Planning Success: 5 Critical Steps To Creating A Marketing Plan

Effective Market Plan OutlineIs your sales team expert at getting around, through or under the walls customers put up? Marketing can help identify and guide the sales team to the best walls to attack. Plus help supply the tools to be even more effective in winning the customer’s attention and, ultimately, their business.

Having a marketing plan forces you to take the time to understand and identify those customers and tools that will have the greatest return – as well as understand the resources necessary for success.

Effective marketing plans are very detailed. They force you to stop and take a snapshot of the marketplace, your customers, competitors and products. With that starting point, they help you define your goals and the path to achieving them.

This guide is an outline to help you put together a comprehensive, strategic and effective blueprint for your business.

Planning for success: your guide to preparing an annual Marketing Plan

There are many steps and details involved in fleshing out a comprehensive and compelling marketing plan, so here are some general guidelines to think about as you get started.

The first step to Marketing Plan success is fully understanding the Situation Analysis

The path to an effective Marketing Plan starts with knowingwhere you are goingThis is an analysis of where we are (ourselves, our competition, our market, our distribution) and how we got there. It should be factual and objective. If possible, your data should reach back at least three to five years. The further back in time your data goes, the more meaningful will be your trend lines. Select what is most meaningful, focusing on those areas where your patterns differ from your competition.

  • The size, scope and share of the market
    • Sales history of yourself and competitors, and share of the market, in dollars and units
    • Market potential and major trends in supply and demand of this and related products
  • Sales, costs and profits of your product
    • Sales history, by sizes or models, by sales regions
    • Cost history, including cost of goods delivered, selling, advertising, administrative, and all other expenses
    • Profit history (not profit on sales and on investment), including competitors if known
  • The distribution channels
    • Identification of principal channels, with sales history through each type including competition if known
    • Buying habits and attitudes of principal channels, your product vs. competitors
    • Your selling policies and practices, in comparison with competitors
    • Trade advertising, literature, samples and displays
  • The consumer or end user
    • Identification of person making the buying decision
    • Consumer attitudes of your product vs. competitors, on quality and price
    • Consumer purchase habits including factors as time of purchase
    • Consumer use habits
    • Your marketing, packaging, promotional and advertising history
    • Website, social media, PR and other educational influences
  • The product
    • Story of your product – quality development, design, sizes or models, delivery and service
    • Comparison with competition and evidence of performance
    • Product research and product improvements planned

The next step to building an effective Marketing Plan is identification of problems and opportunities

  • What are the major problems that are restricting your profit or impeding your growth?
  • What opportunities do you have?
    • Overcoming the above problems?
    • Modifying products, streamlining the product line, or adding new products?
    • Increasing your market penetration or developing new markets?
    • Improving the efficiency of your operations?

Now it’s time to think through where you want to go by creating objectives for your Marketing Plan

  • Creating an Effective Market Plan OutlineYour assumptions for future conditions
    • Level of economic activity
    • Favorable/unfavorable legislation
    • Level of industry activity (market forecast)
    • Activities of competitors: product innovation, marketing strategy, pricing, etc.
    • Changes in customer needs for your products
    • Changes in distribution
    • Changes beyond your control in your own cost of product and sales
  • Your primary objectives
    • Sales and share of market objective
    • Profit objective
    • Turnover objective
    • ROI objective
  • Overall strategy for achievement of primary objectives
    • Sample statement strategy: Shift sales emphasis from product line A to product line B. Emphasize penetration of key market areas X, Y and Z. Reduce capital employed by bringing accounts receivable back to standard P.
  • Functional (departmental)objectives
    • Sales objectives by product and by market
    • Distribution objectives
    • Advertising and promotional objectives
    • Customer service objectives
    • Pricing objectives
    • Product modification objectives
    • New product objectives
    • Product deletion objectives
    • Expense control objectives
    • Manufacturing objectives (plant additions, capacity utilization, unit costs, etc.)
    • Personnel training objectives

Understanding how you are going to get there is the role of action programs in your Marketing Plan

Put Your Marketing Plan Into ActionHere you will detail the specific action steps, priorities and schedules relating to each of the functional objectives. If, for example, one of your objectives for sales was to “increase sales of product X,” now is the time to pinpoint specifics from what will be done, by who, to increase sales with specific customers.

If one of your objectives was to “introduce a new product by X date,” now specify development cost and deadlines, production planning, schedule, market introduction plans, advertising and promotional support, sales and service training needed, etc.

Most of this programming should be delegated and worked out “from the bottom up” rather than from the top down.

Don’t skip the control and review procedures step in creating your Marketing Plan

How do you determine your pricing?  It’s probably a rigorous process, but is it science or art?Decide how you will monitor the execution of your plan once it is set in motion.

  • What kinds of “feedback” information should be rendered periodically to each responsible person so that actual progress can be evaluated against the plan expectations?
  • How frequently should each element of control be reviewed?
  • How should the carious elements of control information be “packaged” so that they:
    • Can readily understand them
    • See important pieces of information simultaneously and in their relationship to each other, so as to determine what corrective action should be taken?
  • Set a date for a full scale review of progress vs. plan

While creating a marketing plan is never a simple task, the process will force you and your team to evaluate the opportunities – and challenges – that your business faces. And because the marketplace is never static, this should be a living document, periodically being reviewed and updated. It never should become a binder sitting on the shelf.

