There is no doubt that technology has changed our world significantly. The messages we once prepared for print media are now created to be included in everything from our web presence to a multitude of social media platforms. Instead of monitoring our marketing campaign’s success by sales only, we pour over analytics data from detailed reports that we could have only imagined a few years ago.
In as much as technology has changed the way we do business, how has it also changed the way we market to our customers? Alas, while much has changed and continues to transition daily, do the principles of marketing still apply? I concur they do.
A great marketing plan is still about focusing on customers and reaching them with a message that will encourage them to buy. So, at the risk of being considered “old school,” the following are the fundamental components that should be included in your marketing plan.
Marketing Objective. Beginning by identifying your desired outcome is a key guiding principle. Your marketing objective should keep in mind the current situation of your market including its size, distribution setup, and your company’s pricing requirements and goals.
Some conventional marketing objectives include: introduction of a new product or service, growing the market of your existing business, entering a new location, bundling your products and/or services, enhancing a product, or engaging a new customer type.
Each marketing objective will include plans for achieving the goal; and eventually, the who, what, when, where and how.
Target Market. I recommend identifying your target market by describing your ideal customer (your most likely buyer). Additionally, you may want to expand your customer list to include a few levels of segmentation, or customers with specific needs, behaviors and demographics. This process will help confirm what every professional marketer knows — that not everyone is your customer, and your money is better spent focusing on those folks who are.
Competitive Analysis. Identifying your competition and knowing how your products or services are different from theirs is critical to any marketing plan. If you could substitute your name for your competitor’s on their website, you have not succeeded in differentiating your company; therefore, it will be difficult for you to gain market share.
A good way to create a competitive analysis is to generate a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of your company. Strengths and weaknesses are internal to your organization, while opportunities and threats relate to external factors. Therefore, strengths and weaknesses generally focus on how you compare to your competitors, while opportunities and threats are often considered an extension of the market situation. Some questions to ask yourself include: what trends in your market will favor your situation; what are the trending demographics of your customers and will they benefit or challenge you; and, as your products or service exist now, are you well positioned to succeed in the market or will you need to make major renovations to thrive?
Marketing Strategy. Your marketing strategy identifies where and how your proposed customers will hear and see your message. It should consider each market customer segment and identify specific plans to reach each segment of buyer. Today, these strategies might include everything from email and social media to seminars and street events. Think, how will I find and connect with my most likely customers?
Budget and Metrics. Managing the budget includes allocating a cost for each activity planned, along with who is responsible for keeping the implementation in check. Acquiring price quotes is key to not exceeding estimates.
Keep metrics in order to measure your progress toward your marketing objectives and to know where you are succeeding. Additionally, as time passes you may find it necessary to adjust your marketing schedule, budget or method. With organized metrics and budget reporting, you will have the key information you need to keep your marketing plan dynamic and coordinated with your sales.
Even with today’s technology, marketing plans are still about attracting customers to your business by using the right message which results in the right outcome — sales!
Rayanna Anderson, MBA, is the Entrepreneurship Coordinator and Community Liaison for the Missouri State University’s College of Business. Anderson writes about issues from her 25 years of consulting with small businesses in Springfield and the state of Missouri. Email: RayannaAnderson@MissouriState.edu.
This article appeared in the October 8 edition of the Springfield News-Leader and can be accessed online here.