Your Marketing Plan – What It Should Contain

Running a business without a marketing plan is a bit like driving a car with your eyes closed. Without a plan, you have no direction on how you are going to grow your business and no objectives or activities planned to trigger that growth. This is why companies, investors and leaders all place value in building a marketing plan. However, if you haven’t created a market plan before you may find the process overwhelming. I’ll be honest, if you complete this correctly, it will not be a quick project, you will definitely spend some time on this. A well-researched, strategic marketing plan may take several weeks to complete and will consist of hours of research. While you may continue to operate without a formal plan – it will end up costing you more time, money and resources in the long run.

Businesses with plans succeed, outperform competitors, and retain staff, more than those with no plan. Marketing takes time, money and preparation, but the benefits outweigh the work. A strong marketing plan will ensure you’re not only sticking to your schedule, but that you’re spending your marketing funds wisely and appropriately.

Your Marketing Plan Will Help You To:

  • Identify your competitive advantage and define your unique value proposition
  • Evaluate your mission and vision for relevancy
  • Focus on your strategic target marketsand their needs
  • Determine and focus on priorities
  • Acquire resources you need to implement your plans
  • Obtain the organization support at all levels
  • Set objectives and strategies for chosen segments
  • Define strategies, tactics and campaigns

I recommend following these 10 steps when creating your marketing plan and strategy that will helpg you achieve your goals for business growth.

  1. Begin With a Mission

Identify your mission as a company. A mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making for your business.

  1. Develop Your Target Market and Segmentation Strategies
  • Who are your target markets?
  • What industries do they represent?
  • What is the size of the company (or market)?
  • Why do they need your services or product?
  • What is going to make this company buy your services or product?
  • What is the channel of distribution for this market?
  • Who makes the buying decisions?
  1. Define Personas & Content
  • Do you know your buyer?
  • Do you know the company they represent?
  • Do you understand their company’s business?
  • Do you know their needs and requirements?
  • Do you know where they buy?
  • Do you know who makes up their decision-making or buying team?
  • Do you know their decision-making and buying processes?
  • Do you know how to reach them with your marketing and sales messages?
  • What are the key decision factors that make them choose one vendor over another?
  • Is the decision made around price, service, support, quality, or other factors?
  • Where do these personas go to source credible content?
  • What messages will generate the right response and what information will be most effective?
  1. Complete a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
  • What advantages or strengths do you have?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What do people in your market see as your strength?
  • What could you do to improve?
  • What should you avoid?
  • What are other companies/people likely to see as your weakness?
  • What are good opportunities for you?
  • What could threaten your business?
  • Where is the industry going?
  • What are your objectives as it relates to this target market?
  1. Identify Your Key Influencers
  • Social networks to drive mass impressions
  • Journalists
  • Academics
  • Analysts
  • Professional advisors
  • Websites
  • Industry associations
  • Referral sources
  1. Conduct A Content Marketing Audit
  • Review your existing collateral, content and thought leadership pieces
  • Decide which can be leveraged in new marketing campaigns
  • Identify content gaps so you know where to focus development and resource time
  • Align your content to achieve a marketing objective as well as serve a purpose in the buying cycle (awareness, consideration and decision)
  1. Set Your Marketing Objectives
  • Intended goals and results of your marketing plan, tactics and campaigns
  • Set the metrics (both business and marketing) to track and report on
  • If you’re not use to defining your marketing objectives use the SMART methodology (Specific Measurable Actionable Realistic Time)
  • Marketing objectives are ideally tied to business value including leads, revenue, ROI (Return on Investment), etc.
  1. Plan The Marketing Strategy
  • A detailed blueprint on how to achieve the marketing objectives
  • Strategies list which steps to take, specific action necessary to achieve each step and the expected timeline by which to accomplish each stage
  • Strategies will focus on the 4Ps of marketing: Product (Service), Promotion, Price, Place (Distribution)
  1. Define Your Marketing Tactics, Goals and Mix
  • Advertising
  • Branding
  • Directories
  • Direct marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Public relations
  • Sales
  • Business development
  • Networking and referrals
  • Events
  • Sponsorships
  • Content
  • Communication
  1. Allocate Your Budget
  • Connect your budget to business value
  • Your marketing objectives and target audiences should help you allocate your spend accordingly
  • Research and capture the price of different marketing tactics (some are more affordable than others – depending on your objectives)
  • Your budget should influence the amount of leads that enter your sales funnel and result in increased revenue (noting that increased spend could decrease profit in the short-term)
  • Leverage benchmarks/best practices on target leads to meet goals
  • Review spend and result on an on-going basis 

