Is your marketing plan refreshed and ready to go for the coming year?
Usually, a marketing plan will be an essential component of any business plan. And even though creating or updating a marketing plan should be an annual exercise, it’s a step that’s often overlooked.
It may be that your company never had a formal marketing plan, or there’s an outdated and long-forgotten one and you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants a little too long. Either way, industry and marketing trends evolve so rapidly, you can’t afford to ignore this critical check-in to make sure you are set up for success in the new fiscal year.
Read on to find out what’s in a marketing plan that will keep your company on the leading edge for 2017.
1. Market research
Research is the foundation of any marketing plan. It’s essential that you review what’s happening in the environment where you’re selling. At minimum, you’ll need to assess the current state of your overall market size, customer buying habits, and industry trends. Rapidly evolving shifts in mobile and online commerce, gig economy startups, and proliferating crowdsourced review sites are all trends to watch in 2017.
Other basics to include in your market research would include:
- Your demographic market
- Your geographic market
- How sales and distribution are set up
- The dollar size of your markets
- Your company’s products and services (Have they changed or evolved in the last few years?)
2. Description of the target market
Every year, you should step back and take a fresh look at who’s buying. Are there any behavioral or demographic changes of note? Try to identify the most likely buyers going forward, given the trends you’ve uncovered in your market research. Define your buyer personas and any changes in their company type or industry that may affect their buying choices or behaviors. Have they stopped going to actual trade shows in favor of virtual ones? If so, skip the keychains and plan on more digital collateral with segment-specific messaging. Other considerations:
- Are the demographics of your market in your favor? Against you?
- Are there competitive trends working to your benefit?
- What trends in the marketplace are working in your favor?
- Are your current products poised to succeed in the market as it now exists?
3. Positioning Statement
This is all about differentiation. How do customers perceive your company among the competition? Does it have a certain reputation for doing something in a special way, in a certain style, or appeal to a certain type of customer? What makes your company appear different to customers?
Here is also where you want to identify and clearly articulate your company’s value proposition, in as few words as possible. Once you’ve articulated your position, make sure all your branding and messaging are aligned with your company’s unique value and its place within the overall competitive field.
4. Competitive Analysis
Who are your competitors? Make sure to look for any new entrants to the market in recent years who may be coming up behind you with a faster, cheaper, better solution or service delivery model.
How do they sell? Are any of them using a different kind of business model to challenge their competitors? (Or maybe yours is the one doing it – if so, emphasize that!)
How are their products, sales or business models different from yours?
How do you differentiate your value to prospects?
5. Market Strategies
These are the means by which you will find, access and attract customers. A mix of traditional and digital marketing strategies may serve you best; look at each type and think about how it relates to your buyers’ research and buying habits. Remember that most B2B buyers go through several stages of decision making and research before making a purchase, so be sure to have strategies that address every stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Direct mail
- Social media
- Content strategy
- Field marketing
- Special offers
Special strategies for B2B:
- Trade shows
- Account based marketing
- Customer marketing
If you’re working with a marketing team of individuals responsible for separate areas of marketing (such as social media, advertising, etc.) it is best to involve them in planning those budget line items.
Whatever costs you can anticipate, allocate accordingly. If it’s a strategy you’ve never run before, add 25 percent to your best estimate.
Keep a separate accounting for internal hours (staff time) and external costs (out-of-pocket expenses). A spreadsheet helps you manipulate it during construction so you can see which variant works best.
Develop a month-by-month schedule with specific lead goals in mind. How many leads within your target market do you expect each to generate?
Establish breakpoints and by what metrics you’ll measure success or failure.
Finally, compare your plan and budget to the Big Picture. Do you have enough campaigns with target lead goals to meet your business revenue goals?
For any digital marketing strategies you’ve decided to use, regularly check the analytics to track website conversions and goals.
For traditional strategies, a simple spreadsheet that you keep updated will allow you to compare your budget against the actual ROI.
Plan to evaluate your strategies against metrics goals every 30-60 days.
If all of this sounds a little overwhelming or you need guidance on research approaches or deciding on the best mix of strategies, a consultation with a professional marketing firm can be a big help.
Shannon Prager is the President of Leadit Marketing. She is responsible for the daily operations and management of Leadit Marketing as well as the long term vision for the company.
A marketing leader with over 18 years of B2B demand generation and marketing experience, she understands the importance of a fully developed marketing strategy. Shannon’s background includes demand generation, marketing automation, social media and marketing operations. You can follow her on Twitter via: @LeaditMarketing