How to Develop an Effective Marketing Plan
Internet, TV, radio, billboards, magazines, newspapers, coupons, promotions, events, etc. – the list gets longer and the options more diversified when developing a marketing strategy.
A clear marketing plan is one of the most important elements of an effective business plan. Unfortunately, many companies fail because they lack a plan (or should I say ‘an effective plan’) or poorly implement their strategies. It’s like the old saying, “Education is never as expensive as ignorance;” so educating yourself about marketing is one of the best investments you can make.
There are three components to the marketing plan: the company, wanting to promote their goods or services; the media, which is the vehicle of communication; and the consumer. Today’s market is noisy, with millions of messages competing for the consumer’s valuable time. Plus, the vehicles companies use for marketing have expanded dramatically.
Add to the complexity the multi-generational differences, where one message or one media will no longer work for the different generations, and you see the challenge.
Here are a couple of quick guidelines to help you when developing your marketing strategy:
1 Know Your Target.
Who are you attempting to reach? This sounds obvious but take some time and really work on this question. Define your target as specifically as possible starting with basic demographics
(e.g. gender, age, income, ethnicity, homeownership, education).
2 Promoting vs. Branding.
Are you trying to get a short-term bump in sales with your marketing message or build a long-term and sustainable brand through customer awareness, preference and loyalty? Both approaches have their positives and negatives. However your message and media choice have to match your marketing strategy.
For example, choosing a promotional marketing message may generate activity, but not necessarily effectiveness. Remember, a phone ringing is not always indicative of an effective campaign. A busy phone with unqualified prospects (i.e. those with no ability to buy) makes for busy employees and no profit. Brand marketing is designed to build trust and integrity, but you can’t start and stop brand marketing; it requires consistency – and the reward is a steady and growing consumer base with controlled sales growth.
3 You Can’t Be Everything to Everybody.
Once you choose your target and what approach you intend to take, develop your message directly for that target and then choose your media to deliver that message. Many advertising messages become wordy, trying to communicate everything they do and ending up not connecting with anyone. Focus your message within the proper channel. There is no one media source that is an answer to your entire communication plan. Most companies have several targets so develop unique messages specifically for each to maximize the effectiveness of the media.
4 Review Valid Data.
Validate your media choices by using third party audited data that verifies the media’s audience in terms of size (i.e. number of viewers, readers or listeners) and demographic profile. As more media options are presented and the market becomes more competitive for capturing a share of your target audience’s attention, you cannot rely simply on anecdotal information or buy media based on emotion.
Valid data will also help you differentiate between the volume/frequency of the media and its actual effectiveness. In publishing, for example, one source may print 40,000 copies, yet has only 20,000 readers, while another prints 10,000 copies and has 100,000 readers. Which would you want? Obviously the one reaching 100,000 readers. Choosing the right media is all about maximizing the number of eyeballs and ears (i.e. listeners, readers or viewers) reached of your target, and this is only verified through reliable audited data.
Good news … when Brevard County crossed the 500,000 population threshold we were no longer lumped into the Orlando media market. Now, specific audited data allows local marketers to choose those media sources that most effectively reach their target audience.
5 Message Delivery or Mass Distribution.
This is probably the most important and most misunderstood part of a marketing plan. The difference is between volume and touches. Your media choice could be extremely high in volume – e.g. the number of commercials run or publications printed – but low in audience touches. Conversely, a medium could be very low in volume but high in touches. Effective media companies work this area of their business extremely hard because the success of their medium lies in its ability to bring quality touches of their clients’ messages to their target consumers, such as the journal printing 10,000 copies to 100,000 readers.