In summary, follow these best practices:

  • Focus on your priority target markets and personas
  • Leverage your strengths and not your weaknesses
  • Don’t worry about having an in-depth plan or too many strategies
  • Make sure your marketing plans and budget is practical and measurable
  • Assign specific responsibilities and tasks to skilled people on your team
  • Plan, track, measure, optimize and redeploy

6 Reasons You Should Invest In Market Research

Market research will allow you to properly execute your marketing strategy. Here are 6 reasons why you should invest in market research:

  1. Identify your potential market.
    1. Researching about your potential or existing market enables you to identify your consumer or understand what product would bring the most value to your target audience. It may also allow you to determine the limitations or flaws within your business, product or service, particularly within the lens of the market.
  2. Determine your price.
    1. Through research of the market, you’ll figure out the best price for your product(s), or more realistically, your profit margin. You need to manage both market and profit expectations when evaluating your pricing strategy.
  3. Minimize risk.
    1. Minimizing risks and make informed market decisions using your market research. This will allow you to create objective go-to-market strategies.
  4. Market to your target audience.
    1. Marketing research will allow you to promote your business or communicate with your customers more effectively and efficiently. When building your marketing strategy you should leverage the market and demographic information of your target audience to increase your in-market effectiveness. Communicated and engage with your target audience through surveys, online questionnaires, focus groups, mystery shops and even internal phone/personal interviews.
  5. Discover opportunities.
    1. Business is dynamic and market research can help a company realize and assess opportunities within the market place. By analyzing data and statistics gathered from market research, you can forecast or anticipate future market needs. First-to-market or a competitive advantage may be a result and a profitable one at that.
  6. In researching your market, you’ll overcome challenges by getting reliable answers. The answers shall serve as your key to create the right solutions for these challenges.

Market research can also provide you with the following information:

  1. Market share and trends
  2. The decision-making and sales process of your target audience
  3. Competitor profiling
  4. Customer service ratings (compared to your competition)
  5. Marketing and sales tactics that can retain prospects
  6. The most effective (or memorable) marketing tactics

Whether you are starting a small business or looking to expand your existing operation, you should utilize market research to help you create an actionable marketing and business strategy.

The 4 P’s & C’s of Marketing

This blog post takes me back to my university days. Expanding on the P’s with the C’s of marketing and branding was a great addition to my marketing strategy skill set. The 4 P’s of marketing – Product, Price, Place and Promotion – are well known, however the addition of the 4 C’s – Consumers, Costs, Convenience and Communication –  can help to build a more robust marketing strategy.

4marketingPsandCs

Products & Consumers 

Consumers have needs and wants which products (or services) should provide. Learning what a target audience wants or finds value in will help you to develop a product that will be successful in the market place. Conduct a market place gap analysis to see if there is an opportunity for your product.

Price & Cost 

The price must be justified by the market place and by your profitability margin. You need to consider the indirect costs that your target audience must pay to use your product or service. If you rely strictly on price to compete you are vulnerable to competition – in the long term.

Place & Convenience

If it’s not convenient it doesn’t matter where you place the product. This depends on your target market’s preference and can range from the internet to a catalogue or a phone call.

Promotion & Communication

Promotion can be considered to be more of a marketing campaign or medium, where as communication can require a value exchange between the buyer and seller. It’s about providing value. Content marketing or an innocent can usually align promotion and communication as long as it provides value. Be creative and you can make your marketing engaging.

Strategizing Your Promotional Marketing Mix

In business or marketing strategy, you have probably heard of the “4 P’s” of marketing (Product, Price, Place and Promotion). The promotional aspect can also be described as the “Promotional Mix” and it determines what actions to take to reach your target audience. If you find yourself asking “How do I know what works?” the answer begins with your target audience. This blog post will help you to strategize your marketing plan and I’ve even included estimated costs.

