You have this great idea for a product or a service, and in your heart of hearts, it’s the Next Big Thing. You’re convinced, and perhaps you’ve convinced others who believe in it as much as you do. Now, you’re in a position to implement your idea. It’ll revolutionize the market! It’ll take off like a rocket, and you’re convinced you’re going to ride that rocket to meteoric success!

Let’s pause for that daydream to take hold.

Okay, are your feet firmly planted back in the here and now? Great! Let’s talk about what comes next. You need a marketing plan.

Wait…. Isn’t that part of the business plan you just submitted to your bank and stakeholders to get the funding to begin?

Not necessarily. Even industry people can get the two mixed up, but while a marketing plan can be part of your overall business plan, it has its own purpose in steering the direction of your shiny new business. Your business plan can be something like manufacture and sell NextBigThing, with detailed blueprints for the making of your world-changing idea, but that’s not specific as to how to sell it. That’s where a marketing plan comes in.

A marketing plan is a comprehensive outline that describes everything from your target market, your sales goals, and your costs associated with getting the word out there so people know about NextBigThing.

A marketing plan is crucial for:

Identifying your target audience

If you don’t know who are the best people to sell the NextBigThing to, then how are you going catch their attention?

Tailoring your message

Once you identify your audience, you can tailor your message to reach them in the most effective way. If you’re selling to a college age demographic, social media will be an effective platform for NextBigThing  but if your market is the elderly, chances are a Twitter or Instagram account for your new business won’t reach them. (Although, more and more people, regardless of age, are getting social media savvy, so doing the research is key, which is where marketing plans come in.)

Providing direction

If you’re aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your product, you can steer your message toward the strengths, and/or mitigate uncertainty by addressing the weaknesses.

Choosing a strategy

Your audience may vary and have different concerns, all of which NextBigThing can address. Perhaps some customers see your product as a way to perform an activity better, while other customers figure it will save them time. With a proper marketing plan, you can address both customers and improve your understanding of the different ways you can impact your audience.

Applying resources

Especially at the beginning, when your business brand isn’t yet out there, it’s imperative to understand where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Is it an ad on a popular website? Is it a social media campaign? Is it pasting your slogan and smile on a billboard for commuters to see?

In a world where people bombarded by constant advertising have become adept at tuning out, a marketing plan can be the difference between a jump in your bottom line, or a crawl. All businesses benefit from a marketing plan, whether it’s a corporate giant or a small mom-and-pop place around the corner with loyal, neighborhood customers, and it doesn’t have to be daunting.