Marketing your business

Write a marketing plan in six steps

Customers can’t buy from you if they don’t know about you – so effective marketing is key to growing your business. A smart marketing plan will help you reach the right people, with the right message, at the right time. Here’s how to create one.

Reading time: 6 minutes

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Why a good marketing plan is important

A good marketing plan will help you target the people who are most likely to buy from you, and get the best return on your marketing spend. It’s a key component of your overall business plan. 

To write your marketing plan, it can be helpful to run through our six steps to get you thinking about what you offer and how it’s positioned in the market. 

Step 1. Set your objectives

Before you even start to think about advertising, you need to define what it is that you want your marketing plan to achieve. For example, do you want it to drive more sales, or are you wanting to build your brand?

Your marketing plan should align with your business goals. You’ll need to balance it against how much time, money, and effort you can realistically invest in marketing. Focus on those areas that will deliver the best bang for the resources you have available.

Step 2. Get to know your target market

You can waste a lot of time, money, and effort marketing to people who aren’t likely to consider you or buy from you. That’s why it’s useful to create profiles of your ideal customers, to help you focus your marketing efforts.

Start with basic demographic information such as gender, age, occupation, income, family status, and where they live. Then consider their interests, spending habits, and values to help you understand what’s important to them and what would make them buy your product or service.

If they’re business customers, think about the industry they’re in, what their turnover and market share is, how long they’ve been in business, and what their purpose or values are.

Step 3. Get to know your competitors

Keeping an eye on your competition is crucial in business. You need to know how you compare in the market – and where you can compete and win.

Research your competitors to find out their target market, their market share, how they communicate and promote their products and services, their pricing (and any discount strategies), and their strengths and weaknesses. 

You can do this by checking publicly available information like their website and social media pages. You could also make an enquiry or buy something from them – a good way to experience the kind of service they offer. 

Statistics NZ has a Business Performance Benchmarker tool that allows you to compare your business against similar businesses in terms of financial performance and other benchmarks.

Step 4. Understand your competitive advantage

Why should a customer buy from you instead of a competitor? If you don’t know, chances are your customers won’t, either.

Now that you’ve researched your competitors, consider what you offer that your competitors don’t. Then test your assumptions with your customers. Ask what made them come to you rather than your competitors – their perception of your business might be different from yours. 

Once you’ve clearly defined your competitive advantage, it should form the cornerstone of your marketing plan. This is the ‘proof point’ that will persuade customers to buy from you, and not your competitors. You can learn more about how to understand your competitive advantage in our article ‘What makes your business special?’

Step 5. Choose your marketing tactics and channels


Tactics are how you’ll persuade your target market to buy – and keep buying from you. A useful way to think about this is the ‘7 P’s’ model:

  • Product – do you have the right product for your target market? 
  • Price – what would happen to profitability or market share if you increased or decreased the price?
  • Place – are you in the right place for your target market to access your products?
  • Promotion – how, when and where will you promote your product?
  • People – are there any skills gaps you need to fill through training or recruitment?
  • Process – do your customers get a consistent, high-quality experience?
  • Physical evidence – how will you reassure your customers? A consistent brand, well-designed website, and attractive premises can all help build trust.


Channels are about how you’ll reach your target market with your marketing messages. For example, if your customers are younger adults who are heavy social media users, you may decide to place ads or content on the apps they use most. Read more about using social media for business.

There’s a huge variety of ways to get your message to the people who need to hear it, including digital marketing, social media, direct marketing (such as eDMs), print and radio advertising, out of home (OOH), public relations, and in-person events.

The most important factor is what will work best for your target market, your objectives, and your budget. Different channels are better suited to different objectives than others, so consider whether a mix could help you get the best outcome.

Step 6. Develop your action plan and budget

The key to turning your tactics into real business results is having a detailed action plan.

Whether it’s on an Excel spreadsheet or a piece of paper, your action plan should include:

  • What needs to happen to implement your tactics, and when
  • Who is responsible for each initiative (remember – even if you use external resources such as advertising agencies, it’s important to retain overall control of your marketing to ensure it supports your business objectives)
  • How much it’s going to cost
  • How you’ll measure success.

Schedule regular progress reviews to ensure your plan is on track and act when needed.

Measure and review

Marketing is an investment, so just like any other investment you need to know if it’s delivering results – and make changes if it isn’t. 

The metrics you use will depend on your objectives and the channels you utilise – examples include click-through rate, cost per acquisition, number of engagements, open rates, consideration, awareness, net promoter score, reach, frequency, unique visitors, enquiries, sales volume and value, and return on investment. 

Review how it performed, what went well? what didn’t go as well as hoped? and most importantly, what can you and your team do to improve your results?

Don’t forget about your existing customers

A lot of marketing is focused on winning new customers. But retaining your existing customers and selling more to them can be a more cost-effective way to grow your sales – so consider this aspect in your marketing plan as well. 

If you don’t have one already, create a customer database so you can reach your existing customers easily with new offers or just to keep them in touch – and keep you at the top of their mind (just make sure you gain approval to contact them via email first).

Digitising your business

There are many digital tools out there that can help run your business more efficiently, from accounting software to an online presence, this video looks at a few of the options.

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