Skip to content

3 Things You Must Include in Your Business Plan’s Sales & Marketing Section

team having a sales and marketing meeting

You can have the greatest business idea in the world that solves a genuine problem, but if no one knows about it or believes it will do what you say, your idea won’t go far.

The Sales and Marketing section of your business plan is where you will show how you intend to get the attention of and engage with your eventual clients so you can generate sales and revenue. This post will give you an overview of the three core components of this section. I’ve included a list of recommended resources at the end for any topic you might want to further explore.

They say ideas are a dime a dozen. The real value of an idea is found in developing, testing, and bringing that idea to the market. You might have a solid picture of how you’ll accomplish bringing your service to market, but plans need to be written.

The Sales and Marketing section is where you declare and clarify the strategies you will use to get noticed and get sales. This clarity is essential to your effectiveness. We entrepreneurs are prone to cases of shiny object syndrome, and the sales and marketing consulting space is littered with shiny objects like funnels, lead generation services, and dozens of social media sites and advertising services all promising to help your business succeed.

Clarity in the beginning helps you stay focused on testing, measuring, and ramping up performance, so you can know whether every minute and dollar you spend on sales and marketing is earning you a return or not.

And, if your business plan will be used to obtain funds from banks and investors, this section is even more critical. They will want to see evidence of your ability to bring your professional services to the market successfully.

Here are the 3 parts.

1. Marketing Strategy

The first part you need in a sales and marketing plan is a market strategy.

Let’s ditch the business lingo for a second. Instead of marketing strategies and planning, what we’re really talking about is getting noticed by and connecting with people.

Whether you are providing consulting to individual freelancers or you’re pitching complex engagements to C-level executive teams of Fortune 500 companies, in both cases, you are trying to first get your prospects’ attention, make a connection, and show them your service is the best solution to their problem.

But how do you make that connection?

Think about your neighbor across the street, the friends you made in school, first dates you’ve been on, or just getting to know a new contact at a business conference. You connect by getting to know them better; you ask probing questions.

At its core, sales and marketing isn’t a heck of a lot different.

A marketing strategy emerges from getting to know your prospective clients, market, and competition. In fact, there’s a common marketing phrase that says you want to know them better than they know themselves.

This knowledge forms the core elements of a solid marketing strategy:

  • An in-depth knowledge of your target audience and competitors
  • An understanding of cost to reach your target audience (paid media vs. organic and guerrilla marketing)
  • Identify various marketing channels and associated costs involved in using those channels
  • A strategy for generating website and/or mobile app traffic
  • Define your content strategy: what formats you will use and who will produce it

Let’s go deeper into each of these.

Knowledge of Your Target Audience and Competitors

Any marketing strategy requires an intimate understanding of your target audience. I recommend you allocate sufficient time to this research.

Target audience research begins with demographics (B2C), or firmographics (B2B) — the facts and statistics about your target audience.

But the most important aspect of target market knowledge is understanding their challenges, worries, frustrations, and desired outcomes.

I often encourage entrepreneurs to interview anywhere from 10 to 50 people within their target audience to get a sense for this information. You can also involve yourself in online communities and forums.

With this information in hand, you can then begin to tailor your offer and your messaging to address these challenges and outcomes, and even include things in your offer that overcome objections you’ve discovered like budget and time considerations, learning curves, availability of in-house people able to execute on the solution, etc.

Knowledge of Your Competitors

No marketing strategy is complete without a thorough understanding of your competition. If your target audience is already aware of their problem, chances are they’re already trying to solve it.

They could tackle the problem themselves or work with one of your competitors. So it makes sense to become intimately aware of how the competitors are solving the problem and devise a way to solve it better.

Pore over your competitor’s websites, brochures, marketing materials, white papers, proposals, anything you can get your hands on, and answer the following questions about each one:

  • How are they solving your target audience’s challenges?
  • What are they doing well?
  • What are they doing not so well or poorly (look for clues from negative comments and feedback)?
  • What is their pricing?
  • What aren’t they doing that your prospective clients wish they did?
  • What frustrates your target audience about current solutions or offers?

