Creating a Marketing Plan

48 Walkley Road,
West Hartford, CT

phone: 860.232.9858
fax: 860.232.9438

Contact Us

General Business
by Jack Veale

Peter Drucker wrote in his book, The Practice of Management, that the purpose of a business is " Create Customers." He went on to state that said there are two ways to create customers: Marketing and innovation. Innovation comes from the ability to entrepreneur new ideas, develop something that fits a need and work out the kinks to make it effective. Marketing is more than the "5 P's" learned in Marketing 101, that is: Product, Price, Place, People and Promotion.

Marketing is a process that requires a higher level of thought as well as follow-through. It requires a message. As part of a strategic plan, the marketing plan is developed to coalesce around the fundamentals of the business and attract new customers. It can cover more than just the promotional vehicles (ads, mailings, window displays) to include demographics, strategic partnerships and the mix of product or services offered.

A perfect example of good marketing is the cross-promotion that often exists between restaurants and artists.  Have you ever entered a restaurant and seen paintings for sale in the dining area? Notice how the price-range of the artwork in the restaurant is "affordable" to the market of customers who frequent the establishment.  An understanding of the demographics of the restaurant's customers explains why $50 paintings will sell more frequently than $2,000 works of art. Understanding the customer and beating the competition requires you to think ahead; in this instance it doesn't cost the restaurateur anything to display the paintings and it improves the looks of the place without any expenses.

Manufacturers compete heavily to keep themselves "top of mind" with their clients.  Did you know many top manufacturers pay you back in cash or reduction in your payables to cover advertising of their product in your market? These "co-op" dollars cover 1-3% of your purchases for advertising. Have you ever received a birthday or Thank You card, and/or Christmas gift from a vendor or supplier that helps you keep them in mind? Do these indirect advertising vehicles are expensive? Some are; others aren't.  The point here is to think about ways to keep your name or company's name continually in front of your customers.

Understanding customers and their needs, habits and preferences is extremely important.  Will you use "hard rock" stations to attract senior citizens? Are you targeting the general public or a specific type of customer, such as Hispanics or women business owners?  I know of a white American lawyer who specializes in litigation efforts for Polish and Russian Immigrants. He doesn't speak their language, has no relatives from those countries, and yet has become a reputable lawyer in those communities with a sizable client list. He finds clients through the translators he hires.

Did you know that Rotary Clubs, Exchange Clubs, industry groups and associations look for speakers to share new thoughts and ideas with their membership? How about writing an article like I did here for related industry groups or target markets? I know of a successful business owner who spoke as a "expert witness" to the federal government and his company received millions of dollars in contracts with related companies who learned that his company specialized in products they needed.

An important part of a marketing plan is research. A great deal of information exists about every publicly-held and many privately held companies.  Through use of US Census you can find information about the average age and price of a house in your town as well as the ages and incomes of the people who live in them. The US Department of Commerce, Census Bureau has a variety of different CD ROMS that you can either have built for you or you can use their aggregated totals. One I particularly like is the CD called "CD-EC92-2A," which provides much of the information my clients want or need in order to make decisions about areas for target for growth, acquisition or ad campaigns.  Believe it or not, this information is specific to the zip code level!

You can buy lists from companies like Dun & Bradstreet (800) 526-0651, American Business Information (800) 555-5335, Claritas (607) 257-5757, and Corptech 800-454-3647. Another favorite is Select Phone by Prophone  (800) 992-3766 that covers all the US Business and Residential phone numbers.  With either CD, you will have a much more detailed demographic profile of your marketplace and be able to identify competition and potential customers.  This may transfer into the ability to develop sales leads for direct sales efforts.

Make sure you use some type of database program like Microsoft's Access or Lotus' Approach to merge and select data to provide meaningful information. Spreadsheets are not as effective as these tools. You should be matching sales data by zip codes and comparing this demographic information with your sales. Are you selling Sony TVs to zip codes in income areas over $50,000? Are you finding new customers who are in the building trades? Are you finding that customers you are losing have more than 100 employees? Once you find a trend, you can begin to plan your next steps recapture clients and increase sales.

