Although the ways companies reach and interact with prospects and customers have changed dramatically in recent years, the fundamentals of marketing strategy still start with the same basic requirements. You have to (1) identify your target market(s); (2) determine the unique selling proposition that explains the value you are offering them; and (3) create a plan that addresses the marketing mix known as the four Ps:
- Product: How does your product create value for customers by meeting their needs better than competitors do?
- Price: What price are customers willing to pay for this value?
- Place: What channels will be most cost-effective for getting your product into the market?
- Promotion: How will you get the word to your target customers and get them to try your product?
Many people also add a 5th P:
- People: What resources or skills will you need to hire or contract in in order to execute your plan?
Step One: Know Your Target Markets and Competition
These days many companies deliberately fine-tune their definitions of their target markets by multiple segments, differentiating along any number of criteria that an range from demographics or firmagraphics and geographic location to channel role and whether they are early adopters or more conservative, etc.
It’s really helpful to get a grip on the different types of buyers and key decision-influencers who will benefit from your product, how each benefits, what product features matter most to each, and how they prefer to buy. This lets you craft a highly targeted go-to-market strategy and message for each segment.
Doing this will also require you to carefully analyze your competitors and their marketing approaches. Are they targeting the same segments? How well do they fill the needs of the segments they’re targeting? What weaknesses – in product features, pricing or service, for example – do they have that could give you a competitive advantage? Can you determine what they are offering to each segment as their unique selling proposition? How are they going to market? Do they sell direct online or at retail? Do they sell through distributors or allow original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to buy and bundle their products into an OEM-branded offering? Can you tell how they’re getting the word out? Are they advertising online or in traditional media? Do they make heavy use of content marketing—digital publicity via publications, blogs, and social media? publicity? Social media?
If you don’t have a lot of access to this kind of information, you may want to hire a market research firm to do some digging for you or to assemble customer panels to ask for insightful feedback from existing customers. Many marketing agencies or consultants can also arrange to do this research and help you build your marketing plan. See some of the resources listed below, including RPI’s own student resources through Future Business Leaders of America.
Step Two: Putting the Plan Together
Your marketing plan begins with a concise description of your market situation: the opportunity, target market segments and their size and descriptions, and any threats such as changing industry dynamics, technologies, or target market shifts. If your product has been in the market already, provide historical perspective on your share of market and marketing and sales strategies.
Marketing Objectives and Specific Goals
Now it’s time to envision where you want to go in this market. Consider both short-term (one year) and longer-term (2 to 5 year) objectives. Don’t overdo it; keep to a manageable set of no more than four to six objectives that you can attach a quantifiable metric to, such as growing your market share by 6 points in the next three years. You should be able to attach a dollar figure to some of your objectives.
You might find it helpful to organize your marketing objectives according to the first Four Ps above. Then break each objective down into some specific goals and an action plan for each. These should be specific, quantifiable, and realistic. They might include things like cross-selling existing customers with a product line extension; expanding or deepening your channel partner network, or shifting more of your marketing expenditures into cross-selling and upselling existing customers.
Be sure to include measurable values for each goal so you can determine projected returns.
Budgeting and Measurement
The final section of your plan should be a proforma budget for at least one year of marketing activities. This should include all direct costs for communications, including in-house personnel, outside consultants and other resources, and the costs for each element in your strategy, including advertising and digital marketing campaigns, customer retention activities, customer service, and channel marketing costs.
Once you’ve completed the plan, you need to return to it at least once a month to take measurements relevant to each goal. Your measurements may include new leads generated, conversions from lead to customer, how much you increased customer lifetime value through cross-selling or upselling efforts, awareness and influence of your brand in the marketplace, etc.
A Note on the New Marketing
Marketing is a noisy field, and the growth of online marketing has produced a glut of marketing resources and advice that can be downright deafening. So as not to be overwhelmed by blanket advice on which methods work best, we advise sticking close to your own industry and understanding what the norms are there. Then you’ll know how best to stand out from the crowd.
For example, just because you’ve seen some great news in The Wall Street about mobile apps as a customer attraction tool doesn’t mean your company should create one. Your choice of promotional channels will depend heavily on what your key goals are. If you’re creating a brand new product category, you’re going to have to put a lot of your investment into market education and creating buzz – through publicity, training seminars or webinars, demonstrations or free trials, and possibly paid endorsement advertising. Existing brands that already have a strong established base may want to deepen customer engagement and inspire referrals, or to improve the quality of their lead generation efforts for bringing new customers on board. Keep your eye on your marketing objectives and set achievable goals that are specific to where you are in your business right now.
- Your EVE Podio Account: go to the MARKETING and add Marketing checklist
RPI Future Business Leaders of America: Market Research and Plans
Lally School Entrepreneurs In Residence (EIR)
REGISTERED EVE BUSINESS MENTORS & PROFESSIONALS
- David Vener, Marketing & Internet Services
- Rick D’Errico, Public Relations and Communications
- Janet A. Smith, Marketing Strategy and Implementation
- Matt Alston, Marketing & Advertising
CAPITAL REGION MARKETING ASSISTANCE
- Small Business Development Center: Marketing Plan Development
- Center for Economic Growth (CEG): Strategies for Increasing Revenues
- American Marketing Association Capital Region Chapter