For example, suppose you are starting a cybersecurity firm for medium-sized companies, and you discover your competition is largely focused on security audits. In your interviews, you find the clients’ biggest frustration is not having the time to make the suggested changes and updates. Your solution could address this frustration directly.

Highlight any solutions you do that your competition does not in your sales and marketing section. Show how you plan to differentiate your solution from other existing solutions in a way that’s attractive to your ideal client.

Understand the Cost To Reach Your Target Audience

There’s always a cost to reach your audience. The notion from the movie “Field of Dreams” — if you build it, they will come — doesn’t work anymore in business. In order to get the attention of your target audience, you need to go where they are.

Typically, any strategy and its cost falls into one of three categories:

  • Organic strategies
  • Paid media

The cost is money, time, or both.

Your plan can include organic traffic strategies like content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO), or social media posts to ensure you are found by prospective clients.

Paid media is targeting advertising to get in front of your client through a variety of marketing channels, which is what we’ll discuss next.

Identify Various Marketing Channels

A marketing channel is how your business communicates and reaches your target audience, much like an over-the-air channel on television is how you access a station’s programming.

If one of your strategies includes using blog content to generate SEO/search engine traffic, then the blog is a marketing channel. If you intend to create paid video ads, the channels could include social media platforms and streaming devices and television stations.

Marketing channels fall under two categories: free or paid channels.

Free channels could include using a social media platform’s algorithm to gain traction on posts, or free business listing pages like Alignable and LinkedIn, or digital groups where you get noticed by being of service and answer other’s questions. But free channels can also include in-person networking and referral efforts.

Paid channels include boosted options of those listed above, digital advertising on search engines (to be featured in the promoted sections of search engine results). Other more traditional channels include direct mail, outside media (billboards/promotional ad space), and broadcast advertising.

Choose the channels that make sense for your business and align with your target audience and the associated investments involved. If your target audience is medical practices earning more than $5M in revenue, paid TikTok ads might not be the best channel strategy.

How You Will Generate Website and (or) Mobile App Traffic

The internet and app space is much like actual space: it feels limitless and is expanding daily. Every day, 252,000 new websites and 30,000 hours of video content are added to the internet. Before the year 2000, just launching a blog was enough to gain traction. These days, you need to be creative in how you get your website or app noticed amongst all the noise.

While far too broad a topic to go into here, you will need to include traffic strategies in your marketing plan.

Consider search engine optimization; networking (sending contacts to white papers and other useful content); content hosted on other platforms like Medium, social media, or YouTube; speaking engagements (include bonus content/further reading attendees can download); or media appearances like becoming a go-to expert for journalists and top podcasts.

Of course, paid traffic can be effective also — but it’s expensive. If you include paid traffic generation strategies, track your client acquisition costs carefully (more on that in Measurement Strategy).

Define Your Content Strategy

Content is STILL king, despite how many pundits have declared it dead. Quality content, that is.

Content marketing includes producing media like written blog posts, whitepapers, case studies, articles or other media such as audio and video for gaining an audience. When you produce relevant and helpful content for your target audience, you attract website traffic, build a following, and convert some of those followers into clients.

Your marketing strategy should define what type of content you will produce (written, audio, or video), frequency of its output, and what channels you will use.

The good news is you don’t need every type of content on every kind of platform. If your team comprises 3 people, you would soon have no time for clients. Be thoughtful, aligning the media with your brand and also your target audience’s preferences.

2. Sales Strategy

The second thing your Sales and Marketing section must have is a sales strategy. How will you attract leads and then convert and retain them as clients?

Here are some things you will want to consider as you flesh out your sales strategy.

