Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Developing A Marketing Plan

One of the true joys of this blog is the interactions I get to have with you. One of the interactions I love the most is answering your questions. To this, we have Zack Duhamel to thank for today's post.
Developing A Marketing Plan

There are perhaps an infinite amount of approaches to how experts feel one should develop any given marketing plan for any given service and/or product. The discussion can be broken down by emerging or incumbent products (to which for the sake of this post, we'll include services), emerging or existing markets, sustaining or disruptive innovations, and-on-and-on it can go.

Personally, when I'm thinking through the steps in developing a marketing plan, I tend to want to start with the question "Why?" Why do I need a marketing plan? The purpose is severely important. It is too easy to be blinded as a supplier, "I need plan because I have a product." But, does the consumer need that product, or even, your product? Maybe, and, maybe not. Nevertheless, if one is trying to develop a plan (new or updating the old), it is prudent to at least mentally approach it with a fresh start.

And, while a good marketing plan has many feedback loops, for the sake of this blog let's begin with a three part framework in developing a marketing plan from scratch.

Part 1: The Pains & Gains
This idea is best known from the canvas model; it adapts the jobs to be done approach with the concept of a value proposition. In essence, starting here determines if there is even a market for your product. It's a good place to start; sometimes there is no need for a marketing plan because no market actually exists for you. A good example to think on is this:

Does your product fill a need or reduce a cost? If so, you have just created a customer.

To the customer: What need (job) requires filling? What about filling that need is the most cumbersome for them - their pains? And, what about filling that need do they wish for the most - their gains? Harvard business professor Theodore Levitt is famous for saying, "Nobody wants a 1/4 inch drill—what they want is a 1/4 inch hole.”

Then you must answer, does your product kill pains and make gains for the prospective consumer? If so, you have the foundations of your marketing plan.


Part 2: What Is Your Marketing Mix?
After establishing the fact you do indeed have a market for your product, and, that your product does present a unique value, now we have something to talk about. Your marketing mix.

Most marketers consider the marketing mix as the "4 Ps"
  • Product
  • Price
  • Placement
  • Promotion
Some schools of thought have also included a 5th "P" in the form of Profit. The nice thing about this 3 part framework I'm offering you is that Part 1 *is* your first P, your product. To know that you actually have a product is important! I can't tell you how many times I've seen businesses simply produce something and call it a product when its not really marketable. That's not a product; it's a hobby. In any case, following the 4 Ps, we need to talk about price.

Oh, real quick: Depending on the school of thought, these 4 Ps can occur various orders; but, the idea is the same. You must clearly define each. Personally, I find price to be next after product, for the reason that most consumers are quite price sensitive. Defining the price gives you an internal feedback loop on your value proposition. I've found a commonly accepted definition of value as:

Value = Benefit / Price aka "bang per buck."

I've also seen equations like: Value = Outcome / Cost. But, really, it's all the same.

Value = (Gains made + Pains killed) / Price of product.

Right? All the same. It's a matter of perspective. So check your price. Where would it be that you could make your product the most valuable to them? It's not always the lowest price; lowering your price many times lowers the amount of benefit your product can offer as you may not be able to afford high quality products with such low returns -- so think on that.

Then, we must think of placement. Many marketers also call this "positioning" to some extent. Where will you be placing your product for sales? Online? Retail? Direct sales? B2B? Will it be sold on the top shelf? Middle? In bulk? How will it be made available for consumers? Will you do a product launch or small market tests? Etc. etc. etc.

Finally, you must think of promotions. How will you promote your product? Will you have parallel promotions? Freebies? How will you advertise? Will you engage in guerilla marketing? What's your plan in generating awareness and demand? What about co-branding? Endorsements? Maybe in person sales and demonstrations? All the various ways you have to make your product more interesting and raise share of mind in the general consumers must be considered for this step to be successful. Most importantly, the mental framework of this step must be from the perspective of the consumer.

Finally, a blip about profits. Marketers and business strategists (for myself, I identify as a marketing strategist since I generally am involved less in sales and more in the planning, execution, and supply chain side of business)... are regularly guilty of being too theoretical; requiring financiers and accountants to pull them back into reality. Or, making less than happy friction against supply chain and operations managers who have to deal with the day-to-day results of their ivory tower shenanigans. THEREFORE, it is always important to refresh your screen and examine the 4Ps established against the reality: IS YOUR MARKETING MIX PROFITABLE?

If so, PROCEED!


Part 3: Plot Your Strategic Approach
One of the biggest (and most difficult) responsibilities of any marketer is the screening for future opportunities and threats. Nearly every strategic theorist and marketing guru will hold a different method of approach. Some say go where the demand will be. Others say, go to where the money is. Yet still, another school of thought may be to quell threats and stay ahead of your own strengths.

Regardless of how you decide to plot your strategic approach, you MUST include a regular screening of the future market projections. You can use any framework really: SWOT, Porter's 5 Forces, Blue Ocean Strategy... just to name a few.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the SWOT analysis because it serves as such a great reality check. And, it also loops back to Part 2 which then bounces back to Part 1. SWOT also allows you to analyze your competition to which then you can attack their weaknesses, follow fast and swoop in on their opportunities, and even split their resources such that they must address their threats, minimizing their ability to attend to current strengths. It's a powerful tool if done correctly, systematically, and with the right gauge of reference points.

Perhaps the most important part of Part 3 is the feedback toward Part 2 and Part 1. Just as Part 1 fed-forward to Part 2, Part 2 helps define where you're going with Part 3. But, Part 3 then returns back to Part 1 to answer the question: "Is my plan sustainable?" Will it work out in the long run? If so, push that same thought forward to Part 2 and update your marketing mix. Feed that data into Part 3 again and ensure you're still on course for long term gains. And, of course, continue the loop back to Part 1 to ensure that your product is still marketable - BECAUSE - once it's not, you need to either change your product, change your marketing mix, or change your strategic approach entirely.

So you can see, even just the development of a marketing plan is FOUR DIMENSIONAL! The execution, now there's a chess game to be played.


Some Closing Thoughts:
And so, this is my three part framework for developing a marketing plan. And, I call it "development" because a good marketing plan is never complete. It needs to be constantly updated, refreshed, and made relevant to the ever changing market environment. Also, it is JUST the beginning as there are sooooo many other frameworks and strategies of approach for success. These are just the first steps in making sure the foundations of any marketing plan you slate out is done so on solid ground.

I hope you've enjoyed this episodic Q&A blog. Again, thanks to Zack for bringing up the topic. I hope you all have found it beneficial to your practice, business, organizations, and sense of personal edification.


Until Next Time,
-Ben

PS. Any and all questions for future blog posts are warmly welcome. Talk soon!

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