An Organized and Effective Marketing Plan is the Backbone for Your Product or Service Life Cycle
By Renata L. Lerch
In addition to the numeric targets, it is important to establish parameters to measure the effectiveness of your marketing tactics and programs.
During my almost two-decade career in strategic marketing, I’ve seen numerous marketing cases involving different products and services. A common element in all successful marketing stories has been an organized and effective marketing plan, which serves as the backbone for the product or service life cycle.
A marketing plan should be a reference for everyone who works with your business, including employees, partners and contractors. It should contain the core elements that keep launch and implementation in synch with the strategy. Obviously, it is not a static document. Revisions should be made at a minimum on a quarterly basis to incorporate key learnings during the process.
Starting With OVERVIEW
The “OVERVIEW” of your plan should include trends and key changes in the macro environment, from the economic and social aspects affecting your audience to important industry information. Find useful estimates and forecasts that will help you make decisions. Next, compile key information about the audience you want to reach: gender, average age and income, geography, preferences, decision and purchasing process, etc. Your entire team should be familiar with the details of your target clients.
The analysis of the competitive environment, or “SWOT”, should be worked subsequently. At this time, investigate all public information available about your top competitors, and get a clear understanding of their Strengths and Weaknesses. With this information in hand, you will be able to compare and elaborate on your Opportunities and Threats. You want this section to be clear and objective, with straight bullet point lists.
The next step is your numeric “TARGETS”. Include in this page your target revenue and transaction volume for the year, and broken down by quarter, especially if your product involves seasonal variances. If possible, also break it down by distribution channel, such as online, in store, through intermediaries, etc. Make a comparative chart with columns for the previous year and the year in question.
After completing the research, you are ready to develop the “KEY OBJECTIVES”. Use this opportunity to think through the macro course of actions that will lead your company to reach your numeric targets. Maybe you want to nurture differentiation through superior services, increase online sales in the channel mix, or enlarge your geographic coverage. List a minimum of three but no more than six or seven key objectives for the year, which should be aggressive but achievable.
STRATEGIES AND ACTIVITIES IN SUPPORT
These are the means to realize your objectives. Start with the “communications message”, the sentiment you want associated with your brand. This should be reflected in all points of contact with customers such as brochures, advertising, website, call center, locations, press releases, etc. Brainstorm with your team and consolidate it in a single powerful message, related to your objectives.
Then, develop the “key strategies,” supported by tactics and programs to execute them. In essence, strategy is how resources are distributed and utilized to achieve your key objectives. Tactics and programs are important to make the strategies action-oriented.
Envision it as an umbrella:
• Main Objectives:
– Key Message related to the Objectives
– Key Strategy 1 to achieve the Objectives:
Tactics and Programs to execute Key Strategy 1
– Key Strategy 2 to achieve the Objectives:
Tactics and Programs to execute Key Strategy 2
As you work through your six or seven strategies, focus on delivering distinctive value to your customers through your programs. You don’t have to limit the number of programs and tactics under each strategy. Keep them focused and well organized, with implementation facts and time schedules. Bear in mind the resources and marketing funds available throughout the year.
Finish your plan with a detailed “BUDGET” chart, breaking it down by activities and costs. A year-over-year comparison is always helpful to evaluate the results and calculate return on investment.
MAKING PERIODIC REVISIONS
As the competitive environment evolves, so should your set of strategies. Revisions are necessary periodically. In addition to the numeric targets, it is important to establish parameters to measure the effectiveness of your tactics and programs. Determine what to evaluate, and establish standards of performance. That will allow you to take corrective action, adjusting your strategies along the year.
These are the basics of an effective marketing plan. Make sure you involve your team through the process; it is a very rewarding exercise! HBM