On a regular basis I get asked to help companies develop a marketing plan. Some are for a new company, others for a new product. My first question typically is “have you got a marketing strategy and is your management in alignment with it?”
If not, you may be setting yourself up for failure. For those that need support, I typically recommend conducting strategy workshop. The purpose of which is to collect key data points, align management team objectives, and determine next steps for building a go-to-market plan. Attendees should be varied members of your management team (i.e. sales, marketing, finance, operations).
Although the workshop can be conducted in a single day, additional research will be needed if you want to obtain additional insight and confirm strategic direction. This may include conversations with internal and external resources (ie customers, partners, target customers) and analysis using available tools.
The strategy workshop will provide you with the basic framework used to develop a marketing plan. The marketing plan will then focus on implementation.
Below are the basic elements to resolve in a workshop:
Begin with identifying your customers’ needs and consequently determine the best way to meet them. Keep in mind that it is almost impossible for a company to satisfy every unique need. Instead, it is more efficient to allocate resources to target specific customer groups. Because a customers’ needs vary, marketers must identify common needs within similar groups of customers and recognize distinctive needs between different groups of customers. Part one of the workshop should be to
- Identify or align on market segments based on revenue potential and market size
- Profile your ideal customer (size, location, capabilities) and identify target accounts by name
- Build personas to identify who has the buying power in your target company base
- Set market priorities to give focus under limited resources
Company and Product Positioning
Identify what you do best, what your target market wants, and why customers buy from you. Then craft a core set of messages that allows your company to quickly be differentiated. Areas to be discussed should include who you are, what you represent and want to represent, your expertise and what you offer the market).
Separate from the company is the positioning of the product portfolio itself. Key features, benefits, product naming, ordering details, roadmap, technical and promotional details, and other data needed to develop product and web collateral.
Success depends on knowing your business inside and out. To do this, you should plan to conduct a SWOT analysis to:
- Identify methods to address weaknesses and threats, and to take advantage of strengths & opportunities
- Identify a top competitor list and identify their differentiating characteristics
- Barriers to entry in this market
- Trends in the marketplace, effects on the economic outlook, available financing
Establish Sales and Marketing Goals
These goals should reflect what you think your firm can accomplish through marketing in the coming years:
- Revenue forecasts
- The amount of new business vs. old or repeat business
- Estimate average deal size, and order/sales cycle
- Outline a strategy for attracting and keeping customers to identify and anticipate change
- Identify marketing goals based on resources and ability to meet forecasts
Sales Channel and Partners
Much of the marketing plan and budget will depend upon the channels in which you will sell. The type of sales tools, the size of the campaign, and the methods to retain customers all depend on determining the right mix of marketing and sales programs. Questions to address:
- What are the short and long term plans for recruiting sales and distribution channels?
- What price structure is being offered to these levels?
- Do you have a list of potential partners and distributors to target by industry type and by name
A few additional points
Keep in mind that marketing strategies can vary in length and style based on your company. In general though, you should have a few additional items on your mind before kicking off a marketing plan:
- What is your marketing budget (i.e. a percentage of existing or future sales?)
- How will you spend be allocated and tracked (print material, web development, promotion, etc.)
- What is your timing for a soft launch (internal and select customers) and hard launch (public promotion)
- How will you measure success or failure? Leads, revenue, conversions, gross sales?
So what comes next?
Review the final results of your strategy and engage with your management team to assure agreement of the strategy. Then, move into implementation of your strategy using the information you have collected to develop a marketing plan.
Need help building a strategy or plan? Consult an expert who has worked in your area of expertise, who can pull information out using interview techniques and who has the network of vendors and tool providers to assembly reliable information.
Kevin Kohleriter is the founder and CEO of MarketBurst, a leading developer of marketing strategy, demand generation, advertising and public relations campaigns for the high-tech industry. Clients include startups and the Fortune 500. More information on the company can be found at www.marketburst.net or you can contact Kevin directly at firstname.lastname@example.org