Developing your marketing plan
- What is a marketing plan
- Customers & value proposition
- Market positioning & SWOT analysis
- Product & packaging
- Channels & marketing assets
- Goals & objectives
What is a marketing plan?
There are many definitions of marketing. We define it as gaining an understanding of your customers so you are able to deliver value to them and thereby generate a strong return for your business. Accordingly, the role of your marketing plan is to achieve these objectives through focusing on the following key areas:
- Customers & value proposition
- Market positioning & pricing
- Product & packaging
- Channel strategy
Ideally, a high level version of your marketing plan will be included in your business plan.
Customers & value proposition
Marketing is about the customer, period. It follows that the more clearly you are able to define your ideal customer and to identify their needs, the better placed you will be to satisfy those needs and to generate revenue for your business.
Think about who your ideal customer is. If it is an individual, how old are they? Are they male or female or both? Where do they mostly live & work? What is their occupation? What about their income?
Then try to imagine what problems they have that your business seeks to solve. What do they worry about that your business can help with? Can you help them gain more revenue, more time, a smoother or better experience etc., etc.? You should back this up with solid research which might include formal or informal surveys, product testing, focus groups and understanding what is happening throughout the industry and market more generally.
Remember, even if you are selling to larger businesses, that your key contacts will also have problems they need to get solved. Your job is to find out what these are and propose solutions accordingly.
When you can tailor your value proposition towards these specific things, you will be in a stronger position to command good pricing for your product or service.
It is always worth asking yourself the question: “Why should my customers buy from me?”
Your position in the market will determine how much you can obtain for your product or service. If you are seeking to compete on price – i.e. to be the cheapest, then you will find it difficult to raise your prices at a later date. If you want to get a premium price, you will need to carve out a place in the mind of your customer that matches what they expect from a premium product or service.
There is plenty of evidence to show that customers are willing to pay higher prices for a quality product backed by good service, but in a market where there might not be much difference in reality between offerings, it is the perception of a strong and relateable brand that can influence their decision to buy. Generally you will need to show you are quite different to your competitors and that you are offering something unique or better.
Establishing a more premium position usually takes longer and means you will need to resist the temptation to lower your prices because some customers ask you to. (This can be a challenge, especially early on and if the sales are not happening as fast as you would like). That is why having a well thought out pricing strategy from the outset will serve you well.
Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis:
Make a relevant list in each of the boxes in the diagram and summarise:
- How you will leverage strengths
- How you will take advantage of opportunities
- How you will overcome weaknesses
- How you will minimize threats
Product & packaging
It is important to have a quality product that is appropriately packaged and presented for the market you are in and the price you are seeking to obtain. Generally, most product features and benefits can be copied or competed away, and in few businesses other than those with high barriers to entry does the product usually give a sustainable competitive edge.
So when developing your offer, it is good to remember that the product is really the means to an end for the customer; they are not primarily looking to buy your product, they are looking to solve a problem which your product can help them do. Adopting this mindset can help you keep perspective and maintain your marketing focus on the customer and their needs rather than on your business or product.
Channels & marketing assets
Your channel strategy is about how customers get to find and know about you and how you deliver your product or service. You will need to focus on the following areas:
- How do your customers like to be reached? Which channels and media do they like to use and interact with? How do they prefer to buy?
- What are your main channels, e.g. online versus face to face, bricks and mortar, telephone and in what combination? What is most cost-effective?
- How will you use social media and which platforms work best for your business? Many businesses make the mistake of trying to be across too many platforms; it is better to pick one or two and become really adept at using them.
- How you will build key relationships – suppliers / bloggers / influencers / intermediaries etc.
When you have formulated your channel strategy, you will need to consider which marketing assets you will need. Marketing assets are the tools by which you engage your customers and promote your business. Assets can include:
- Facebook page
- Instagram account
- Other social media
- Brochures, folders & flyers
- Point of sale – e.g. banners, posters etc.
- Business cards
- Promotional items – giveaways
What are the marketing assets you need in your business?
Goals & objectives
It is essential that you set goals for your marketing efforts and that you ensure that you get a sound financial return. This means your goals need to be clearly specific, measurable and time-based.
Your goals can be framed around achieving X% average profit margin on each dollar invested, or Y number of new customers or Z% increase in revenue, or something else.
Never spend a dollar without having a clearly measureable objective in mind.
You must budget for all marketing expense just as with any other item in the business. Once you have identified your goals, estimate how much you will need to spend via each medium and channel in order to achieve them.
It follows that you must constantly measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing spend and take corrective action where necessary.