, began to emerge. When traffic to many of these sites failed to materialize, some industry experts pointed to a lack of planning as the culprit. Companies had built the sites before establishing goals or figuring out who they were targeting. Along similar lines, many upstarts launched operations with no concrete marketing plan because speed to market was the top priority. When the stock market plummeted in 2000, and s began disappearing as quickly as they emerged, the business climate changed and surviving companies began investing time and effort in traditional business development tools like marketing plans. Fledgling firms began pulling together marketing plans to guide overall marketing strategy, while more established firms began to update their original marketing plans to include specifics on the addition of a new channel, the Internet, to existing marketing efforts.

By 2001, many firms, including automotive giant General Motors Corp., had started to view the Internet as one of many marketing channels. When creating a marketing plan, whether it will include Internet-based initiatives or not, General Motors executives first identify concrete goals for the plan before choosing a channel or group of channels, such as television, radio, and print. For example, they might decide their goal is to generate a specified number of leads for a new vehicle launch. Once the goal is in place, one of the next major planning decisions concerns target audience. For example, if the target audience of a new product?Xsuch as GM's Vibe, which was under production in 2001?Xis young professionals, a marketing plan can specify how the firm might best reach those individuals. If the audience GM is trying to reach is present on the Internet, the firm can then decide if that medium is going to play a major role or simply a supporting role. Because General Motors executives believe the Internet is particularly well suited to lead generation campaigns, the firm might choose Web-based marketing as the focal point of its lead generation campaign for Vibe. Television, radio, and prints ads might then be used to publicize Web-based promotions.

Telecommunications services provider Verizon also uses the Internet as one of many channels. According to Julie Weitzner, a marketing executive for Verizon quoted in the August 2001 issue of E-Commerce Times, the firm establishes specific, measurable goals for nearly all of its marketing efforts, both online and offline. It then determines if the goal is something that might be best handled via the Internet, like a lead generation campaign, or if it is something Verizon believes is better suited to more traditional mediums, such as a brand-building initiative. Having selected the channels, the firm then begins to address questions surrounding audience. "What we try to do is view [the Internet] like any other medium. We define our target audience and we usually have multiple targets, which the Web allows you to segment. For instance, with our DSL, we can focus on gamers, people who download a lot of video or music as a key target audience."

Marketing plans, even those created within a single company, can vary in scope, format, length, and level of detail; however, they typically include similar types of information. In addition, regardless of a firm's online activities or lack thereof, marketing plan developers tend to follow similar steps when creating a marketing plan.

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