Does your company have a
marketing plan and do you know where it is? If your marketing plan is sitting
on a shelf, if you aren’t getting the new business results you want, or if you
have a plan and don’t know what to do with it – read on. A well-developed
marketing plan can help the “good times roll” in these not-so-good times.
What a Marketing Plan Is
A well-defined marketing plan
is your company’s road map to results. It will guide you from your current
situation to your target destination. It should be a document that is used and
revised as needed (no one says you have to live and die by what you decide to
do today). You can develop an effective marketing plan by following a
tried-and-true series of steps.
What a Marketing Plan Is Not
A marketing plan isn’t some
fancy, intelligently written (although it should be clearly communicated)
100-page document that “wows” people. It isn’t a document that will take months
to create, and isn’t going to take the latest and greatest desktop publishing
software to create. A marketing plan that works isn’t something that only the
marketing director or VP understands.
Where are you now?
- Define who you are as a company.
- What is your company’s
business philosophy or approach to business?
- What are your company’s
competitive strengths and weaknesses?
- What differentiates you
from your competitors? Knowing your key differentiators is integral to
developing your marketing message.
Use these guidelines to write
several paragraphs that summarize where your business is now. Be sure to
determine if this is how “outsiders” see your company. Ask a few vendors,
customers or business referral sources to give objective feedback on your
company’s reputation. It’s important to know if you think you are the “tiger”
of your industry and your target market sees you as a “sheep.”
Where do you want to go?
- What do you want to
accomplish? (Increase new lines of business? Expand existing business? Both?)
- Do you have name
recognition in your market? If not, do you want to build that?
- Do you know to whom you
want to market? Do you want to target a new market?
As Microsoft says, “Where do
you want to go today?” A fun part of the marketing plan process is opening your
mind to limitless possibilities. Working in
your business instead of on your
business works well for tunnel vision – not marketing. Thinking about the
future will get you back in touch with what you “dreamed” your company could be
many years ago. Or, it may open up new dreams.
As you proceed through this
phase of plan development, outline your goals and be very specific. To hit a
target, you need to know exactly what you are aiming at. It’s nice to say you
want to be the most well-known company in your city, but a more specific goal
could be for you to be the most well-known company to your target market and
increase sales by x percent in the coming year. And while you should
dream big, it’s good to be realistic – the best marketing plan in the world
won’t double new business in one year. Finally, once you have your goals on
paper, it’s time to prioritize them. Put them in order starting with those with
the greatest importance.
Research, Research, Research
Research may not be your cup
o’ tea, but it’s critical to the success of your marketing plan. Once you have
your targets on paper, you can focus your research to find out if another
company is already the market leader in that arena, or test your company
differentiation against other local offerings. You may decide that you would
rather tackle another area in which competitors don’t already have such a
also need to understand your target. What do they want? What do they value? A
good place to start is American Demographics Magazine (www.americandemographics.com).
The magazine’s Web site offers articles on various consumer and business market
segments. Associations and publications catering to your target market can be
useful, too. Web sites for those sources also are readily available. It never
hurts to enlist the assistance of a pro. Often, the investment more than pays
for itself in time savings.
Profile your target market
with the information you gather. Include the percentage of people in your town
that would fall into your “target” market. What is your target’s need for the
services you offer? Do they appreciate the services you offer? Where do they
currently go to buy these services? How easy/difficult will it be to lure them
over to your company? The more specific your profiles are, the more they will
help you hit your target.
Hitting Your Target
This is the most important
part of your marketing plan! For each goal, you need to develop a strategy that
incorporates your key messages and outlines the tactics you need to accomplish
to reach your goal.
There are many tools for you
to use to convey your message, including:
- Direct Marketing
- Public Relations –
events, speaking engagements, sponsorships
- Business Alliances
For each goal, write your
strategy with the key message and the tactics you will take to realize your
Here’s a sample:
Strategy: Position Bob’s Widget Company as the unique
provider of low-priced, high-quality widgets in Any City, USA.
Key Messages: Bob’s Widget Company offers low-priced,
high-quality widgets and is committed to serving the citizens of Any City, USA.
a story to the local business journal that shows how Any City, USA’s citizens
now have access to the most affordable widgets in America. Attend trade shows
where you can meet retailers who serve your target market. If Bob wanted to
take his widgets straight to his target market, he also might consider
developing a direct mail campaign.
As you outline each goal,
make sure you keep asking yourself, “Why should I do this?” Also, be realistic.
If you don’t have a lot of money to pour into marketing, it doesn’t make sense
to list tactics that require a large budget. Marketing doesn’t have to cost a
lot of money if you are willing to invest time and creativity to achieve your
Once you have all your goals
broken down into smaller sub-goals, set a deadline for each sub-goal and a
timeline for the larger goal. You want your marketing plan to be a win for you
– set practical time deadlines.
Guess what? That’s it! You now have your marketing “map,” a
well-developed “to do” list that was researched and is highly focused to get
the results you want. It is based on facts, not hunches, and it will take you
from point A to point B. More than that, it will continue to move you closer to
meeting your company goals.
As you complete each
goal/sub-goal, be sure to document the results you realized. Use this analysis
to tweak and improve your marketing process. We think you will be amazed at
what you can do in just three months if you take your marketing effort one goal
at a time.