Marketing Planning Process (7 Key Steps)

The marketing Planning Process is one of the key pillars of success for your business, the process allows you to understand your competition, potential customers, and how to build successful marketing strategies to reach your target customers.

There are four factors that will influence your marketing planning process, they include; the problem statement, your business solutions, the current market trend, and the sales forecast.

Problem Statement: The problem statement identifies the problem your business is solving in the market, and why customers would buy your products and services.

Business Description: Your business description identifies you to your customer, what you are providing to the customers and why your business is unique compared to other industry participants.

Taste, Trends, and Technology: Taste, trends, and technology are some of the market factors you need to consider before working on your marketing planning process. Markets tend to shift due to customers’ tastes, trends, and technology, you will need to estimate future development to avoid working planning your marketing efforts on markets that will change rendering the marketing planning process absolute.

Sales and Revenue Forecast: You will need the marketing plan to achieve the sales forecast and revenues of your business. When working on the marketing planning process you will need to specify the actions you will take to achieve the specified sales and revenues forecast.

Marketing Planning Process

Marketing Planning Process

The marketing planning process starts with the marketing team identifying the marketing strategies to use using specific demographic characteristics of target market customers and competitive strategies, followed by listing down the promotional items and the costs associated with each one of them. The next step that follows is dividing the total marketing budget by the duration the campaign will last.

The process is outlined below, including examples of marketing costs, promotions, and monthly marketing budgets, the blueprint of your marketing planning process is used in your marketing plan.

1. Competition Analysis

The first thing to consider when writing your competitive analysis is the problem you are solving in the market, competitive analysis will help you understand if your business can solve the problem in the market.

Competitive analysis will require you to put yourself in your customer frame of mind and use your competitors as a benchmark of your business, this way you will understand how your customer thinks and what leads to their market engagement decisions.

A competitive analysis allows you to think like your customers, have a closer look at the products they are being offered, how they are treated by the competitors and how products are marketed, delivered to them, and at what prices.

There may be several factors influencing customers in your target markets such as friends and families, the community, government, or other sources. You need to focus on the decisions your customers are facing and how your competitors are solving their problems.

During the marketing planning process, you need to place yourself in the mind of the customer and identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, you can do this by writing a small statement that highlights each competitor’s strengths and weaknesses. You will then use your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses to identify ways your business is going to solve the problems customers face on a daily to daily basis.

To get an understanding of your target market you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are there market gaps that exist in my target market?
  2. Are the gaps in the market big enough to make money for your business?
  3. How much do I need to sell to break even?
  4. Who are my competitors and what’s the competitive landscape?
  5. What are the weaknesses in my competitor’s products and services?

An example of competitor analysis is shown in the table below:

FactorYour BusinessCompetitor #1Competitor #2Competitor #3
Low Cost5444
Superior Quality4543
Onboard ControlsYesYesNoNo
Training of EmployeesYesNoNoYes
Customizable products4543
Unique Features5545
Fast Delivery5443
sample competitor analysis table

2. Differentiate your products from the competition.

Product differentiation is the ability to differentiate your product from your competitors. Product differentiation is the reason to sell your product over your competition’s. There are different types of product differentiation. For example, product differentiation is based on price, quality, service, image, and branding.

After working on the competitor analysis, you need to identify how your business will differentiate its products from the competitors highlighted. When working on this section of the marketing planning process, you need to place yourself in the mind of the customer.

When looking at the pricing of products and services, you need to consider the quality and services provided during the delivery of products and services. Quality of products and services are very influential in the pricing of products, this means you have to provide higher quality and services if your prices are higher and lower prices if the quality of products and services are inferior.

When you have stronger points than your competition and your customers take them for granted you can leave them out of your description same as weak points, but if your share the same traits in these points you can include them in your differentiating description.

To understand your customer needs you should answer the following questions:

  1. How do customers in the market get their products; is in-store, delivery, ordering online, or through door to door?
  2. Who is the primary influencer on the purchase of goods and services, is it the father, mother, husband, wife, children, contractors, secretary, etc?
  3. Where to the customer get information regarding the products and services, is it through television, word of mouth, newspapers, magazines, etc?
  4. What are the motivating factors for purchasing goods and services, eg is it the trend, day-to-day activities, work-related, school-related, etc?

3. Describe your target customers.

The next step of the marketing planning process is to describe your customers in individual terms and not as a group. In order to decide how you will reach your customers, it’s imperative you know how you will tailor your marketing and sales strategy to reach a targeted population that is potential customers.

It’s a natural instinct to target a group of people, unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t align with the promotion strategy and your promotional costs will be high and not focused. a highly focused promotional campaign will need you to describe your customers in individual terms that will directly meet the needs and desires of individual customers.

Identify the following demographic characteristics of your market based on business to consumer and business to business target markets.

Business to Consumer Demographic Profiling Sample:

Consumer MarketDemographic Characteristics
ProfessionSmall Business Owner
Family Size2
Marital StatusMarried
Business to Consumer Demographic Profiling Sample

Businesses to Business Demographic Profiling Sample:

Business MarketDemographic Characteristics
Geographic LocationNew York
Size of CompanySmall and Medium Enterprises
Annual Revenue$10,000,000
Number of Branches10
Number of Employees200
IndustryHospitality Industry
Age of Company15 Years
Businesses to Business Demographic Profiling Sample:

Not all customers are the same, however, by personalizing your marketing and sales strategy to a specific type of customer your marketing efforts are more likely to be effective and appealing to the target customers.

