How to Write a Marketing Plan

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1 How to Write a Marketing Plan This article highlights what we believe to be many of the key points that we need to consider when developing a marketing plan. It combines marketing theory, practical tools and anecdotal experiences to provide readers with a practical framework from which they can write their own action-orientated marketing plan within the wider context of their organisational objectives. It lists points that can be explored in more detail through workshops and one-to-one training. This article covers: Why should you have a marketing plan? Defining marketing? Supporting Corporate Strategy Analysing Your Position Setting Objectives and Targets Core Target Markets Proposition, Positioning and Branding Managing Existing Customers and Prospective Customers Packaging Managing Marketing Evaluating Opportunities Promotion and Managing Promotion Persuasion Performance Practically Moving Forward Why should you have a marketing plan? We ve all heard the saying: If you always do the same thing, you ll always get the same result, and although it is clearly untrue (in a business context at least, you rarely get away with always doing the same thing before companies crumble) there is an important message in here. It relates to another saying oh, we don t do any marketing, usually untrue too. The truth is that to succeed, any and every organisation needs to do marketing in order to survive and grow. This author would argue that good marketing is second only to good cash flow management. So what of the marketing plan? Is it something for large corporates or can it be value for the small business, the charity, the social enterprise and in the public sector? Of course it can, and in a nutshell here is what a marketing plan can provide any organisation with: Focus and direction A tool to share vision and achieve buy-in from others, e.g. investors, bank, employees, etc. Enables us to be proactive and seize opportunities before everyone else does

2 The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as: the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably, which is pretty comprehensive. Probably the easiest and most valid way to describe this process is: Positioning (including Pricing) > Packaging > Promotion > Persuasion > Performance (and back again) This brief article describes how each element of the marketing management process should be reflected in the marketing plan. In terms of adopting an appropriate mindset for where the marketing plan fits into your organisation, it is my opinion that the Marketing Plan Must Support the Corporate Strategy. Strategy is defined by understanding: Stakeholders - who does the organisation exist to serve? Objectives - what specifically is the organisation trying to achieve? Expectations what does success look like? The marketing plan is the vehicle to achieving success and objectives to the benefit of key stakeholders. When Analysing Your Position there are several key questions that you must ask yourself and others in order to understand the basis of any strategy or plan. These areas are internal; Resources and Capabilities - what are the strengths, limitations, includes cash, finance, time, skills etc? And external; The Market - competitors, client buying patterns, new technology, emerging trends, opportunities, threats, your company s value proposition etc. Indeed the traditional SWOT analysis still has its place; it provides a snapshot of the current situation and generates actions, e.g. how to exploit an opportunity. Through Setting Objectives and Targets we agree priorities and the ultimate destination. At this stage you ought to ask what type of company you are and where you want your business to be in five years time. This can be represented in the marketing plan via: A statement of what you want to achieve A list of SMART Objectives (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound)

3 Broken down in further detail, targets ought to be clearly understood by anyone reading your marketing plan. This may include: Financial Targets (Broken down by market, product or service area. Possibly even by client, or client type?) Brand Positioning (What do you want people to feel and say about your organisation?), or Key Achievements / Milestones (Is to be Market leader, award winning, top 10 etc?) Remember that this is intrinsically linked to the Corporate Strategy. When defining your Core Target Markets you should be asking questions such as: Who are your customers?, What do they buy?, How do they buy?, When do they buy? They can be broken down by organisational type or individual characteristics; there are many, many ways of profiling customers out there, though you will gain value by understanding the fears and motivations of the specific decision maker within an organisation or even a household. Then there are other marketing factors too such as the seasonality of purchase or the effects of the ups and downs of the economy. When evaluating your Proposition and Positioning this should always be relative to your competitors and other alternatives to buying from you. For instance; do you share customers or are they different? If so why?, what do they provide that differs to you? Where is your place in the market? Why should customers buy from you? I feel it should be noted that although differentiation is essential, you can achieve effective results by being in the right place at the right time (of course, looking the part, with the right products at the right price!) Branding is a massive area and isn t going to get exhaustively covered here though the brand messages have a huge influence on the way you approach marketing. The visual representation is important, i.e. do we appear to be fun? technical? local? international? Is this right for our target customers? However, this area goes beyond the logo and towards being the brand: Attention to detail: telephone, invoicing, premises, dress code Recruiting the right people, mixing with the right people Upholding brand values, e.g. if being ethical is a brand value you must uphold this or you will seriously damage your reputation Unless it is a brand new venture, a marketing plan should include strategies for Managing Existing Customers. Based on the Boston Matrix, the tool below can be used to identify individual customers and/or customer types, besides which you should identify and commit to an appropriate form of action.

4 Low Potential for Sales Growth High Potential for Sales Growth High Profitability Cash Cow Action Rising Star Action Low Profitability Dead Dog Action Question Mark Action A similar system can be used to Manage Specific Prospective Customers and Partners, though it is likely to deal with them in groups. For instance, warm relationships and high potential sales value may warrant a personal phone call, buying them lunch and talking about prospective business. Whereas, high potential sales value and no relationship, may be approached by organising a special event or a campaign of positive communication. Strength of Relationship Potential Sales Value Warm Cool None High Medium Low Packaging is an area in marketing in itself. It is the way your brand, products or service offering is presented; are you proud of the way your organisation presents itself to the world? You should review your marketing materials to ensure that they support the brand. These are things like your website, business cards, brochures, flyers, folders and any campaign specific materials. Packaging may also include things such as: a physical shop or stall, for which issues such as size, location, ambience etc. are linked into the brand. The marketing planning stage is an appropriate time to address How Marketing will be Managed on an ongoing basis. Momentum is key to making marketing work for you. Methods of monitoring and allocating your activities include: weekly / monthly meetings, items at Board meetings, updating marketing plan every month, using a mentor, nonexecutive director or a consultant. A good way of generating ideas and gaining feedback is through a peer learning support programme though this does not replace an internally governed system.

