Staff Writer

Busy business owners can benefit from taking the time to develop a marketing plan. Think of the plan as a road map to help get you to where you want to go.

The plan can serve as a tool to help you evaluate the potential for products, a guideline for the rational development of new products, and a touchstone to help you decide on marketing strategies and tactics for specific products. When writing your plan, here are 10 sections you should include:

  1. Executive summary. Start with a concise description of your product, an explanation of how it’s different (better) than those of your competitors, its competitive advantage, your objectives for the product, and financial implications, including capital needed and expected sales and profits from the product.
  2. Product description. Include enough information so the reader can understand why your product is a valid opportunity for your business. A paragraph on product details and another summarizing the opportunity will probably be enough.
  3. Market analysis. Illustrate the size of the overall product category and potential for your product, justify why your product should be considered as an opportunity within that category, describe the scope and characteristics of the potential market, and identify the key factors buyers consider when making a purchase decision.
  4. Competitive analysis. Identify competitors, and document their strengths and weaknesses and how they operate in the market. Rank competitors based on how you perceive their strength and identify any potential competitors you foresee entering the market.
  5. Product development. Detail how your product will be developed or enhanced to better compete. Describe the current status of your product and plans for its ongoing development. Include timelines, costs, personnel needed and details on how the product will come together.
  6. Operations. Describe how your product will fit into your company’s overall operations. For instance, is it an extension of an existing product line or something entirely new? Will you need additional personnel with specific skills, and are they available? Will you need additional space or a different location?
  7. Goals and objectives. Note the anticipated costs to develop the product, expected sales and your estimates of the share of market you expect to achieve.
  8. Marketing tactics. Some issues to focus on include introductory vs. ongoing efforts, product positioning, pricing,distribution channels and advertising.
  9. Financial information. At a minimum, provide 3-year projections for the product, including volume projections (dollars and quantities) and projections for net income and cash flow.
  10. Summary. Conclude by highlighting the product’s potential, the competitive advantage your product has compared to your competitors’, and the positive impact it will have on your company.