It’s important to be specific as much as possible, you can include demographics such as age, education, marital status, hobbies, reading preferences, favorite television shows, etc.

4. Develop your marketing message.

Your marketing message should be able to explain your business to your prospective customers, by informing them what your business does and persuading them to buy your goods or services.

It’s advisable to develop two marketing messages, one should be short and straight to the point, most marketers call this the elevator pitch, and should be a simple response to “what does your business do?.

The second message should be compelling and elaborative and should be used in all your marketing materials, this message should be able to answer the following questions:

  1. The current market challenges your customers are facing.
  2. Proof that the problem is relevant and should be addressed, without further delay.
  3. An explanation of how your goods or services are solving the exact problem.
  4. An explanation of the benefits of using your goods and services compared to your competitors.
  5. It’s also a good idea to share testimonials from professionals in the field, your customers, or even business partners.
  6. An explanation of the costs, fees, and payment terms.
  7. Finally, the marketing message should contain an unconditional guarantee.

5. Decide how to reach customers.

After describing your potential customer, the next step involves listing down several options to reach that individual person by creating an advertisement campaign plan, understanding your customer demographics will enable you to decide on the best possible methods of communicating to the target customers.

There are several strategies to reach your target customers, however, this will be determined by the size of your customers, for example, architecture firms have few customers with big contracts and retail shops have a large number of customers with small contracts, these are some of the factors that can determine your marketing strategies and your marketing budget.

Ways to Reach Your Target Customer:

Ways to Reach Your Target Customer infographic

There are a lot of marketing strategies to reach your target customers, but the most effective way to reach and retain your customers for a long time relationship is through word of mouth and recommendations. all the marketing and advertising strategies are ways to reach your customers but not the best way to retain your customers.

After listing own how to reach your customers and the communication channels, it’s time to create a budget for your marketing using the channels you have selected based on the demographics of your customers.

6. Set sales and marketing goals.

Sales are marketing goals are critical to the success of your business, this is because goals create a roadmap and a benchmark for measuring your success towards a successful marketing strategy.

It’s important that you make sure your goals are following the smart (Sensible, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Specific) formula.

Sales and marketing goals should include monitory and non-monitory aspects such as annual sales forecast, gross profit, and sales per unit, non monitory aspects include sales per team, contracts achieved, clients served, and marketing done.

Goals should be understood by all employees in the business and should be reviewed in marketing team meetings, board meetings, management meetings, etc for an effective implementation process.

5. Create a marketing budget.

The first step toward creating a marketing budget is to identify promotional strategies you can afford and the ones you cannot afford.

How much money do I need to finance my promotional strategy?

You should be spending about 2-5% of your sales revenue on your promotion strategy, this is based on historical budgeting expenses of successful companies. You should strategically promote your business to your target customers through a systematic approach that addresses your customer needs and should be different from your competitors.

Marketing budget briefing

Is my promotional strategy effective?

The next step involves estimating the total cost of your marketing strategies and comparing the costs with your total budget. The next step involves refining the estimates using real values from quotes from suppliers and vendors from suppliers.

For marketing process planning you just need the estimates first and align them with your marketing budget, and when you are actually working on the marketing process you get the real quotes from the suppliers you are working with, I highly recommend when working on the marketing budget to get quotes from research sources as this is time effective during the planning stages.

Do I have enough resources for my promotional strategy?

You have to identify the total estimates of your promotional costs, this will help you compare the costs with the marketing budgets you had benchmarked using industry standards or forecasted. An example of a marketing budget is shown below and distributed in the three months that the campaign will last.

Marketing budget sample

Q1 Marketing ExpendituresJanuaryFebruaryMarchQ1 Totals
Trade Shows$1,500$1,000$500$3,000
Team Training$1,700$2,750$3,500$7,950
Niche Magazines$1,000$350$1,000$2,350
Sales Forecast$375,000$400,000$425,000$1,200,000
Marketing % of sales3.253%3.300%2.988%3.175%

What are the steps in the marketing planning process?

The marketing planning process is an essential part of a company’s growth. It can be broken into four steps:
1) market analysis,
2) market research,
3) market strategy and
4) implementation and control.

What are the seven steps of a marketing plan?

1.      Start with a business plan
2.      Think about the product or service you are selling
3.      Select the target market
4.      Choose the right marketing strategy
5.      Identify the competition
6.      Design a marketing campaign
7.      Follow-up and evaluate

What are the five steps in marketing planning?

The five steps in marketing planning are to define your marketing goals, select a marketing plan, develop your marketing plan, develop your sales plan, and develop your marketing plan.

What are the four steps of a marketing plan?              

The four steps of a marketing plan are as follows: 1. Identify your target market. 2. Develop a compelling message. 3. Plan your advertising. 4. Track your results.

Which step of the marketing process is the most important?

The marketing process is probably the most important part of the business. It is the first step, and if done correctly, it can make or break a business. The most important step of the marketing process is to understand the customers. You must have a clear understanding of the customers’ needs to create a product or service that they will want to buy. Your product or service must meet their needs, or they will have no use for it.

James Ndungu

James is a one-on-one business consultant who helps CEOs, executives, and solopreneurs build their personal and professional branding.

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