5 A regular marketing meeting can also be used to track sales progress, leads and results from campaigns. For instance, we segment leads by process of sales cycle: To Close, To Progress, and To Open. When growing a business we are constantly presented with opportunities to enter into partnerships, set-up subsidiaries, buy in equipment etc. and it is important that we Evaluate Opportunities within a strategic context. One way of doing this is to identify the criteria most important to you and use this as a tool to help make strategic choices. Below opportunities are measured against criteria and ranked as green, amber or red; it may be that a red in some key column rules something out altogether. Opportunity / Criteria Support of Strateg y Short- Term Potenti al Returns Long- Term Potenti al Returns Perceiv ed Risk Cross-sale Opportuniti es Profit/Eff ort Occupy Board Time Developing Video Production Capabilities Amber Amber Amber Amber Green Amber Amber Red Short-term Costs When it comes to marketing planning, many people immediately think of Promotion and as this the primary means of generating new leads it is another massive area. Generally speaking, promotional activities fall within one of six core areas (or indeed, may cross-over into multiple areas): 1. Networking - i.e. conventional and other; you do business at the level you network 2. Alliances and Sources of Referrals - who can give you regular work, who makes you stronger, could make you stronger, etc? 3. Direct Marketing - everything on the advertising front, mail shots, telemarketing, exhibitions, marketing, etc. 4. Market Relations media coverage, messages you want to convey, branding, sponsorships, speaking at events, etc. 5. Keep in touch & Development - newsletters, product catalogues, evaluation procedures, account management, etc. 6. Online Marketing - driving people to your website, articles published, pay per click, SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc. When it comes to Managing Promotion, like most tasks, the promotional plan can be broken into SMART, Manageable Chunks. This may mean splitting activities into projects or campaigns that support specific objectives.

6 Most SMEs will have between 10 and 30 distinct mini-projects that make up the promotional plan. We use an approach whereby we address key elements of the promotional initiative: Summary: The whys and whats. Objectives: Quantifiable where possible, though there will be qualitative too. Method: How you are going to implement the project. Key considerations etc. Timescales: Milestones, targets etc. Support and Materials Requirements: What do you need to make this happen, and happen effectively? Investment Requirements: How much time and money? Who will be working on it? What constraints might this cause? Proposed Responsibilities: Who is accountable for what? Measures of Success: How will you know if it s worked? Quantitative where possible, probably a breakdown of the objectives. Further Actions: What needs doing to get this off the ground? What are the short-term priorities? Other information needed? The Persuasion process covers how you will close sales and ensure that this is on terms desirable to both you and the client. For example: Are you going to offer drop closes to make the sale? Put a time limit on offers? How are you going to agree any expectations you have from the customer? i.e. what do they need to do to make it work? How are you going to handle objections? Performance is the most important part of the marketing process. Outstanding performance is the key to building a strong following, i.e. a regular client base that will spread the word and generate new business for you. Often the best type of business is referred business. Performance can be reinforced by areas such as a fulfilling a Service Level Agreement, agreed targets and milestones, etc. Also, it is appropriate to have strategies to ensure that your customers enjoy doing business with you.

7 Assessing Performance can be done in a number of ways. Repeat purchases are often a good sign, though even with this there are no guarantees that they are entirely satisfied, for instance, you may be the only option for a customer at that time and the chances are if performance is bad they ll jump ship at the first viable opportunity. Gathering customer feedback can provide an honest view of your service and identify areas for development as well as understanding the areas most important to your clients. By way of an example, we evaluate performance following projects by calling clients to ask a short series of questions: 1) What are the main reasons for why you chose to use the services of Eskimo Soup? 2) Do you feel that the project got off to a good start? Did you have any concerns about how the project pregressed? 3) In terms of the finished product, how do you feel about the standard of work we provided? 4) What were the best things about dealing with us? 5) If you could change one thing about us what would it be? 6) Do you see us providing you with marketing support in the future? 7) We are very interested in the general awareness of our services amongst our clients. From the list of services below could you please let us know whether or not you were aware that we provided the service? (Collecting Customer Feedback can also be used as a means of cross-selling your services): Logo design and design for print Web development Programming and database development Printed materials and print management Search Engine Optimisation Commercial and lifestyle photography Printing of leaflets, brochures and folders Copywriting and proof-reading Market research Sales and marketing consultancy Event management and marketing Social Media Marketing Yes No Tell Me More

8 Practically Moving Forward In summary and to get going, there are several key points to consider in making your marketing plan work for you: 1) Analysis, Targeting and Idea Generation; ideally not done in isolation 2) Write Your Year One Marketing Plan based on these insights 3) Reconvene with stakeholders or professional support 4) Share it with others in your organisation to achieve buy-in and shared vision 5) The Magic Ingredient is action! Make your ideas happen 6) Revisit minimum of every two-months. Don t let it collect dust! Should you need any further advice, please feel free to get in touch.

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