Good Selling!

 

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Are You Using This Simple Product Commercialization Checklist?

GeekThere’s been a lot of attention lately on innovation, agile development, NPD and product road mapping.  All are critical to developing new products but all fail dramatically in fully understanding the product commercialization process.

Miss out on successfully launching your product and not only will you miss your targets, but you’ll struggle to be credible with future product launches with your field sales team and customers.

With that in mind, here’s a comprehensive checklist to make sure you are considering the many facets of the commercialization process.                         

Market Analysis

Purpose

Why are we looking at this product / service?

What is in it for us?

What is in it for the Channel?

What is in it for the End User?

Objectives

What do we hope to do?

What is the timing to carry out the goal(s)?

Strategy

How do we envision accomplishing this objective?

What are the short and long-term strategies?

What is the timeline for each strategy?

How will the product be positioned?

Impact on other products (cannibalization)?

What plants and markets?

checklistOnGlass

Market Factors

What factors will help this product?

What factors prohibit us from meeting our goals?

What are the crucial market factors for this product?

Product

Requirements

What market research do we have to support product?

Define the channel and end-user(s) priorities

Define the market size and total opportunity for us

Feature/Benefits              

Define strengths and weaknesses of proposed product

Positioning

How will product be positioned (high/medium/low-end)?

Who are the key targets for placement?

Who are the pull through targets?

What is our pricing strategies by channel?

Packaging

What is the product called?

How will it be packaged?

Production Plan              

Clearly define production capabilities

Establish ordering procedures

Benchmarking  

Have we benchmarked other competitors in the industry?

Have we benchmarked other manufacturers outside the industry?

Measures of Success

How will we measure progress?

What will be considered a success?

Timeline

Key dates for all product elements?

Develop an implementation roll out strategy 60/90/120 day

Sales Plan                                                                                                                                           

checklistSales Forecast

What are the sales plan by Region/Nationally (in units and dollars)?

What are the seasonality/current trends?

Other Measures                 

Clear and tangible outcomes?

What is the total brand budget to support new product?

Selling Proposition

Sales                                       

What is the value proposition at each level?                       

Channel Customer                                                                                          

End User

Brand Support

Brand Plan

Define the communication plan for end-user/ customers/field sales?

Ensure product included in other programs

Social Media

Link our social media efforts

Website updates

You Tube, Facebook, Blog, Twitter, Pinterest

Literature

Define literature requirements

Develop technical facts to support new product

Samples

Produce product samples as required

Selling Tools

Determine tools required to support business proposition

Define product displays requirements

Develop plan-o-grams for retail customers

Photography

Will product availability delay photography (and literature)?

Packaging

Determine artwork

Timeline

Coordination of brand support programs

Define schedule and key dates

Field Implementation

new-bright-ideaImplementation Plan

Coordination of channel, product marketing, and brand efforts

Define processes and tools required for implementation

Determine channel programs (target accounts/promotions)

Develop time line for field sales communication

Provide advanced communication (90 days) to Sales

Training

Establish internal and external product training schedule

(Field Sales/Customer Service/Channel Customers)

Training Vehicle

Develop training modules

Scorecard

Clear Outcomes                

Follow-up review of business strategy after 90 days/6 months

Develop bail out strategy if not performing

What else would you add to this checklist?

Are You Ready For A Dog Eat Dog World?

Let's talk about competitionWith that in mind, let’s talk about competition. To paraphrase Sara Lee, “Nobody doesn’t have competition.” We do, you do, everybody does. Do I hear you asking what’s the point?

Simple. Since having competition is a given, it’s what you do with it that counts.

What do you do with it? Ignore it? Hope it will go away? Bad mouth it?  Or do you learn from it? Do you make improvements to keep ahead of it?

For many of us, a big part of our current competitive situation boils down to one word. Price.

There are always small companies cherry-picking chunks of the market with lower prices on selected product knock-offs.  Do they offer anything else? Uh-uh. They can’t afford to. Have they embraced the very important concept of customer support that is key to a successful marketing effort?

The low price competitor is historically short on value

The low price competitor is historically short on value

As we’ve watched price-based competition come and go over the years, we’ve learned that your customers demand more than low price. They want comprehensive programs that include new product development, technological innovations and easily understood differences.

They also want merchandising support that really helps them sell. And, of course, they want service…before, during and after the sale. Moreover, they want it from pros who know their products, their markets and their needs.

It’s impossible to separate price and value

Your customers also know that it’s impossible to offer a comprehensive package loaded with value and always offer the lowest price in the market. But, they’re not searching for a shortcut to a quick buck. Like you, they’re in this for the long haul.

Dog Eat Dog World of CompetitionIf this support list describes what you provide to your customers, you should be able to weather just about any competitive storm. Your customers should recognize that in this industry, it’s impossible to separate price and value. A successful distributor-based business needs both.

The low price competitor is historically short on value. And, in this dog eat dog world, value is the thing on which we and you keep our incisors sharp.

For more on value, see the Channel Instincts posts Are You Delivering Real Value to Your Customers? and Are You Your Customer’s Biggest Fan?