It is worthwhile to remind ourselves that marketing is the only function in a business which consistently directs resources towards growing sales by adding and retaining customers, increasing the amount each customer buys, and forcing the business to look at what its customers want, not what the business wants.
As such, it is the ‘oxygen’ to any business ‘fire’.
Developing a marketing plan for the first time can be daunting but by following this basic structure you will at least know that there are no gaping holes.
Question 1 – What do you want to achieve?
This question is crucial to start. Don’t move on until you have a satisfactory answer to this question.
What are your marketing goals and objectives?
What do you want to achieve from your marketing plan?
All objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time-bound) and may well be set for you by the company’s business plan, or another part of the business (e.g. in a production focused business the volume and type of products you have to promote may be set by the production plan).
If you don’t have measurable goals you will not know whether your plan has been successful.
Question 2 – Who are you going after?
Or, if you want the question in marketing speak, who is your target audience?
The secret to success here is to be specific, paint a picture of the people or organisations in your target audience(s).
Avoid being all things to all men. Consider niche markets where you have a unique or compelling proposition.
Question 3 – What are you offering?
And what are its benefits? Think about this in relation to each of the target markets. Remember a benefit is what they get, not what you give so avoid thinking only about the features of your product or service.
Question 4 – Who are you up against and what are they saying in the market place?
Don’t be afraid of competition, learn from them. Be broad in thinking about your competition, it may not just be direct competitors in the same market who compete for your target audience’s attention and wallet.
Question 5 – What are you offering that is different from your competition?
This is your positioning or unique selling point. What makes you different? Be bold, use niche positioning to really stand out.
Question 6 – What is the one message you would like everyone to remember about your business?
This is your core marketing message. It should be compelling and memorable. Say it in words and images if you can. And say it every time you write or talk about your business.
Question 7 – What is the identity / personality of your brand?
Think about all the qualities and attributes of your organisation and its products. How will people know when they see your brand in action? Branding isn’t only for multi-million rand global enterprises.
Look at the success of Andiccio24 (the takeout pizza operation). Their brand is recognizable from their packaging to the way their team dress and their policy for sourcing the freshest ingredients. Take a look at their website to see branding in action!
Branding certainly isn’t just about the physical manifestation of the brand in the logo and packaging.
Question 8 – What marketing activities, collateral are needed to reach the target audience?
This is often where most people start their plan – but these ideas should all be influenced by answering the first 7 questions.
Just because your local paper has phoned 5 times trying to convince you that must advertise with them doesn’t make it right.
Think carefully about your target audiences, consider what you are trying to achieve and select activities which meet these needs.
Question 9 – When are you going to launch each of the marketing activities?
You will probably need to consult other parts of the business to make sure they can support your plan. Will the office team be able to handle in-bound calls resulting from a direct mail campaign in January? When do the sales team most need leads?
Usually you will have a month by month schedule of marketing activity, tied in with the sales, operational and finance plans.
Question 10 – How much are you going to invest to achieve the plan?
This is essential in establishing whether you can achieve the marketing goals in a cost effective way. And in most businesses you’ll be expected to justify all of the spend – so be ready for battles.
Ian Said, entrepreneur and founder of Ideal Software, a software company specializing in Point of Sale and Inventory Control software designed exclusively for the hospitality industry. Follow him on Twitter @costofsale