Back when I was a student, marketing plans (and even entire business plans, for that matter) were something you had to “write” for marks. I assumed that this was kind of an academic exercise – and that in the real world, such formalized documents wouldn’t really be overly relevant.
But once I began marketing in the real world, I realized that doing a plan is essential, and even moreso if you are pulling together a team to execute it with you. Without a plan, marketing can be a huge waste of money – with different aspects clashing messages, confusing the customers, and not providing any clear way to track your success. It’s like having a band of musicians try to play a tune when none of them knows the song, meaning everyone is “winging it” in different directions (and as a musician myself I can vouch for the cacophony of this approach – which is, in official musician’s terminology, called a “train wreck”.)
A strategic marketing plan is your plan of “offense” – a clear methodology of how you are going to grow your company, and measure that growth. If you want to make a joyful noise in the marketplace, here are 10 steps you need to make, and record, and share – to get your team all on the same song sheet! It’s more than just the 4 P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) – and this is a clearer guide to take you through.
1. Market Research – Research is the best place to start. We recommend you conduct at least 3 kinds:
a) Existing Clients: Interviews with existing clients to determine your core strengths. Ask them why they began dealing with you, and why they still do. Figure out the most important core reason – the one mentioned repeatedly by most respondents. If you’re new, and have no clients, ask people who have dealt with you professionally in other things (either school or in jobs) to determine your core professional strength.
b) Potential Market Research: This refers to geographic, demographic, or industry-specific client research on where you will find you core markets. Try to pin down the size and scope of your best potential targets, and if you can contact them to assess their interest, even better. Consider potential distributors as prospective clients within this research if this is a good possibility for your business.
c) Competitive Research: Carefully examine all potential competitors to determine their strengths, market position, offerings, pricing, targets, messaging, and more. Using online services (such as SEMRush) you can even learn key words they are ranking on, and overall traffic levels.
2. Vision – How do you wish to be uniquely known in the market? Tie this closely to core strengths as identified in research, and translate it into a core mission or “unique selling proposition” for your brand or business overall. Get rough idea of where you want to be in the next year or so – and by how much you wish to grow by. ($ in sales growth)
3.Offerings – What will you offer to achieve your vision well? Ensure your offering is as complete as possible to fulfill your vision. Subcontract the areas you may not be able to currently perform in-house. Work to make them different or better from your competition to carve out your advantage.
4. Pricing – Create a pricing structure that is harmonious with the level and quality of your offering. Again, work to make it unique from competitors, and appealing to your target markets.
5. Target Market Definition – Create a list of potential target markets (or businesses) and determine which ones have the highest likelihood of success. Use factors to rate each target market such as what they will likely buy from you, how easy it is to reach them, and whether they will be repeat customers, etc. Decide on a final weight to each customer group (eg. 50% to group 1, 25% to group 2, 25% to group 3)
6. Message Definition – Develop clear messages to each of your target groups. Eg, Group 1 “It will last x times longer, so you won’t have to bother replacing it as often” (time savings) Vs. Group 2 “Lower your annual operating costs” (money savings). Align the message with whatever that target group cares about most.
7. Location & Distribution – Determine whether you will sell direct, online, or through distributors. Utilize research from Step 1 regarding distributors. Carefully evaluate distributors for their marketing strength. If they are not excellent marketers, do not offer exclusivity of any territory. If they are moderately good marketers, consider temporary exclusivity based on meeting minimum sales quotas.
8. Promotional Mix – Determine the best ways to develop your message and get it out to your target markets. This includes:
- Branding – Creating a name, slogan, logo, personality and imagery that reflects your brand and how you’ll be known
- Sales Strategy – Determine the sales process, and who and how it will be executed – by territory, industry, or otherwise
- Marketing Mix – Research costs and select the channels you believe will be most successful in reaching your target market. This includes area such as your website, social media activities, signage, advertising, direct marketing, events, industry association involvement, and online advertising.
9. Budgeting – Build a budget and schedule of all Promotional Activities (CLICK HERE for approximate costs of many of these items). Try to get the total budget to be around 5 – 10% of the your “targeted” revenue level for the coming year. Eg, if your sales target is $1MM, you have $50 – $100K to make that happen. If you can do it with less, all the power to you! If it is a brand new business, you may also need more – branding, etc are all “startup” costs not needed every year. Call vendors of all kinds to assist you in developing your budget, and be clear on who is being assigned to do which tasks.
10. Goal Setting – Determine the metrics that will make your plan a success and figure out how you are going to track them:
- Learn about Google Analytics – Set it up and learn what to watch for
- Ensure incoming leads are being tracked and followed through
- Ensure sales team is tracking activities
- Set growth goals for sales
- Set a goal for profit margin to keep pricing from being compromised.
- Set any other metrics you wish to see – unique visitors, conversion rates, etc. If you search online you’ll be able to find typical conversion rates for your type of business.
There you have it – 10 points to guide you through a Strategic Marketing Plan. We agree – building it is a large job – and the process of doing it requires tenacity, debate, homework and a lot of thinking. But having a good clear guide is half the battle – so feel free to print it off, and start working through. There are lots more resources to help you on this site, or you can CONTACT US today!