Marketing planning must be really difficult and complex, otherwise why would there be so many books written on the subject … right?
Well, I’m just enough of a skeptic to believe that many of these books were designed more to make money for their publishers and authors than to make marketing planning simple and understandable.
I spent more than 30 years working with very successful small business people who never wrote a single marketing plan. Why didn’t they need complex, 100-page marketing plans chock full of statistics, charts and graphs like the experts recommend? It’s because they knew exactly where they wanted to take their companies and how to get them there and they were universally successful.
The fact is they basically carried their product “marketing plans” around in their heads. That’s how simple marketing planning can be. In fact, if you strip marketing planning down to its most basic elements, you could just about write your plan on the back of a napkin.
Okay, that might be a bit of an oversimplification, but let’s look at the six basic things you need to know for successful marketing planning.
1. The situation. Is this a new or existing product or service? If it has competition, how is it better than the competition? Bigger? Lasts longer? Easier to use? Offers more features? Priced better? You should be able to sum up your situation in a couple of sentences. If not, maybe you don’t really understand the situation.
2. The market. How big is the market for your product or service? This can be defined in terms of total dollars, number of units sold or any other quantifiable number. The important thing is to know the size of your market because only by knowing this can you define a marketing objective. You also need to define what the market looks like - Males, age 25-45? Soccer Moms? Working mothers? Seniors? Childless couples? A market isn’t just numbers, it’s people. And it’s important to understand where they are economically, what’s important to them, and what problems you can help them solve.
3. Strategy. Now that you have defined your situation and your market, it should be easy to develop a marketing strategy. For example, if your product is footless, control top panty hose, your strategy might be to “focus sales efforts on figure-conscience women age 34-45 during the spring and summer months. ”
4. Tactics. If “strategy” is what you intend to do, “tactics” is what you need to do to accomplish it. In the case of the strategy example above, the tactics might be:
- Begin sales efforts against distributors by Feb. 1
- Have products in distribution pipeline by March 1 for delivery to retailers no later than April 1.
- Begin concentrated radio advertising in 12 key markets by April 15 …and so on
5. Objective(s). You can frame your objectives any way you want but you have to assign a number and a date. It’s no enough to say, “Successfully introduce the new product by year’s end. ” In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up somewhere else. ” If you don’t include a number and a time, you will never know whether or not you were really successful. Write objectives like “sell 5,000 units by December 31. ” Then, on January 1, you can count sales and determine how successful you were. Best case, you will find you sold 5,000 or more units and will know your marketing planning was right on. And if you didn’t meet the objective? You should be able to at least learn a lesson and do better next time.
6. Budgeting. The final thing you need to consider is how much money you can spend to meet your objective. The best way to do this is break down your budgeting by tactics. If you need to reach 100,000 women to sell 10,000 units of your product, do you have the money to do this – in terms or radio, newspaper, TV or direct mail? Do you need collateral materials such as brochures or in-store displays? How much will these things cost? Depending on your product or service, you may also have to hire a PR firm or an advertising agency. Be sure to budget for this expense.
Can you add more elements to your planning? Of course. Just go buy one of these marketing textbooks and you’ll find pages and pages of information that could be incorporated into your plan. The point here is that maybe you don’t have to make your marketing planning a huge and laborious project. Do what many of my clients have done – keep it simple, something you can just carry around in your head if that’s your style. The important things are your situation, your market, your strategy and tactics, your objective and your budget. Know these things and you’re well on your way to success.
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