As we descend into frantic preparations for Christmas, it hits home that 2014 is fast approaching – and so are our marketing planning deadlines. If you want to improve your marketing performance in 2014, now’s the time to finalise your marketing plans.
We include a number of key components in every marketing plan we produce for our clients. So, if you need help to write a marketing plan for 2014 and are looking for inspiration, or you’ve already completed your marketing plan, you can test it against the points below.
Before you begin
Before you begin, we advise you undertake a thorough marketing audit which will help you identify factors that can have a major impact on your marketing plan. Competitor research is also vital at this point. Find out what your rivals are up to and make sure you can compete and offer greater value.
If you haven’t done so already, use customer insight techniques to collate information about what your customers need and what drives their buying behaviours. Inspiration always comes from insight. Once you’re inspired, you can start to write your plan.
Write an introduction and set your mission statement
You may choose to write your introduction at the end, as this will become clearer during the planning process. It’s easy to get stuck at this stage, so consider the following points:
- What is the aim of your business? Why do you exist?
- Who is your target market?
- What makes you different from your competitors?
Set some clear objectives
This section is crucial. It sets out what you want to achieve with your marketing plan. The questions to ask as you’re working on this include:
- Are your objectives specific? For example, instead of stating that you want to differentiate your offering, clearly list which differentiating factors you need to communicate.
- Are your goals achievable? Think about how you might reach your objectives. For example, if you’re entering a new market, or launching a new product, do your sales forecasts take into account how quickly or slowly the market will respond to your offering?
Determine your current market position and overview
This is a strategic overview of the information gathered during your market research. A simple SWOT analysis can help kick this activity off. We’d recommend a complete marketing audit at this stage, as well as further research into competitor propositions and pricing. This section should highlight:
- Which companies dominate this market? How competitive is the market?
- How does your offering compare to that of others in the market?
- What are your specific service gaps compared to those of your competitors?
- How do others promote their products and how do you compare?
- How do others distribute their products and what are their production capabilities?
- Are there additional markets to be targeted?
- What is the size of your market? What are the trends in growth and prosperity?
- What has been profitable for you in the past? Who are your best customers?
Answers to the above will highlight the areas in which your business is performing well, gaps that need to be addressed, or areas that may offer further opportunities. To understand more about the research that forms the basis of your overview, read further information on market opportunity analysis and undertaking a marketing audit.
Segment your market and target your marketing efforts
Segmenting your market will help focus your marketing activities and should be carried out on existing customers and prospective customers. Segmenting involves splitting a market into groups, with common needs or preferences, who are likely to respond to your product or service in a similar manner. Check that the segments are meaningful – is the segment large enough and does it offer enough potential returns to justify separate marketing attention?
Once you have segmented your market, you can decide which groups to target with your marketing.
Determine your marketing mix
The marketing mix is also known as the four Ps – product, price, place and promotion. In simple terms, the four Ps represent four key decision areas. Marketers must satisfy or exceed customer needs for each of these areas in a way that’s better than the competition. These areas of activity are within your control and, managed correctly, will help you reach your marketing objectives. However, for services marketing there are three additional Ps – people, processes and physical evidence.
Remember, these decision areas are all interdependent. A change to one P will impact another. It’s a balancing act as you need to deliver the right product, at the right price, offered at the right place and presented in the right way. It’s similar to lining up the numbers on a combination lock – find the right combination and the right balance, and you’ll be rewarded with great results.
Product or services strategy
This section of the marketing plan needs to outline the products or services that your marketing will focus on. The BCG Matrix is a great strategy tool to help you with your decision making. Here are some simple questions that can help you through this stage:
- Do you need to add new features to make your products fit customer needs better?
- Which of your products are the most profitable?
- Which products present the greatest growth opportunities?
- Where are your products in their lifecycle? And what challenges does this pose?
At this stage, we also recommend you look at your value propositions to make sure they’re strong enough. Chances are you’ll need to do some work!
The pricing strategy is not often considered the responsibility of marketers, but, in fact, pricing is a key marketing decision. It’s not an easy task to set your prices, alter them or decide how to bundle your products or services.
Price modelling can help. The best way is to use your data. Your numbers will give you tangible evidence on which to base your decisions – a far more effective method that simply basing decisions on what you feel your customers or the market are willing to pay. When defining your pricing strategy, you need to consider:
- The true cost of your product
- The demand for your product
- What your competitors are doing
- The image you wish to present
There are a number of pricing strategies that an organisation can implement.
When you have finalised your pricing strategy, it’s important to check:
- Is your pricing clear? Will customers feel confident about what they’re getting?
- Is your pricing competitive?
- How price sensitive is your market?
Deciding on the core channels and focuses for your promotional activity will help you achieve higher returns for your marketing activity and prevent expensive mistakes. They key here is to be creative but focus on your objectives. Try not to be tied down by what you have done before. For example, would online marketing communicate your message more effectively than the one-off print advert you’ve used in the past? Inbound marketing techniques such as content marketing and social media need a place in your plan if they’ve never had one before.
Hopefully, your research will reveal the value drivers that are most important for your market. These will form the basis of any key messages for your promotional communications.
Finally, consider the call to action your activity promotes. Do you want customers to take a free trial online, call you or download more information? At what stage in their decision making are they when they take this action, and is your call to action well timed?
Review your strategies for distributing your products. Are your sales carried out online or directly through a sales team? Perhaps you use a wholesale or third-party partner channel. When doing this, it’s important to consider what your competitors are doing. If they predominantly sell online, you could lose out on customers who find this option more convenient.
Plotting your customers’ buying and usage journeys can highlight key stages where more communication is required, or where systems need to change to adapt to customers’ needs.
If you’re marketing a service, you need to consider your people, the process (how your service is delivered) and physical evidence (the environment in which the service is provided). The marketing of services is different because services aren’t physical products with which your customers can achieve instant satisfaction. Because of this, you need to provide an experience that your customers enjoy and benefit from.
It is, however, possible to introduce physical evidence of your service such as loyalty cards, membership cards or certificates.
Control and evaluate your marketing performance
With systems in place, you’ll be able to manage and monitor your marketing performance and take corrective action to improve results. Start with setting some key performance indicators (KPIs). They give you something to aim for and help determine whether an organisation’s marketing is performing as it should. Then, map out a marketing activity schedule that shows month by month all activity that will be undertaken. Next is the project plan. With tight project planning, your marketing will be executed with much greater sped an efficiency. The project planning will also help identify tasks that may have otherwise been forgotten or resource shortages early on, it will also help keep delivery on schedule. Lastly, set up your performance reporting.
We produce monthly marketing performance reports for our clients so they can determine whether their marketing, when implemented is delivering against set targets. It’s important to consider how you will generate reports and which systems you have in place to monitor and measure your progress.
You can either start with the simplest, most cost-effective tools, or dive straight into systems that give you full marketing automation and visibility. Here are some systems that are popular with our clients:
In order to be effective, a marketing plan is a living document that’s communicated to all employees in the company, and referred to and built upon throughout the year. Remember, your marketing needs to be proactive and project-managed closely. This will prevent reactive decisions that result in your planning going to waste.
Good luck with your 2014 marketing plan and please get in touch if you have any questions or need our help.