Although each organization will have its unique market plan format, there are elements that are common to most market plans. These include identifying your target segments, determining your positioning, setting objectives, developing tactics, establishing budgets and timetables, and setting up metrics for evaluating results.
Elements of the Market Plan
The SWOT Analysis SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. (SWOT analysis, which evolved during the 1950s and 1960s, came out of work at Harvard Business School in analyzing case studies. It has been widely used ever since as a tool for developing business strategy.)
Strengths are capabilities or resources of the organization (or product) that could be used to improve its competitive position. Weaknesses are the opposite. Strengths and weaknesses usually focus on the following items within the organization:
Opportunities and threats come from outside the organization. Opportunities are favorable conditions in the environment that can potentially produce rewards. Threats are external barriers that may prevent a company from reaching its objectives. Opportunities and threats may come from:
The SWOT analysis can be used not only to pinpoint your own situation but also that of your competition. You can begin by identifying your top three to five competitors by name. List each competitor’s strengths and weaknesses in a chart format so comparisons can be made. Table lists some of the items that might be included.
Marketing objectives need to take into account the company’s overall business plan. When looking at priorities, it is important to determine not only what actions are needed but also how these actions will be viewed by the plan’s various partners, supporters, and beneficiaries, both inside and outside the company.
Clear and achievable objectives need to be established and communicated to all parties, including the rest of the marketing department, product development, management, the sales force, service areas, and any other group within the organization on which your plan can have an impact. Your objectives should be projected over a time period—x percent over y years. (See the example in table below on the following page.) Here are some common objectives:
Competitive Assessment ASSESSMENT
Before you develop tactics for meeting your objectives, you first need to determine your resources. What is your budget? How big is your staff? Will the plan be implemented by your own department or by others? How much authority do you have over those who will be charged with implementing your plan (such as an outside sales force)?
Goals Should Be Specific and Measurable
Budgets are usually outside the control of marketers; the funds available may be a percentage of sales or may be based on a formula derived from competitive analysis and marketing objectives—or, in the case of a small business, on how much cash is in the till. No marketer ever has enough money to do everything that is desired. You’ll hear the complaint from those with multimillion-dollar budgets and from those with no budgets at all. Budget will indeed determine what your marketing options are, but creative marketers can accomplish far more on a small budget than they think. Other steps in implementing the plan include the following:
Get buy-in from all concerned parties. Understand your management’s and sales team’s objectives and goals. Make a point of meeting with the management team to review the market plan and gain buy-in. Programs are more likely to be successful if management and sales input is solicited and incorporated.
Leverage partnerships. Take advantage of programs that may be available on a co-op basis or that are centrally managed and funded. Be alert to ways in which national advertising campaigns, corporate sponsorships, sales contests, and product launches can help you. Make sure these activities are integrated so local offices and branches are aware of the activities and can plan local events accordingly.
Establish a tracking and measurement process. A process must be put in place to capture the information and to provide the tools needed to track each program and measure success.
Continually evaluate all existing marketing programs and change or modify aspects that aren’t working. The plan must be fluid and adapted to changing internal and external environments. Review progress at intervals short enough to catch developing problems early.
Assign responsibilities for implementation and tracking. The plan will not succeed unless all the people on the team know what they must do to execute the plan and measure the results.
Insure that your proposed tactics can be communicated to and executed by others. When implementing tactics over different geographic locations with different staffs, the plan must insure that the tactics are replicable and cost effective. This may mean beta testing a tactic in one location and rolling it out across markets as results merit. If the size of the market and the cost of reaching the market vary from location to location, the plan should address how tactics will vary with those factors.
Communicate successes early and often. Establish a means to gather program feedback—best practices or lessons learned as well as hard numbers and identify a vehicle to communicate this feedback to the sales force, management, and other partners. Communicate any early “wins” as soon as possible. It will set the right tone and provide some immediate support for the program.
Selected Implementation Tools—A Checklist
The universe of marketing communications tools is vast and ever-growing. As you brainstorm possible tactics for your campaign, the tactical tools above will give you some ideas. Chapters 4 through 11 discuss these tools in more detail.
Given the large number of potential tactics, how does a marketer choose which to implement? From a strategic standpoint, the answers should be based on a combination of factors:
Metrics to Track and Measure Success
Tracking and measuring marketing programs can be a challenge. Depending on the nature of the program, anecdotal results may be the best that can be hoped for—an ad that gets a salesperson an appointment, which in turn leads to a big sale; positive client feedback on a new loyalty membership benefit; or good press from a new corporate sponsorship event. Although these results can and should be shared with top management, there will be disappointment that they are not quantifiable. Senior management is increasingly demanding accountability for marketing dollars. “Track and measure” has become a corporate mantra. There is an urgency to demonstrate the value of a program, through a payback analysis or calculation of return on investment (ROI).
The limits of measurement. Some tactical programs are easy to measure. Direct response through mail, phone, or e-mail usually yields hard sales numbers and an immediate calculation of ROI. Some tactics are measurable over time, like relationship-building and loyalty programs that are designed to increase retention and cross-sell. These can be measured against a control group or against earlier retention and cross-sell rates. Then there are programs that involve direct, one-to-one selling. The problem here is not a lack of data but the difficulty of gathering the data. It is notoriously difficult to get salespeople to fill out tracking reports, although this problem is beginning to abate as producer optimization systems automatically track contact and sales data. Programs that involve the sales force—whether at trade shows, seminars, or in face-to-face selling—can be measured, provided the data are tracked. The most difficult types of tactics to track and measure are advertising, public relations, event sponsorship, and other programs where sales are not directly attributable to the promotion. If the campaigns are designed to build awareness, proxy measures—such as number of ad views, recall scores, and media placements—can measure success. But the reliable correlation of increased sales (if any) to an advertising or public relations campaign is a problem still looking for a resolution.
Marketing Plan Checklist
Like a last-minute check of your tires before you go on a trip, this questionnaire can help make sure you’ve thought of everything. When you are comfortable with the answers to these questions, you are ready to implement your market plan.
Better tracking and measurement tools are being developed. Consulting firms, along with many of the country’s top advertising agencies, have started providing their clients with measurement services. Still, most marketers are not yet using these sophisticated tools. Only 28 percent of business marketers measure “most of their communications tactics” when evaluating marketing program effectiveness, according to a survey by Mobium Creative Group. In another survey conducted among members of the Business Marketing Association, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and other organizations, “only 37 percent of respondents track sales as a measure of success when determining the return on investment of a marketing program.
” Yet a third survey revealed that 72 percent of respondents lack the necessary data to assess the ROI on their marketing investments.5 The problem may not be a lack of data so much as a lack of access to the data. The ability to track and measure activity is not solely the responsibility of the marketing department. Rather, it requires a corporate wide commitment and the cooperation of management, marketing, operations, IT, service, sales, and product management.
What to measure. Before rushing off to create a tracking process, an extremely important question needs to be asked: What needs to be tracked? For many, the answer will be sales. However, along the road to tracking sales there is a wide array of information that can also be obtained. For a trade show, for example, measurement data might include attendance numbers, clients and prospects in attendance, demographic information, sales leads, brand impressions, appointments made, cost per lead or sale, and lifetime value of customers. What can be measured is limited only by cost and the thought and planning required to set up the infrastructure.
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