Marketing Tactics

  1. Business Name

Your business and brand name is crucial to your success. ($1,000 – $8,000)

  1. Logo

Your logo should represent your company and your brand. This is a must-have and quality does count. An affordable solution is 99Designs. If design and creativity isn’t your strong suit then you should invest in an engaging logo. ($500 – $10,000)

  1. Slogan

This may be optional, but this short description can explain your unique value proposition to the market. ($500 – $5,000)

  1. Website

Developing a website can be almost free (e.g. from WordPress or another free online template) or a substantial investment. It all depends on your ability to build a website, develop a strategy, content, etc. It will cost less if you can write it yourself and supply the photography, but if you don’t want to build a website, you should hire someone who does. You can also save money by being involved in the planning and content selection. ($5,000 – $50,000)

  1. Content Marketing Schedule

Unless you’re ready to draft a content marketing plan you should probably enlist some help. Providing valuable content will help move your targets through a track-able process.

  1. Email Marketing

This will help you provide value and disseminate you content. Free templates can be set up with any number of online eNewsletter programs. ($50  – $20,000)

  1. Social Media

Set up your social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) and ensure they are consistent with your branding and messaging. You should be able to do this yourself, but make sure you’re on the right networks – correctly.

  1. Blogging

Writing a blog is free and easy to do once you’ve planned your content strategy. Creating a blog will help you keep your website content fresh.

  1. Signage

Signage will let the market place know that you exist and help people easily you’re your location(s). ($500 – $50,000+)

  1. Directories and Classified Ads

Whether online or in a newspaper, these should be a cost-effective method to list your company in it’s target industry. People searching for specific items can locate your ad by category. ($25+/each)

  1. Community Newsletters

If your goal is to reach a specific community, than community papers may provide you with a cost-effective tactic, however readership varies. ($50 – $500/ad/size)

  1. Outdoor Advertising

This tactic will increase your local presence. Outdoor advertising covers a variety of media, including lawn signs, bus benches (0 – $200/month), shopping mall signs, billboards and building sponsorships. ($5,000 – $50,000+)

  1. Videos

Videos are an extremely important, especially within your content marketing strategy. They can be used in a variety of mediums including both digital and traditional marketing tactics.  ($2,000  – $50,000)

  1. Search Engine Optimization (and Outsourced Content Creation)

Your company and it’s digital assets need to rank highly. Enlisting the services of an expert will save you time, which will allow you to get back to business. ($1,000 – $5,000/month)

  1. Radio

This brand awareness tactic will increase your presence with commuter traffic, especially in rural communities. ($3,000 – $10,000/month)

  1. Television (TV)

Advertising on local (or national) television can greatly increase your brand awareness and increase recognition. (Estimate $1,000 – $10,000/month + production – you need a solid 30 second spot)

  1. Newspapers

Newspaper (local or national) can help build local, immediate attention and over a period of time can increase brand visibility. ($2,000+/month – depending on ad size)

  1. Promotional Products

These are branded items that you send (or give) away to gain (and retain) attention. In Calgary I recommend Level2, however there any many choices in every city.

  1. Direct Mail

Targeted, local direct mail can be effective if there is a valuable offer or create that stands out. This can also be applied to eNewsletters or digital marketing. ($0.5 – $3/ household is consistent depending on the creative you are mailing)

  1. Digital

There are many new online advertising channels to consider. Start with Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is essentially your online search traffic that should relate to your company, product or service. Then look at display advertising, which is the online version of billboard advertising, layered in with retargeted and behaviour ads. Next think about social media advertising (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). If you’re confused by the above let me know and I can help. While marketing budgets may vary they are also affordable and track-able. ($25/day+)

  1. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A CRM system, emails and phone calls will help you manage current relationships, increase referrals and attract new prospects to be clients. If you don’t have a sales process or strategy you will not generate new business. ($25/month+)

  1. Recommendations, Success Stories and Celebrity Endorsements

Some of these are free or earned and others are not – however all will help you increase credibility within your market place. Always be aware of the risk.

Build Your Promotional Marketing Mix

Choose your promotional marketing tactic based on your target audience. This includes the volume, type, and geography of the target customers you are trying to reach. Depending on your marketing strategy (or objectives), choose the method that is the most direct and provides the most value. Your target prospects need to engage with your market for it to be a success. Forecast and plan your marketing budgets to ensure that you allow enough budget to carry your campaign throughout completion. Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Just be sure to measure the results of your marketing.