  • Define Your Sales Cycle and Process: Define the cycle of time between first engagement with a customer until the deal is won or closed and what that prospect-to-client process looks like. What steps will facilitate the sales process? Outline the steps and how the client journey will flow.
  • Identify Who Will Follow Up on Leads: Leads will come from a variety of sources such as referrals, advertising, SEO, social media, etc. Identify how each of those sources will be monitored and who will respond to each lead. In a larger team, you may decide to have different people manage different sources.
  • Outline Necessary Sales Assets: Determine the pricing strategies for different offers, discounts you will have in place, different pitches for various client avatars, sales slide decks for presentations, proposal and contract templates, and any reference material needed in the sales process like sales enrollment scripts or email templates.
  • Choose Marketing Technology (Martech) For Lead Capturing, Nurturing, and CRM: Your sales strategy should include what platforms, apps, or other technologies (even if it’s an old Rolodex… but I hope not) you will use to capture, nurture, and manage leads. There are basic software platforms that are free or low cost, and others that offer robust and complex solutions. Avoid going with the cheap OR expensive option — cheap could cost you more in time and effort to make the software work for your needs, and the expensive option might offer far more features than you will ever use. Price should be a secondary consideration. The first consideration is how well the martech will serve your specific needs.
  • Develop Solid Sales Operations: Different from the sales process, operations are the support system for team members engaged in sales, providing strategic and tactical support to make the sales processes and lead and opportunity management as smooth as possible. Operations encompass the vision for future sales process, martech, and assets, as well as the hiring and compensation of team members. Consider how sales operations will function now and in the future.

One final thought. In the beginning of this section, I mention finding and keeping clients. These days, a lot of emphasis is placed on winning clients — outward facing assets, sales techniques, and optimizing conversions. But it’s easier and cheaper to keep existing clients than to win new clients.

According to Forbes, 96% of customers said they would gladly switch brands or companies for better customer service. So a critical part of your sales strategy is considering how you plan to maintain and nurture your existing customers. Make sure you plan for adequate customer service in your planning.

3. Measurement Strategy

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina once said,  “The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight”. As someone who literally co-wrote a book on metrics and analytics (Google Analytics Breakthrough, Wiley), I agree. I’m a huge proponent of data collection and measurement.

But as important as data and metrics are, it’s easy to become seduced by numbers and information that doesn’t matter.

For instance, if you only pay attention to sales revenues, you may not realize your customer churn is increasing (you are losing more long-term clients) because the new revenue is from a few new, big ticket projects. Or, you might not notice your profits decreasing due to dwindling margins.

All measurements should inform a larger story. Each metric tells only a portion of that story, but together, they form a more complete picture.

In your measurement strategy, you will explain how you plan to measure the effectiveness of your various sales and marketing campaigns. Every piece of content, every sales call, every cold email, every proposal should have data you track to determine its success.

Besides metrics, your plan should include KPIs or key performance indicators. While similar to metrics, KPIs are the specific outcomes that you measure to determine if your business strategy is on track. There are various types of KPIs you could use.

The subject of KPIs is extensive with several online resources available that go into further depth with dozens of indicators to track in a variety of categories. For sales and marketing purposes, consider a few basic ones to track and report on, such as…

  • Website traffic lead ratio (percentage of website traffic that turns into leads)
  • Marketing ROI (how effective your return on investment is)
  • Sales revenue (planned vs. actual)
  • Cost per lead
  • Profitability per client
  • And client retention, or “churn rate”

The main idea is to track how the sales and marketing strategies and tactics are performing over time like blog and social media content engagement or how effective your inside sales team is at converting prospects into clients.

Finally, your strategy will include how often you will interpret the information and adjust your strategies. Deciding what data and information you will measure and how is only half the battle. I believe in continuous planning. The plan needs to include how you will report and make adjustments based on the story the information is telling you. When will you run and analyze reports? How often will you review the data and re-strategize?

So be clear on which numbers matter to your business, and then be just as clear about how you will use those numbers to inform and adjust your strategy.

Key Takeaways

Your sales and marketing strategy is the engine that drives your business’s success. Clarity in how you will organize, manage, and measure the various components of your strategy and respond to changes will determine whether you are building something that will last, or be another business that failed.

