Your marketing planning process will include three main steps: Planning, application and evaluation.
A marketing strategies goal is to meet your customers’ needs. If your marketing strategy is clear and achievable this will make the goal attainable. Many businesses have great marketing processes but only a handful have managed to inspire brand attachment and loyalty in their customers using just their marketing strategy.
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What is marketing?
Marketing is a practice which includes planning, constructing and applying strategic actions. These result in obtaining a competitive edge in your area of expertise. Determines your business’s objectives and is the simplified map to achieving them. If your business wants to lock in a specific section of the market you should:
- Identify your mission
- Find out what is happening in your industry
- Describe your business’s objectives
- Put into effect and assess your plan to deliver the products that your customers need.
Customer satisfaction should be your central objective. This enables you to control the market and make you a leader in your industry, which will give you business satisfaction. Before you reach that point you need to perfect these three marketing strategies.
Step 1#: Planning
This is the most important step of developing a marketing plan as it examines:
- Strengths and weaknesses within your business
- Technological changes
- Culture shifts within your industry.
It offers a clear picture of where your business is and what it’s doing. This marketing planning process has four main components: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
SWOT Analysis – Shows your businesses strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as well as your position in market. In order to maximise on your strengths and minimise on your weaknesses your business needs to do the following:
- Study your competitors
- Research your business’s current and future customers
- Spot trends in your industry
The results should be used as the foundation for your business’s marketing strategy which should be reachable and realistic.
What to include in a marketing plan:
- Marketing strategy – When you have learnt the customers’ needs and the identified the products which will fulfil their needs, you can create a marketing strategy. The strategy is the “how’ of the planning step. This focuses on the 4P’s (place, product, promotion and price) and the financial plan required for each stage of the marketing plan.
- Form marketing and product goals
- Once the customers’ needs are understood goals can be created to meet their needs. This can increase the success of your new product because your product will be targeting your customers’ specific needs.
- Why is your business different? What is your distinctive selling point? Each of your products should have features which make them better than your competitors’ products. For example, the product can have an increased accessibility, reliability, last longer and be more user-friendly to ensure your customers will buy it instead of your competitors’ product every single time.
- Where your product is located: When using your marketing strategy effectively your product is the first one people think of. By using emotional and mental marketing strategies, customers will connect your brand with the solution to their problem and remove the option of choice. As an example, people use “Colgate” when referring to toothpaste, because this brand is positioned as the go-to in dental care.
- Choose your target market: Base your customer target base on research and the attributes they have in common. This will make sure needs and goals are both achieved.
- Product focus and setting goals: Decide where your resources are going to be assigned and how you’ll turn goals into actions. Customers should be assigned in specific categories depending on which marketing technique will best reach/ impact them as well as what each customer category needs
Set calculable goals to deliver the product to the various categories which will accomplish your marketing objective. Examples of this are: If the categories are specific to customer needs it will be easier to target marketing strategies as well as provide them with what they need.
If customers are categorised by the reactions your customers have towards your marketing then your business will be able to see which strategies work and which ones don’t.
- Price – This strategy deals with advertised price, sales and discounts, payment options and credit options.
- Place – The focus of this strategy is on supply channels, stores and transportation. To get the product to the customer when they need it.
- Promotion – Focuses on direct marketing, publicity, customer service and sales campaigns which generate brand awareness.
- Product - The products features, packaging, branding and warranty.
Example: marketing planning process tips
Tip 1: Your executive summary
Leave this for last. This is a summary of all your other sections of your marketing strategy. This step will be useful in providing an overview of the plan for you, employees and advisors.
Tip 2: Target Market
In this step you must describe the customers you are targeting. You will need to clearly define their:
- Demographic –like age and gender
- Psychographic profile – their interests
- Their wants and needs in relation to your product.
You will be able to better identify your target market by doing this step. This will allow you to better focus your advertising, which will get you a higher return on your investment. It will also help you to better speak to your potential customers.
Tip 3: Unique selling technique
This will set your business apart from your competitors. Many great companies have their unique selling technique to thank for their success.
Example: Fed EX
Their slogan is “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”. This is well-known and resonates with their customers who want a reliable and speedy delivery service.
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Tip 4: Pricing and positioning strategies
These must be in line with each other.
Example: By having a very low price you will not be able to achieve a reputation of a premier brand.
In this step of your marketing strategy, specify where in the market you want your product to be and make sure your pricing supports this.
Tip 5: Distribution
How will your customers buy from you?
Example: Will your customers buy your product from your website? Will they buy your product from distributors or retailers?
Identify various ways you can reach your customers and make a note of them in this step of your marketing strategy.
Tip 6: Specials and Discounts
These will help you gain more new customers. These can include:
- Free trials
- Money-back guarantees
- Packages – different products sold together in a combination pack
- Discounts and sales.
Even if your business doesn’t need to offer these, this could help your customer base to grow faster.
Tip 7: Marketing tools
These are the tools you will use to promote your business. This will include your website, brochures, business cards and catalogues. In this step, recognise which tools you are happy with and which ones you still need to develop or rework.
Tip 8: Promotional strategies
Shows how you will affect potential customers. There are various promotional strategies: Advertising via television, radio, print and online, trade show marketing, press releases as well as event marketing. Determine which of these will most effectively let you reach your target market.
Tip 9: Online marketing strategies
Many customers go online to find or review new products. Having a good online marketing strategy can secure you new customers and increase your competitive edge. Four key options are:
- Keyword optimisation
- Search engine optimisation
- Paid online advertising
- Social media.
