Successful marketing doesn’t happen on its own. To get results, businesses need a written plan. Without it, companies fall prey to trial-and-error or reactive marketing. That outcome virtually guarantees companies will spend more time, money and energy than necessary—a reality most businesses want to avoid—as they pursue their growth goals. While the planning process takes time and effort, it’s well worth the investment. Here’s a framework to get you started:
1. Conduct marketing research.
Before embarking on a plan, it is important to have a complete understanding of the environment in which the company operates. Take the time to carefully evaluate the competition and conduct an internal SWOT analysis that assesses the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This process helps create a sustainable niche in the marketplace. As part of the process, ask the following questions in each of these categories:
- Strengths: What advantages does your organization have? What do you do better than everyone else? What resources can you draw upon? What do your customers see as your strengths? What factors help you close deals? What is your unique selling proposition?
- Weaknesses: What can you improve? What areas should you avoid? What do customers and prospects view as your weaknesses? What factors contribute to lost sales?
- Opportunities: What trends exist in the marketplace? What changes in technology are taking place? What opportunities are your competitors capitalizing on, or better yet, missing out on?
- Threats: What obstacles are you facing? What are your competitors doing better than you are? What marketplace changes are threatening your position? Do you have bad-debt or cash-flow problems? How are your weaknesses threatening your business?
2. Define your target audiences.
Today, a well-defined target market is more important than ever. Many companies make the mistake of saying they target “anyone interested in their services.” Some say they target small businesses, manufacturing companies or professional services firms. These classifications are too general. Targeting a specific market does not mean the company excludes people who do not fit the defined criteria. Instead, a carefully identified target market allows businesses to focus their marketing resources on those who are most likely to purchase their products or services. This is a much more cost-effective and efficient way to reach potential clients and generate business. Use the following tips to help define your target market(s):
- Evaluate your existing customer base. Who are your customers? Why do they buy from you? What types of companies bring in the most business?
- Look at the competition. Who are your competitors targeting? Who are their current customers? Who are they overlooking?
- Analyze your products and services. What types of companies and individuals could benefit most from the products and services you offer? Make a list of people, markets and organizations that have a need you could fulfill or a problem you could solve.
- Identify demographics and psychographics. Do your ideal customers fall into a certain age group, gender, corporate role/title, industry or revenue level? What types of characteristics does your ideal customer have? Describe their personalities, interests, attitudes, values and behaviors.
Once you’ve decided on a target market, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there enough businesses or individuals that fit the criteria?
- Will the target audience(s) benefit from my product or service? Will they see a need for it?
- What is the target market’s decision-making process?
- Can they afford my product or service?
- Can I reach them with my message? Are they accessible?
3. Identify your competitive advantage.
A competitive advantage is an advantage over competitors gained by delivering what customers perceive as greater value. This may be achieved through lower prices or by providing greater benefits and services that justify higher prices. To define a competitive advantage, it is essential to determine how the company wants its prospects and customers to view the organization. Does the company want to be seen as a low-price leader, innovator, leader in operational excellence, technical expert, leader in adaptability or another category?
4. Identify your corporate distinction.
In a global marketplace, it can be difficult to stand out among competitors. However, an effective marketing strategy is built around communicating a company’s corporate distinction or what makes it different from other organizations that provide similar products or services. This goes far beyond branding, logos, color schemes and taglines. Dig deep to determine what sets your company apart from the competition. Embrace and communicate your signature differential in every marketing message by a B2B copywriter.