Do you have a marketing plan?

A marketing plan details everything you need to do to convince your customers to buy your products and services. It is based on data you collected and verified during your market research.

A marketing plan is an offshoot of your business's marketing strategy. It spells out the marketing activities to be carried out over a given period of time. It describes your target audience, marketing devices and activities, sales targets and timelines.

A marketing plan details everything you need to do to convince your customers to buy your products and services, i.e., the strategies and tactics you need to employ to boost your sales. Formulating a marketing plan entails coming up with an action plan based on the data you collected and verified during your market research. Your marketing plan should consist of a marketing mix—a set of strategies commonly referred to as the 4 Ps: Product, Price, Promotion and Place. Some people even include a fifth P—People—for customer service.

Here's what you need to determine for each strategy in your marketing plan.

Product and service strategy

Your product and service strategy deals with the features of your products and services that differentiate you from the competition and meet the needs of your target audience in order to get them to buy.

  • What strategy do you want to use and why (market penetration, expansion, diversification, etc.)?
  • What are your competitive advantages?
  • What are the features of your products and services (line, packaging, trademark, model, quality, etc.)?
  • What are your terms and conditions for layaway, returns, refunds, after-sales service, warranties, etc.?

Pricing strategy

Your pricing strategy is used to determine the appropriate price for your products and services. It is a critical part of your marketing plan because price will affect how customers perceive your products and services and their quality. Product price will also affect your business's market share and profits.

Price is the only variable in the marketing mix that requires no investment but generates income. It also elicits faster responses from customers and the competition.

  • What is your base price and how did you arrive at it? To set your price, you'll have to consider your product's image, your costs, your competition, your customers' ability to pay, etc.
  • What is your profit margin?
  • How does the price of your product compare to the market price? If your price is higher, why? If it is lower, why? What image do you want to project to consumers?
  • Do you offer discounts to students or seniors, or to customers who pay with cash rather than credit? What are your payment policies? What are your credit terms? Specify any early payment discounts or late payment penalties.

To learn more, see the Optimizing your pricing strategy page.

Promotion strategy

Your promotion strategy covers all the actions and tools you'll use to communicate your offer and positioning to your customers. It is used to build a communication strategy that will help you reach your marketing plan targets: inform, persuade, drive sales. Then you'll have to determine how you'll promote your product or service, whether through advertising, direct marketing or solicitation, a sales force, public relations, branding, social media presence, etc.

  • Describe when and how you'll publicize your product. Specify the medium you'll use (direct advertising, the Internet, radio, TV, etc.). How much does this advertising cost?
  • What type of marketing documents will you use (brochures, sell sheets, business cards, etc.)?
  • Do you have a website? If so, how will you use it to market your products and announce your promotional activities?
  • What promotional devices will you use to boost your sales?
  • What type of public relations will you do? Will you participate in any associations, community organizations, conferences, trade shows, chambers of commerce, seminars, etc.?
  • Describe your sales force. Who will be in charge of it? What sales strategies will it employ?

Location and distribution strategy

This strategy helps you choose a location and determine how you will get your products to your target audience.

  • How will you distribute your product? By mail, through a wholesaler or retailer, online, through an independent salesperson, etc.?
  • What distribution method will you use to get your products to your target audience?
  • Where will your business be located? Downtown, in a neighbourhood shopping centre? Do you sell your products exclusively online?


When putting together your marketing plan, never lose sight of the needs and buying habits of the target customers you identified in your market research. This will help you determine the best way to reach your target audience while keeping your finances in check. It will also help you make your marketing budget.

How to make your marketing budget

It is widely accepted that marketing expenses generate sales, income and profits. But one question remains: How much should you spend on marketing to make your business efficient and profitable?

There are a number of methods for making a marketing budget. Here are 5—one should fit the bill for you.

  • Historical budgeting method

    The budget for year N is determined based on the budget for year N-1 or previous years.

  • Objective and task budgeting method

    The budget is determined by setting specific objectives for the year and estimating the cost of the tasks that have to be completed to meet them. The budget is tailored to the desired earnings.

  • Percentage-of-sales method

    Marketing expenses are determined according to a percentage of sales.

  • Affordable method

    Marketing expenses are determined based on available resources.

  • Match-competitor method

    The allocation of financial, physical and human resources to marketing activities is directly linked to what the competition does.

Need a hand putting together your marketing plan? For a detailed explanation of each step of the business start-up process, see the Desjardins interactive marketing plan.