How to Develop and

Use a Marketing Plan


A marketing plan is your roadmap to effectively promote your company and its products. Marketing is an investment to secure sales, profits and grow your business. A marketing plan helps you understand where to allocate your marketing investment.

The key goals of a marketing plan are to:

  • Identify your competitive advantage
  • Attract and retain customers
  • Prepare for changes in the market
  • Identify the resources needed to get your product into consumers’ shopping carts; and make a profit and grow the company. Developing and utilizing a marketing plan will increase the likelihood of success for a product in the marketplace. Having a documented marketing plan will demonstrate professionalism to potential retail and foodservice customers and can assist with accessing financing.


This guide provides an 8-step process required to develop a marketing plan:

STEP 1: Assess the current situation.

STEP 2: Set your sales objectives.

STEP 3: Identify your target market.

STEP 4: Position your product.

STEP 5: Set Your marketing objectives.

STEP 6: Build your brand.

STEP 7: Build your action plan.

STEP 8: Evaluate your marketing plan.


The first step in the development of a marketing plan is to assess the current market situation to provide insight into the sector and what it takes to compete. Assessing the current situation examines areas that are both internal to a company and external issues affecting it.

An assessment includes:

1. Reviewing your business goals

2. Identifying

a. Market drivers and consumer trends

b. Buyer trends

c. The competitive landscape

3. Conducting Market Research

4. Conducting a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)


A marketing plan must be consistent with your business goals. In other words, it must contribute to your company’s short and longer term goals for growth and profitability.


It is critical for companies to understand the factors driving the marketplace for products and the resulting consumer and product trends.

A market driver is a factor that results in a trend. Consumer or product trends are purchasing or usage behaviors that continue for an extended period of time. For example, food safety and transparency are pressing drivers in the food sector and will continue for the foreseeable future. The buy local, traceability and clear labelling trends are a direct result of those drivers.

Unlike trends that last for extended periods, fads are short term bursts of enthusiasm for certain products or diets that do not last long. Examples include the Atkins diet, deep fried everything and the bacon craze. While it is great to cash in on a fad, it is best to plan for steady, long term growth by focusing on the trends on which you can deliver.

When assessing market drivers and trends, key questions to ask are:

  • What factors have caused longer term changes in the industry? (e.g. aging population)
  • What are the key consumer concerns affecting food choices? (e.g. rising rate of obesity)
  • What key trends are occurring in demographics, consumer behavior, products, shopping? (e.g. Millennial’s use of social media and mobile technology)
  • Are there any emerging trends? (e.g. managing food waste)


Understanding the buyer is just as important as understanding the consumer and the competition. Buyers include distributors, retailers and foodservice operators.

Competition is fierce in the grocery sector. There is only so much room on the shelf. You must differentiate your product from your competition in order to secure shelf space. Food retailers and foodservice operators are also seeking to differentiate themselves from their competition. They accomplish this by supporting products and developing relationships with suppliers that help them deliver on consumer trends.


While many companies believe their product to be unique, it is important to remember that there is ALWAYS competition. View it from the eyes of the consumer. With few exceptions, consumers have other options to satisfy their need or desire. For instance, a consumer looking for a high protein snack has the option of purchasing smoked salmon, cheese or peanuts. Recognizing and understanding the competition is a key element of your marketing plan.

Key questions to research regarding the competitive landscape include:

• What are the competitive products and who are the companies producing them? (competitive products are those that provide the same benefit as your product, for example a high protein snack)

• What are the key benefits of the competitive products?

• What are the perceived competitive advantages of your competitors?

• What are the retail prices of the competitive products?

• What are the product/company’s strengths and weaknesses in the marketplace?

• How do your competitors communicate to consumers and use social media?

• What is their omnichannel approach to sales?

The average grocery store contains about 36,000 SKUs (stock keeping units or products). If a new product is accepted, another will need to go.

Key questions to research about the buyer’s company are:

  • What changes are happening in the retail and foodservice sectors in the marketplace of interest?
  • What is their point of difference?
  • How do they compete?
  • What are their relationships with other companies?
  • What consumer segment are they targeting?
  • How can you help them meet the needs of their consumers?


Market research must be conducted to answer questions about market drivers, trends and the competitive landscape. Market research will help you make informed decisions and ensure your marketing plan is based on knowledge, not speculation.

Market research is a process of gathering and analyzing information to gain an understanding of the changing marketplace in which your product competes. The process includes:

  • Setting marketing research objectives
  • Gathering information
  • Analyzing the information
  • Utilizing market research in developing a strategic market plan.

Market research provides insight required to:

  • Understand your target market and their preferences
  • Identify opportunities for sustainable sales and growth
  • Recognize market shifts
  • Monitor the competition
  • Mitigate risk in business decision-making.

For further information on market research, please see the guide on How to Conduct and Use Market Research.

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