The best marketing plan is totally integrated into the overall strategy of the company as a whole. This way marketing is viewed as a valuable way to achieve company goals and objectives, not as an expense that has to compete with new computers and office equipment.
That’s why we recommend a comprehensive Strategic Analysis as the best way to start, but we can also modify that with a Market Analysis to concentrate entirely on marketing-related issues.
We also strongly recommend some kind of market research to determine objectively what customers want from the company, how they perceive you now, and what types of communication will actually reach them and get read, seen or heard. Assuming that is done, here are the main elements of an effective marketing plan:
(1) Goals and objectives – “Begin with the end in mind,” as the old saying goes. Let’s get clear what we’re trying to accomplish with the marketing effort, so we’re all pulling in the same direction. The best goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. Realistically, we do NOT have much control over what will happen in the marketplace or what people who are not yet customers will do. So marketing plans that forecast X% of increased sales are a shot in the dark. In spite of that, the right goals are very valuable because they help everyone involved focus on the desired outcome, constantly seek the best ways to achieve those outcomes, and use their energies to turn the goals into reality.
(2) Target markets – We need to be clear about the characteristics of our customers and potential customers. They can be defined with demographics, psychographics, SIC codes, NAICS codes and other measurable methods. Preceding this phase with market research can greatly help define target markets and their needs.
(3) Creative strategies – We need to determine what creative messages we want to communicate, especially the benefits our products or services provide, and the reasons why (facts and features) those benefits are real. We need a Unique Selling Proposition (USP), branding slogan or other concise phrase that packs our core creative message into a few memorable words. For example, “GE: We bring good things to life.” The actual creative details – headlines, text, visuals etc. – can be worked out later. But core creative strategies should be worked out upfront.
(4) Media – These are all the forms of communication we will use in our marketing program. Elsewhere on our site, you can read more about advertising, public relations, publications and graphic design, Internet websites and videos. The best marketing plans get down to which newspapers, magazines, TV channels, direct mail etc. we are going to use. This takes a lot of work but really makes a marketing plan solid.
(5) Implementation – Key elements here are timing (schedule), budget, priorities and responsibilities (who’s going to do what, within the company and the agency). Like goals and objectives, these details can’t be ironclad, but writing them down assures agreement, teamwork, and a higher probability that it will all be accomplished.
For more information on how marketing planning can help your business or organization, or to schedule an appointment, please use our online contact form or call 704-332-4344.