In our last blog, we discussed the need to and benefits of understanding your business ecosystem. By looking at all the various parties and partners that impact your business, you develop the appropriate mindset for business planning. You also develop a strong foundation for marketing planning.
According to Entrepreneur, “a marketing plan focuses on winning and keeping customers; it’s strategic and includes numbers, facts, and objectives. A good marketing plan spells out all the tools and tactics you’ll use to achieve your sales goals. It’s your plan of action—what you’ll sell, who’ll want to buy it and the tactics you’ll use to generate leads that result in sales.” It doesn’t have to be elaborate or fancy (unless you are going for outside investors) but it does have to be in writing and well communicated, so everyone knows where the company is going.
Here are the steps to follow to create the most effective marketing plan:
- Situational Assessment and Marketing Objectives. Using the business ecosystem, as well as a hard look at how your business is doing internally and individually, assess your situation. Based on that situation analysis, you can then set your marketing objectives. Marketing objectives facility overall corporate objectives, and of course they must be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely). For example, do you want to increase sales by 20%? Double the frequency of purchasing your products or services? What does marketing need to accomplish to satisfy corporate objectives?
- Define your target market. Consumer groups have become increasingly specialized, so it is critical that you define your target market accurately. Only if you can identify your key customers will you be able to determine how well you can identify their need, and meet those needs in a way that creates profit for you and satisfaction for the customer. When looking at each of your products and services, think about who you serve with each, and answer these four questions:
- What do my customers need and want? (What benefit should I deliver?)
- What must be done to satisfy these needs/wants? (Can I do that?)
- What is the size of the market? (Can I do this profitably?)
- What is the target market’s growth profile? (Is this sustainable?)
Using these four questions, rank each target market as well as your potential to serve it by profit, present and future sales volume, and your ability to successfully meet the needs/wants of the customers in that segment. Select the most profitable segments.
- Define your Marketing Mix. How will you reach your target audience? What will you say to motivate them to purchase? Keep in mind that your target customers are not all at the same point in the buying cycle, so you will need different strategies and tactics to reach and motivate consumers wherever they are. Some will need to learn about your product. Some already know about you, but need to become interested enough to learn more about you. And some just need a little push to get them into the mood to buy. Your Marketing Mix includes the 4 P’s (product, price, promotion, and place (channels or distribution)). All the Mix must work together to reach your prospect and your marketing objectives.
- Set your marketing budget. Your marketing budget must reflect the reality of achieving your marketing and corporate objectives. Many companies simply earmark a percentage of sales to marketing. But that may or may not be appropriate to reach your goals. Balance meeting your objectives, and what that will take in marketing expense, with realistic sales and profit estimates to create a workable budget.
Benjamin Franklin is widely credited with saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” and so it is with marketing planning as well. Sales don’t just happen; customers don’t just happen. Planning for marketing success will help you meet your goals.