Tip 10: Converting customers
This is a strategy you can use to turn potential customers into current customers.
Example: Improving your sales and increasing social media activity will increase conversation about your business. In this step, show which strategies you’re going to use.
Tip 11: Partners and joint ventures
These are created with other businesses in order to reach new customers or possibly better monetise current customers.
Example: You sell guitar strings, it would benefit you to partner up with a guitar manufacturer. They would have a list of potential customers for you.
In this step consider who your customers buy from before, during or after they’ve bought from you. Several of those businesses could be good partners. Research these businesses in this step and attempt to form a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Tip 12: Referrals
With a strong referral program you could revolutionise your business success.
Example: One happy customer refers a new person to your business. The more happy customers you have the more new people they’ll refer to your business which will continuously grow your customer base. You will need to formalise this strategy in order to harness this growth.
Example: Make sure to know when to ask for referrals and what you are prepared to give as a reward for the referrals. Develop and document the best referral strategy for your business.
Tip 13: Prices
Your initial goal when selling to a customer is to land the sale, but it is also important to make sure you have the best transaction price for your product. This can affect your success.
Example: If your customers’ average bill is R100 and your competitors’ customers’ average bill is R150, they will make more profits per customer. They will then be able to spend more on advertising and continue to increase their profits at your expense.
Tip 14: Sustainable business
Spend half your time and energy on new customers and half on existing customers. Examples: Newsletters, loyalty programs. These will increase profits because customers will continue to buy from you in the long term. In this step identify and document the ways you can better keep existing customers.
Tip 15: Financial Projections
Example: Include promotional expenses, expected new customers numbers, sales as well as profits. Include all your expected results. These won’t be 100% accurate. Use it to spot which promotional expenses and other strategies would give you more return on your investment.
Completing each step requires a lot of work but once your marketing plan is finished it will provide you with greater insight and help you increase sales and profits.
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Strategies for an effective strategic marketing process
A plan which offers value and solutions to your customers allows your business to determine the needs of your customers and accomplish their need in an efficient and cost effective way. This then will allow your marketing team to measure your business’s value.
This is based on what your ideal customers’ response to your products and strategy is. Here are a few guidelines to make sure your strategy is effective:
- Set goals which can be measured and are realistic. Make sure your goals are clear and structured making them easier to achieve.
- Base your plans on facts and assumptions which have been validated with market research
- Use clear, simple but specific plans to show how and what benefits you can offer your customers. To gain customer loyalty target your customers’ needs and desires.
- Use research to come up with the best way to bond with and engage your ideal customers. Use this information to put into practice a feasible plan which you can accomplish.
- Customise your business’s plans and goals to correspond with your customers’ needs. This will create control and flexibility within your business.
Step 2#: Application
This is the action step of your marketing process. If your business can’t implement the plan which was produced in the beginning, then the planning step was wasted time and effort. On the other hand if your planning was effectively and ably designed, then by using a sales forecast and a financial plan your marketing process can be put into action. This can be accomplished by using these four components:
- Acquire Resources – Capital to develop and market your new product
- Creating a marketing infrastructure – A marketing hierarchy needs to be put into place in order to accomplish the plan.
- Planning schedules – Tasks that need to be accomplished must be allocated the time required
- Applying the marketing strategy – effectively applying the marketing strategy. This will require attention to detail as well as attention to strategies which were determined in the planning step.
Step 3#: Evaluation
This is the step where everything is checked. This is to make sure that the end results are consistent with the goals set.
The manager and marketing team will need to spot any changes from the plan and if they’re negative, change direction as an example: If there is a fluctuation in the Rand which creates a reduced need for your item, then the manufacture of the item should be repurposed for a new more desirable product.
Your team must take advantage of the positive changes to the plan. For example if a product is fulfilling a need and will definitely sell successfully then more resources should be assigned to increasing production or distribution. You can see this if there are an influx of pre-orders or if there is an influx of requests or orders of the product.
To evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing strategy you should specifically pay attention to:
- Strategy compared with tactic – Strategy is the process of outlining goals, tactic is the process of outlining actions in order to achieve those goals
- Calculative versus imprecise – It is important to have landmarks which indicate when you’ve achieved your goals
- Actionable versus conditional – A goal should be achieved by using supportive tactics rather than depending on uncontrollable outside influences
- Marketing strategies – This needs to be supported by your business plan along with tactical actions to achieve goals.
Problems you may experience in the marketing planning process
Here are several issues which could crop up when developing a marketing strategy:
- Organisation – Such as poor assumptions. By assuming your customers’ needs without confirmation, an absence of a skilled workforce to accomplish your plans, when you lose sight of customer needs while planning and when altering the demographic of your customers.
- Marketing specific – Inflexibility. Problems with performance evaluation and coordination. Poor information management and issues with human relations.
- General – Problems acquiring marketing feedback. Issues specific to marketing costs as well as difficulties integrating collected information into your plans.
Incorporate these steps into your business’s marketing planning process. Be consistent in following through with your strategies. Your business will be rewarded as well as recognised for its hard work. Marketing strategies that are successful focus on your customers’ needs.
There must be an emphasis on continuously advertising the benefits of your product. Your marketing strategy should provide a big picture of your business’s objectives. It will keep you heading in the right direction while keeping your customers firmly at the top of your priorities.