How & When to Start Marketing Your Product: 4 Tips

“How and when should I start marketing?” Many companies and new entrepreneurs can easily get hung up on that question. Whether it refers to determining when to start marketing your product or service to customers, or figuring out the correct market in which to launch, the following 4 steps will help guide your through the process.

  1. Product Knowledge

You need to frame the product/technology as it relates to your proposed product timeline and evaluate what stage it currently resides. Doing so defines the timing of when you should go to market and who would be the ideal target within each of the product’s stages.

If you aren’t sure where your product stands, consider the following points:

  • Are the primary features still being developed?
  • Are there enough features to let someone test and give meaningful feedback?
  • Are you ready to present your product and find a first beta tester or even customer?
  • Where does your product reside in the product life cycle? Each of these stages varies in length and directly affects how you market and what your timing is.
    • 1. Development
    • 2. Introduction
    • 3. Growth
    • 4. Maturity
    • 5. Decline

Product knowledge will assist you with your marketing messaging as well as increasing your competitiveness within the market place.

  1. Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy should plan out the approach you will take to reach potential prospects. Define your target audience and know the best marketing medium, channel and budget for each persona.

Your marketing strategy needs to include the following elements:

  • Product & Consumer
  • Price & Costs
  • Place & Convenience
  • Promotion & Communication

4marketingPsandCs

Also consider these points when building your marketing plan:

  • Who your product or service will serve
  • Where to reach these people
  • How to reach these people
  • How to best do the above given the resources you have
  1. Competitive Landscape

To be successful and truly stand out to your target audience, it is crucial to have a deeper understanding of the competitive landscape. Figure out who the top competitors are, along with their value proposition and core messaging. Can your product or service thrive in the market place? All products, services and companies have competitors so be sure you conduct due diligence. I recommend starting with some web searches then building from there.

  1. Messaging

After you have developed your marketing strategy and understand the positioning of your product in it’s competitive landscape, the final component is to define the messaging. Your messaging is the compilation of the first 3 steps, but positioned in a compelling manner. It must be creative, catchy, engaging, memorable and most of all convert-able (leading to new business). If you are to be successfully noticed by a prospect, your messaging must be timely, relevant, and personalized.

Provide value and think about your unique value proposition. Consider the use of comparative language. Are you faster, bigger, sleeker, or cheaper? Your product knowledge, market strategy and competitive knowledge should help you to create messaging that will engage your target audience.

The 4 steps I’ve outlined will help you determine when or how you should market your new product or concept. It should begin developing an actionable marketing strategy that will allow you to under stand your product/service and it’s target audience. This also includes conducting market and competitor research as well as creating engaging messaging. These tips will allow you to properly plan your strategy and execution, which will be the key to your success.

It is not the critic who counts…

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

― Theodore Roosevelt

Marketing: How to Break Through the Noise

The market place – any market place – is noisy and crowded. Marketing has moved towards a content, value-driven strategy where companies are competing (even more so) for market attention. Below are my recommendations on how to cut threw the noise.

  1. Build a marketing strategy

Be sure to include the following elements:

  • Strategy: Start with a business strategy that addresses your target customer, market, technology and business needs
  • Products and services: Have a quality offering that meets customer needs (both stated and unstated) better than the available alternatives
  • Target audience: Understand as much as you can about your prospects and customers – who they are, what they need and want, and how you can best provide value
  • Competitive and market analysis: Understand the market in which you compete, including as much as possible about the industry and competitors
  • Brand: Build a strong brand and reputation in the minds of all key audiences – customers, partners, employees, shareholders, the local community, and others
  • Communication: Effectively communicate the value you provide so as to generate demand
  • Sales and distribution channels: Provide the right tools to enable those who sell and recommend your product to be successful
  • Operations: Deliver, track, and analyze your marketing efforts to understand what’s working and where changes should be made
  1. Think digital

If you’re not thinking digital first, you’re already behind. Be able to develop and deliver targeted digital campaigns that will provide an increased return on investment (ROI). Measure and track your digital marketing and make executable improvements, while focusing on lead generation.

  1. Create alignment

Marketing will succeed or fail based on your planning and execution. Alignment along internal and external stakeholders will increase the performance (and results) of your marketing strategies. Even some of the most creative marketing initiatives can fall flat if you don’t have alignment.