Another part of marketing is Feedback. Are you asking your customers what they like and don't like about your business? There are services that will send paid shoppers into your competitors' stores and compare their products, salespeople and services to yours.

These "secret shoppers" give you immediate feedback on how your company stacks up to the competition and offers specific ways that you can improve your business to exceed customer expectations.

When you go to the trade show of your association, do you ask questions from "far away" owners as to what trends they are seeing in their markets? I recall a discussion I had with an owner who was adamant that his market would not allow a competitor that offered a variation of the products he was offering, as he offered the lowest prices and high quality service. When I showed him that the opposite of what he believed was happening three states away and introduced him to other owners who had suffered from these same beliefs, he woke up.  Based on his new understanding of the impending competition,  we devised a plan and changed his business before that competition entered his market. When, as predicted, the competition did arrive, he was ready.  He had new vehicles and plant equipment, well trained employees and loyal, motivated customers who wouldn't switch to the new company. Have you prepared yourself to deal with the toughest new entrant into your market?

And finally, you need money and time. The word MOMENTUM describes the advertising phenomenon whereby once a company has done enough advertising to create an image or impression it is imbedded deep in the minds of its potential customers.  Where momentum pays off is that the image will automatically create sales leads as these new customers have a need for the product or service, with little additional advertising. As in the law of physics, the amount of power required to accelerate to a rate of speed is much, much more than the power to maintain speed. Read any computer magazine and the word "Microsoft" or IBM comes up, without advertising.  To get there doesn't necessarily require lots of money, just effort and time.

If you are looking for a "quick fix" to rapidly boost sales, you need money. If you don't have money, you need time. If you have both, broaden your customer base, identify new products to offer and implement a marketing campaign that creates numerous opportunities to create impressions or touch customers.  This campaign's effects will sustain momentum and can help you coast through those tough times.

A marketing plan requires thought and conviction to carry it through. It requires market research and demographic information to identify trends and opportunities. Whether your company has a big budget for an all-out campaign or a limited budget, it is critical that your marketing plan be targeted and sustained over a long enough period time to create the lasting impression (and sales results) you desire.  And whatever you do, keep your message consistent and easy to understand.

Below is a Highlighted list of Steps to Build a Marketing Plan

Nine Steps for a Successful Marketing Plan

Step 1: Prepare a Business Review - An overview of the company identifying the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  It can also include Category trends, Product Analysis, Behavior Trends, and a competitive analysis.  In some cases it also includes Target Market assessments relating to Consumer or B2B (Business to Business) Segments, and Product awareness.

Step 2: Develop Sales Objective - Setting both quantitative and qualitative objectives

Step 3: Identifying New Target Markets - Understanding each market segment, primary and secondary markets, demographics,  buying habits and relating them to your sales objectives

Step 4: Developing Positioning Statements - Comparing your product or service to the competition, listing the attributes of importance, building and emotional relationship with the customer

Step 5: Clarifying the Marketing Strategies - These are the execution strategies.  Examples include: Build the market or Steal it, Branding, Packaging, Pricing, Seasonality strategies, Merchandising and many others.

Step 6: Articulate Communication Goals - Understanding the strategies to satisfy the 4 A's: Awareness, Attitude, Action, and repeat Action

Step 7: Defining and Executing 4 of the 5 P's - Product/Branding/Packaging, Pricing, Place/Distribution, Promotion/Events

Step 8: Clarifying your Advertising Campaign - Define your objectives ( audience, geography, seasonality, etc) and execution (forms of media- Radio, Print, ect)

Step 9: Execute and Follow-up  - Communicating the plan, developing lists, evaluation and market research and testing

Home | Site Map | Contact