Marketing Research will be the first component for your marketing plan. You may be doing this in house or you may elect to hire a top marketing agency, a marketing consultant, or maybe a specific marketing research firm. You need to obtain and capture all data about your business along with your products and services to help you properly facilitate any potential marketing problems. You may also be able to get some marketing data from an industry trade association or from other businesses within your specific industry.
You must know your competition in and out. Keep your friends close, but keep your competitors closer. You need to know all the things that you learned about your customers except fill in the blank for each competitor on all of those above items. Learn how you are the same/ different. Learn the similarities/differences about each product and service you offer. Learn how they sell or promote their products /services.