Developing a Marketing Plan

When developing a marketing plan we need to recognize there are two sides to marketing. We’ll classify these two sides—except face-to-face selling—into two distinct categories, each with its own process:  Market Planning and Product Marketing (which also applies to service offerings).

Market Planning (sometimes called “Market Analysis) clarifies what our market is and will be.  It helps us choose the most attractive market segments and—most important—decide what we’ll need to offer them in the future.

Product Marketing is the process of making prospective customers aware of the products and services we’re offering now, creating a strong image for them, attracting prospects, canvassing for opportunities, and preparing the ground for closing sales.

No example or description of these will fit every company, market, product, or service.  The following examples are either 1) the general components of any Market Planning or Product Marketing initiative, or 2) examples of components, criteria, or factors from which to select for specific situations. The components, criteria, or factors you do include are most important and should be given considerable thought.

As an overview, the two sides of marketing may be described as follows:

Market Planning – Developing a comprehensive view, with sound analysis, of:
1. The market(s) we serve and will serve in the future
2. The offerings we’ll need to gain or maintain an acceptable market share and profit
3. Other requirements for success, for example, funding, staff, organizational change, partnerships

Product Marketing – A variety of initiatives to:
1. Promote our brand and offerings in the market segments we’ve chosen
2. Keep our customers with us—understanding our value proposition and confident of our strength and stability
3. Motivate prospects to do business with us—create orders or selling opportunities
4. Communicate our direction and future positioning

The Market Planning Process

The following items should be analyzed, decided, and documented as part of the Market Plan.  Any that were developed in previous planning or just evolved in our history should be reviewed rigorously.

Market Definition – the big picture of our market, especially:
1. Target customers, and their distinguishing characteristics
2. Where they fit in the larger market—their industry or line of business, their customers and suppliers
3. Their major dependencies and determinants, for example, economic conditions, government actions, demographics, technology, innovations outside their own

Market Outlook – where this market is going, for example:
1. Size and growth rate
2. Established competitors
3. Barriers to entry for new competitors
4. Stability—rate of change in products, services, customers, competitors, market conditions
5. Expected Profitability—considering margins, sales and support costs, R&D requirements

Segmentation – grouping customers of similar characteristics for analysis, for example by:
1. Size—revenue or people
2. Age—startup to stable long term players
3. Geography
4. Industry or line of business
5. Position in value or contract chain, for example, finished goods, components, prime contracting, subcontracting, sub to subs, outsourced support services, distribution, retail
6. Diversity qualification or requirement

Segment Analysis – quantified assessment of “best feel” segments on selected dimensions, for example:
1. Growth rate and potential
2. Longevity—startup to long term player in their market
3. Fit with our competencies, culture, and business practices
4. Stability of requirements—frequency and rapidity of change in what they want and need
5. Competition, barriers to entry, need to beat established competitors
6. Product/offering differentiation potential, value of innovation
7. Scope of decision to buy our type of product or service
8. Key buying criteria – for example, price, TCO, productivity, innovation, added function
9. Margins and profitability potential
10. Development cost
11. Marketing and sales cost
12. Length of sales cycles
13. Government requirements
14. Potential partners, primes, subs

Segment Attractiveness and Selection – choosing or confirming Target Segments, based on analysis results

Requirements of Target Segments – what they’ll want to buy in the future, and how
1. Products or services
2. Buying process—for example, RFPs, long term contracts, one-off subcontracts, online ordering
3. Compliance—diversity certifications, ISO, etc.

Products or Service Offerings (for those future products and services)
1. Fit with our capabilities and depth of understanding
2. Development time and cost
3. Maintenance time and cost
4. Staffing time and cost (development, production, admin, etc.)

Product Marketing and Sales Plans (for those future products and services)
1. Main product or service marketing strategy and tactics
2. In house or outsourced?
3. Time and cost

Now that we’ve defined the market(s) we’ll serve, evaluated which markets have the best long-term prospects for our industry, determined the most attractive segments, evaluated customer product/service needs in these segments, and determined which of our products would provide the best long-term success for our business, we can move on to the Product Marketing process.

The Product or Service Marketing Process

The following items need to be analyzed, decided, and documented before we develop new content or choose marketing media.  Some may already be in place for current products and services, in which case they should be reviewed rigorously.

Branding
1. Offering name
2. Descriptive sub-name—examples: “Expert help without an expensive hire,” “The World’s Best Solution for Great Requirements,” “Audit, tax, consulting,” “Premium web design”
3. Selling tag line—examples: “People who know know BDO,” “The quicker picker-upper,” “Engineered to amaze,” “Web design like it was our own site”
4. Logo
5. Advertising metaphor (gimmick?)

Value Proposition (relative to customer needs, not competitive offerings),
1. ROI and Payback—preferably with a tool which calculates these from input in typical industry or local terms
2. Improvements in customers’ operations, quantified whenever possible and prioritized by expected customer impact, for example:
• Sales
• Quality
• Speed
• Accuracy
• Information
• Customer relations
• Command and control
• Process management
• Staffing requirements
• Organizational capability and expertise
• Employee capability
• Employee satisfaction
• Compliance
• Overhead

Product Differentiators (versus competitive offerings), for example:
1. Functions and features
2. Performance
3. Volume capability
4. Adaptability and update or growth potential
5. Reliability
6. Price
7. Ease of installation
8. Ease of use
9. Ease of maintenance
10. Customer support
11. Reputation (track record and references)

Service Differentiators (versus competitors), for example:
1. Content of deliverables
2. Delivery time
3. Price (rates or fixed prices)
4. Processes, for example:
• Needs assessment
• Solution design
• Development or customization
• Installation and assimilation
• Project management
• Customer involvement, communication, and feedback
5. Expertise and experience
6. Staff strength (number, stability, reliability)
7. Reputation (track record and references)

The Business Operating Environment

Customer Decision Process
1. Typical scope of decision—at what level will the decision be made
2. Typical decision owner—who will need no other approval
3. Key implementation departments
4. Key evaluation departments—technical, legal, finance, marketing, etc.
5. Most important factors, for example, product or service fit, price, relationships, references

Customer Communication Preferences (for current and prospective customers)
1. Sources of input—how they learn about offerings—for example:
• Trade shows and associations
• Thought leaders, influencers
• Industry publications
• Sales calls
• Direct mail and email
• Internet searches
• Social Media

2. Opportunity communication, for example:
• RFPs
• Current suppliers
• Networking
• Internet posting (government, e-commerce, exchanges)
• Trade publications

Now that we’ve defined our value proposition, identified differentiators, evaluated the target customer’s decision process, and considered how and where to communicate with them, we’re ready to design our marketing campaign, write copy and chose media to reach our customers and prospects.