Economic Worries? Now Is Time to Create a Strategic Marketing Plan
You've Built It, but Will the Customers Come?
Small and mid-sized busineeses need a strategic marketing plan as a road map to reach their customers
Last week I got a call from Jane, a fashion designer and entrepreneur. She created a line of unique and distinctive fashion accessories that she figured would take the fashion world by storm - or at least, would get picked up by a base of fashion boutiques and one or two department stores. To find retail distribution, she did what many other companies do -- Trade Shows. She invested her whole marketing budget to present her line at a couple of the biggest fashion trade shows.
Jane's trade show strategy made complete sense: At the trade show, she'd find a whole bunch of retail fashion buyers together under one roof who would recognize her dramatic, new, innovative product line and decide to carry the line in their store. It couldn't fail - but sadly it did!
Jane had created her 'Field of Dreams,' only to have her dream squashed by investing her whole marketing budget on a strategy that gave her absolutely no return on investment. In analyzing her poor trade show results, she concluded that it must have been the economy. The weak economy could indeed have some role to play in this initial failure, but simply blaming failure on the economy provides Jane with no guidance or direction that she can put to use to find a welcoming market for her line of fashion accessories.
Introducting a new innovative product during a down economy can actually be good
The fact is, for many new products, especially innovative concepts that offer new solutions to old problems, being introduced during a weak economy can actually be beneficial. Marketers tend to cut back new product development during a recession, giving the innovative risk-takers less competition for the attention of potential customers and so more chance for success with their new products. A bad economy didn't hurt Apple's introduction of the iPhone or iPad.
In talking with Jane, her big mistake was that she failed to develop a clearly defined strategic plan for marketing her brand. That well-researched and studied strategic marketing plan would have included a feedback loop to incrementally measure success or gather insights about what went wrong and a contingency plans in place if the original strategy failed or went awry.
Being too close to her product, believing in it as she must as a designer, Jane only planned for success, not failure. She needed an objective perspective to critically evaluate her product line, its pricing, positioning, the distribution plan, and more. She needed to look at her trade show offering with a critical eye, like those legions of buyers who passed her products by.
Get Inspired>>A Stategic Marketing Plan Is no Luxury, but a Necessity for Marketers with Businesses to Grow
"Plans are nothing; Planning is everything," President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower
For the marketer the strategic marketing plan becomes the road map to the customers who will eventually buy your product or service. It addresses the traditional 4 P's of marketing and the missing P -- the people who will buy the product or service:
- Placement or Distribution and
- People or Customers.
Further it looks across the competitive landscape to study the key competitors and their strengths and weaknesses. By comparing these to your own product line's strengths and weaknesses, we can devise strategies to overcome specific weaknesses and use your strengths to competitive advantage. It identifies potential partners that can help carry some of the load of distribution or positioning to the customer. The strategic marketing plan also lays out a feedback mechanism, so that you can continuously monitor the results along the way and adjust accordingly.
But as valuable a document as the strategic marketing plan is, the real value for the marketer is going through the analytical planning process. Developing a marketing plan is an investment in time and money that will reward you and your business, because it's a way to think honestly and study in depth the way that you and your new product line are going to connect with paying customers.
Take Action>> Get Started Planning for the Marketing of Your Own Business
"If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there," attributed to Lewis Carroll
There is no time like the present to create a strategic marketing plan for your business. It will serve as a road map to find customers and to grow your business in the future. Too many companies use the same strategic marketing plan over and over again. They throw all new products up against the same wall to see which ones stick, like Jane who found out that her one and only attempt through trade shows failed. If the plan works, i.e. if the new products stick, then success; if they don't, then back to the drawing broad for another wind up and throw to the same old wall. It doesn't take an Einstein to know that this is insanity! (BTW...Einstein is the one who reminds us that the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.")
I have created a new consulting service that leverages the experience I have working with big companies and major brands toward helping small and mid-sized businesses grow. I will work with you to research your business, explore opportunities and develop a strategic marketing plan customized to your business.
To learn more about the strategic planning process, I have written a white paper, entitled "What, So What, Now What - You've Built It, But Will the Customers Come," that describes the five-step process for creating your own strategic marketing plan.
The steps are:
- Needs Analysis - Define your own business objectives, challenges and issues. Focus on the end goal of the marketing plan to see where you ultimately need to go.
- Conduct Marketing Audit - This is the research phase of the planning process where you study your existing marketing programs, successes and failures; study results with key partners, staff members, sales reps, media planners, etc.; evaluate marketing and promotional materials, websites, product positioning, pricing, distribution models, etc.; evaluate competitors; investigate target market, customer profiles, etc.
- Review Marketing Report Card - Review the results of the marketing audit objectively and critically. SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis that clearly lays out the current environment for your product service.
- Create Strategic Marketing Plan - With all inputs from the previous phases, develop a strategic marketing plan detailing key strategies for Product, Price, Promotion, Placement/Distribution that will help you connect and build market share with your target customer market.
- On-going Feedback - And the final critical step is to create milestones and guidepost along the way to measure success, evaluate results, adjust course as needed.