You may know what your business goals are. You may also have some ideas about doing some variation of mailings, website-building and advertising. But without a plan, your business may move forward without knowing whether its marketing is working or not. An effective marketing plan that is based on your business goals, a clear strategy, and a coordinated scheme will tie all your efforts together and guide your actions that help you achieve your goals.
So, here’s a simple four-step process creating a strategic and practical marketing plan:
Step 1. Situational Analysis: Where is your business today?
To begin, hold brainstorming sessions with advisors and partners you trust, and explore these core elements:
1. Position Your Product.
You want to ensure that you are putting the right product at the right price in front of the right customer. Use the four Ps of marketing:
- Product: Do you have the right product for your market?
- Price: Are you selling your product at a price that your target customers feel is appropriate?
- Promotion: How are you promoting your product? Are you influencing across multiple and appropriate channels (TV, radio, flyers, direct mail, brochures, magazine ads, online, etc.)?
- Place: Where are you distributing your product? Are they being distributed to locations where is it easily accessible to target customers?
2. Know Your Customers.
Who are you selling to? What do those customers need? You want to know how customers are reacting to your product, brand, price, and anything else that influences their purchasing decision. Remember, the goal of marketing is to generate interest that’ll lead to the sales that’ll boost profits.
For example, in order to understand how customers think or to better target the right customers for your business, you could conduct research on your current customers and potential target customers. This allows you to focus your product development and advertising message on what is important to your audience, and not to you. Remember, customers rarely care about what’s important to you. They care about what you can do for them.
3. Know Your Market.
To fully understand your business environment, prepare a SWOT analysis that deconstructs your business within your competitive landscape.
- Strengths: What key advantages does your business have?
- Weaknesses: What vulnerabilities does your business have?
- Opportunities: In what market conditions or segments can you find growth in?
- Threats: In what areas are you threatened by competitors?
Step 2. Identify a Marketing Strategy: Where do you want to be?
This is where you set out quantifiable goals and objectives for your business. For example, is your strategy based on market growth? Maintaining status quo? Cost control? Or even an exit? Or it could easily be a combination such as, selling more of the same product to old customers and also targeting a new customer base in new market segments. If possible, make sales projection for the near term. What is your revenue projection? How will your market share change based on the strategy?
Step 3. Tactical Analysis: How are you going to get there?
Here is the heart of the marketing plan. Now that you have a better understanding of your customers and market conditions, you can flesh out a draft of a marketing plan. This part contains the descriptions of detailed tactics to be carried out to achieve the objectives and goals established in Step 2.
You will need to reevaluate the four Ps in Step 1 and incorporate it together with your marketing strategy in Step 2. Then you can finally make decisions around the details and timetables on the five key decision areas:
- Target Markets
- A summary of your objective goals: what you specifically expect to accomplish in a specific time period
- A description of the size and condition of your market position
- A summary of target markets, including niche segments
- Demographics of your target customers (age, location, income, purchase preferences, etc.)
- A list of marketing channels you will use to attract target customers
- How will my product be distinguished from my competition?
- How will sales and distribution work?
- What type of promotion will I use?
- What are my competitive strategies? i.e. How will I respond to competitors’ tactics?
- A summary of expenses and resources and how they will be allocated
Step 4. Track Results
Tracking cannot be overemphasized enough. You MUST track results so you learn what works. A good way is to include benchmarks in your plan. Use these benchmarks to measure whether your marketing efforts are working or if you should rethink your approach. Lastly, don’t stop. Markets are constantly changing and you must be ready. It’s a good idea to have a yearly review of the plan to see if you must revisit any goals you’ve previously set out.