By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer
How are you going to get from (a) where you are now to (b) your goals? A marketing plan is the vehicle that gets from here to there. It is an outline of how your efforts are working together to reach business goals. Ultimately, you are finding the most effective strategies to sell your product or service to the most receptive audiences. There are several key stages in developing a marketing plan that help you organize and prioritize your communication efforts:
Outlining goals and identifying optimal market position
Initially, you should determine where you want to go–what are your goals? What is sensible yet aspirational? It’s very important to be grounded in what is possible because your goals will determine how and where you place your efforts. If you’re aspirations are unrealistic, it will be very challenging to meet them.
Once you’ve identified your goals, what is your position amongst your peer group? Are they more technical and you’re striving for creativity? It’s always helpful to visualize your positioning through simple quadrant maps. Let’s look at Apple. Apple’s quadrant map would potentially include a mindset (analytic and creative) and interactivity axises to define their iPhone. The purpose of such an exercise is to determine where they are within their peer group.
Segmenting and Aligning your Efforts with your Goals
You’ve placed you’re (a) and (b) on the map and now you have to draw a line between them. How are you going to get from where you are now to where you’d like to be? What vehicle is going to get you to your destination?
Before you start focusing your marketing efforts, consider your audience. Segment your audience into distinct groups based on their demographics and psychographics. Understand their need states and where they hang out. Where are you going to find your single women 16-35 with higher education looking for a need to escape? If you’re targeting businesses, what trade publications can offer you insight into their particular needs or what conferences might they attend? Next you should consider what type of marketing is going help you reach your goals:
Types of Marketing
Once you’ve identified your audience and where you can reach them, define what marketing efforts are going to speak to your customer and ultimately help you reach your goal. Based on your audience need states and where you can reach them, how are you going to communicate your message? Are they online in social networks or would you find them at trade shows? Are you going to target influencers to create some buzz or are you going to hire an outside public relations agency?
Take example from Apple. When they launched the iPod, their famous silhouetted advertisements were plastered all over large urban environments. You could hardly go down a street in NYC without seeing the iconic image. Depending where you can reach your audiences, you will have to fine tune where you communicate your message. Then you can refine you message based on their need states.
It’s important to understand your capabilities and budgetary restrictions. If you want to spend X on digital advertising and Y on PR and Z on TV and radio, do you have the financial ability to do so? Be realistic. If your marketing efforts are beyond your reach, you’ve just sabotaged your marketing plan. Ensuring you’re able to afford or leverage your in-house talent is essential in your planning stage.
Marketing from the Inside Out
Your marketing efforts do not always need to be external. When you market your company, you’re also marketing your team. Therefore, rallying your team around a single goal is essential for you to effectively market your company. Zappos is a great example of one internal philosophy that marketed the company with little traditional advertising. Zappos focused on customer service. They aligned their team with the goal of creating the most outstanding customer service out there and because of their dedication and follow-through, they have seen significant success with little traditional advertising.
Zappos has also taken their internal philosophy to social media. They’re known for their unconventional tweets. Fun, witty and intelligent, they’ve successfully carried over their brand personality to Twitter. Twitter allows Zappos to humanize the team of sales people and elevate the brand in the digital space.
Measuring your Success
Typically, the marketing plan addresses those goals one or more years out. Anything less than 12 months is not forward looking enough to make real impact. Measuring your success is about how you know you’re meeting your goals. Sometimes it’s helpful to have smaller milestones that build up to your more macro goals. By setting smaller goal markers, you’ll be able to refine and change your efforts based on performance. If you only focus on the big picture, you’ll find that at the two year mark, your not reaching your goals because some of your efforts were not working as planned. That’s why it’s always helpful to take small steps to know you’re headed in the right direction.
Photo by Bill Ault from Stock.Xchng