Have consultative and collaborate conversations between marketing team members and business stakeholders to create alignment. Review to make sure you have the resources (and budget) available to execute your strategy. Great marketing initiatives fall short if they are not provided sufficient resources. Have you thought about the technology required to execute your strategy? You need to. Exploring opportunities here also aligns with executing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Marketing needs to have a strategy is you want to successfully cut through the noise and have a valuable impact in the market place.

You Chose That Name? Avoid These 5 Naming Mistakes

Naming your company, product or service, either new or old, is a great opportunity. If you get it right it could put it on the “map”, increase awareness, and spark buzz from the marketplace. However, if you get it wrong it may make you invisible, mis-represented or non-existent. Naming is a mix between an art and a substance but these 5 tips should help.

  1. Don’t be (or want to be) like everyone else

Avoid this curse of human nature. While you may see something successful in the marketplace, such as a well-known brand/product, I would encourage you to be inventive and avoid the need to duplicate. Strong names and brands have been built, which is how you should approach your naming process. This is an opportunity to establish and build a strong name/brand while differentiating you from your competition.

  1. Remember what’s important to your target audience

Before you start naming, make sure you’ve reviewed and refined your brand positioning so you know exactly what your target audience is looking for and wanting (even if they might not know it yet). As discussed in tip 1, you should also position yourself as distinctive. Avoid how you want to be positioned or perceived rather position yourself as what your target market is expected.

  1. Be simple

Basically, don’t say everything. A good name (or brand) is an entry point. You create interest by intriguing your audience not by telling them everything. You can capture their attention and then provide information after, through packaging, advertising, website, social media etc.

  1. Avoid trends

Create a name or brand that will last longer than the recent trend, such as dropped letters, juxtaposed concepts, slang or “trendy” acronyms. Select a name that you’ll be able to present with pride for longer than a few years (or trend).

  1. Check your grammar

Don’t lose perspective and be mindful of spelling, grammatical and pronunciation issues. Also, consider how your name is interpreted in the media as well as in other countries, languages, etc. Be sure to take your time and review your choices.

A brand, product or service name is extremely important to creating awareness and engaging your target audience. This is an opportunity – don’t waste it.

Creating a Social Media Strategy The Forrester Post Way

The Forrester Post method is one of the best ways to develop a social media strategy. The 4 elements developed by Forrester Research are conveniently presented as a memorable acronym POST:

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  • People. Who is your target group? What kind of clients and prospects do you have? How do they behave online? Knowing the people who you want to communicate with and where they are is where, is where you should be.
  • Objectives. What are your goals? Do you want to increase leads, track conversion, generate awareness, gain insight or foster engagement? Do you want to talk, collaborate, immobilize or evangelize? Deciding on your objective before selecting a technology will help you in the long run.
  • Strategy. How are you going to reach your objectives? Make a plan and envision where you would like to end up. Use this to plan backwards. Which direction(s) would you like to take? How are you going to improve your relationship with your customers? What do you want to get out of these relationships? What will be different when you are done?
  • Technologies. What technologies and applications should you use to accomplish the first 3 steps (P-O-S)? What is a reasonable yet accurate timeline? Whether this means an online community, a blog, a few blogs, or some dashboards, this should be your last step.

This may sound complicated, but it’s not. The Forrester Post method can help you create an effective and well-thought out social media strategy.

3 Marketing Challenges When Targeting Tech Clients

Here are 3 tips to consider when working with a tech clients:

1. Turn complex ideas into compelling stories

Businesses with non-intuitive services or products pose a unique challenge to marketers. Storytelling is a necessary component in creating compelling marketing and content. Take time to learn your client’s story and create clear, compelling statements. Don’t be afraid of the technical complexity – embrace it. Being able to simplify business stories and clarify their advantages will help create a competitive advantage.

2. Balance casual with corporate

Tech companies are known for innovative work environments and many tech executives believe a casual setting helps build team morale.

3. Avoid a creative face-off

Marketing and tech companies strive to be innovative and creative (when done possible). While both companies may have talented, creative employees, it’s best to avoid a conflict. On a positive note, they will provide insight and direction, but you will need to manage their creative suggestions and influences. Ultimately, tech companies can provide marketers with a refreshing challenge.