The first thing you should do when forming a marketing plan is define the structure in which it will be presented. The structure of the plan should allow the presentation of strategic information in a logical and progressive manner. This structure should be prepared in a written outline detailing the progression of topics and how they will appear in the marketing plan.

The structure of a marketing plan will usually vary according to the business, its product or service, and the objectives of the marketing plan. Generally, however, each marketing plan will include the following information:

Executive summary

Product description

Market analysis

Competitive analysis

Product development

Operations

Goals & objectives

Marketing tactics

Financial projections

Summary

Summary

The summary concludes your marketing plan; therefore, it should highlight those points in your plan that are significant for the reader to know. This includes items such as the advantages your product has over your competitors' products, cost structure, and profits. Strongly emphasize the differential advantage of your product. This is something your product or service has that your competitors' don't. It is the key to your marketing plan's success.

The summary doesn't have to be long. A few paragraphs should allow you to encapsulate all the major points within your marketing plan so they are readily available for the reader should they bypass the body of the plan and go straight to the summary. Don't skimp on this section of the marketing plan. Just because you're at the end doesn't mean you should be lazy.

Your summary statement should start off with an explanation of the purpose behind the marketing plan. Since most are formed for the purpose of raising capital, you should include the amount of the investment you will need in order to accomplish your goals. Next, provide the reasons why this investment is justified such as your differential advantage and any other main elements that will contribute to your success. To assure yourself that you have included all the necessary information, you may want to write down all the major points you've discussed in the marketing plan.

You should also include an implementation schedule in the summary providing an outline of all the major tasks and when they will be executed. You can base your schedule on weekly, monthly, or quarterly periods. If your project is a lengthy one with projections up to five years, we recommend basing your schedule on quarterly periods. If it ranges between a year and three years, implement a monthly schedule. If it is a year or less, you may want to consider a weekly schedule.

Sample Summary

This marketing plan has presented the introduction of Bio-Diapers -- the first disposable diaper that is completely biodegradable. Because it is such a unique concept within the disposable-diaper industry, we strongly believe that an initial investment of $80.6 million dollars to cover start-up inventory costs would provide Softie Baby Care Incorporated with the additional strength needed to strongly enter the market.

Given this capital and the successful execution of this marketing plan, a market share of 25 percent over a three-year period is more than possible.

Business Notes

Associations

Association of Small Business Development Centers, 1050 17th St. NW, Suite 810, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 887-5599

Center for Entrepreneurial Management, Inc., 180 Varick Street, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10014; (212) 633-0060

National Small Business United, 1155 15th Street NW, Suite 710, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 293-8830

Small Business Network, 10451 Mill Run Circle, Owings Mills, MD 21117; (410) 581-1373

Small Business Service Bureau, 554 Main Street, P.O. Box 15014, Worcester, MA 01615-0014; (508) 756-3513