To recap, your sales and marketing plan needs to include the following items:

  • Marketing Strategy: A solid marketing strategy involves understanding your target audience and competitors, identifying marketing channels and associated costs, and developing a strategy for generating website and/or mobile app traffic. Tailor your offer and messaging to address your audience’s challenges and differentiate your solution from competitors.
  • Sales Strategy: A well-defined sales strategy outlines the sales cycle and process, identifies lead sources and who will follow up on them, outlines necessary sales assets, and selects appropriate marketing technology for lead capturing, nurturing, and CRM. Consider how your sales operations will support the sales team and sales efforts effectively.
  • Measurement Strategy: Develop a measurement strategy to track the effectiveness of sales and marketing campaigns. Use metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate performance, such as website traffic lead ratio, marketing ROI, sales revenue, cost per lead, and client retention. Regularly review and respond to the data to inform and adjust your strategy.
Feras Alhlou

Feras Alhlou

Feras has founded, grown, and sold businesses in Silicon Valley and abroad, scaling them from zero revenue to 7 and 8 figures. In 2019, he sold e-Nor, a digital marketing consulting company, to dentsu (a top-5 global media company). Feras has served as an advisor to 150+ other new startup businesses, and in his current venture, Start Up With Feras, he's on a mission to help entrepreneurs in the consulting and services space start and grow their businesses smarter and stronger.

Related Shorts

The Last Resort

Don’t Complicate It

Most Common New Founder Issue

When Bad Clients Pay Off

Rejecting Imperfect Clients

Annoying Clients

How Sales Works

Why You Should Tolerate Jerk Clients

Your Business’s Survival Depends on This

Earliest Way of Marketing

How 100 Clients Is Better than 1000

My Experience Hiring College Graduates

Money Is Where Premium Customers Are

Never Fall for This

When You Can’t Take on a Project 😢

How We Lost Half a Million Dollar Contract

Crises of Authority

How to Ruin Your Marketing Effort

Early American Marketers

Quality, Service, or Price?

How Much The Top Consulting Firms Made in 2023

Pricing Models for Your Service

Do You Treat All Clients Equally?

How to Double Revenue Without Increasing Marketing

7 Ways to Grow Your Business

How to Push Leads to Close Faster

Where Did Successful Founders Get Their First Clients?

Sales Doesn’t End After a Client Buys

How to Retain Clients Better

How to Impress Clients with Your Skills

How to Expand Your Business Vertically & Horizontally

6 Questions to Increase Clients

Why Your Sales Pitch Doesn’t Work

7 Signs You Need to Hire Someone

How to Increases Chances of Sales by 94%

New Sales Hire Closes 0 Deals

9 Best Practices When Hiring

What is Marketing by Harvard Business Review

How to Do Marketing for Small Businesses

The 4 Marketing Channels Small Businesses Can Use

Time vs. Money 💰 Marketing for Small Businesses

How to Win Leads & Influence Customers

How to Use a Marketing Budget for Small Businesses

When to Hire for Sales?

The Most Important Part of a Business Website

Why Everyone Hates Sales

Don’t Take Jerks as Clients

Are You Being Used for Contract Requirements?

Decoding Marketing vs. Sales Funnels for Professional Service Startups

Cracking the Code: Why Leads Aren’t Buying from Your Consulting Business

5 Reasons Your Leads Are Not Converting

High-Quality Content Is Still King!

MarTech Optimizes Your Social Media

Take Advantage of Cold Calling & Emailing

Marketing Doesn’t Need to Cost Anything

Struggling with Leads? Start a Sales Funnel

3 Social Media Tips for Consulting Startups

2 Simple Marketing Strategies for Consulting Startups

Learn Brand Positioning from your Competitors

What is Martech? Marketing Funnel Basics

Business Image Matters as Much as Qualifications

To Better Understand Clients, Do Primary Research

All Buying is Emotional at Some Level

2 Strategies that Land Clients

Narrower Target Audience = Consistent Leads

Go Above and Beyond to Delight Your First Clients

Use Your Network and Word-Of-Mouth To Get Leads

Learning and Knowledge Sharing Drives Consulting Growth