(Note: I posted this last week on the SBA Industry Word blog as 10 Essentials of A Marketing Plan in 2016.)
Clearly, technology has changed marketing a lot. We fast forward through ads on television and block them on our devices. We have amplified word of mouth in social media. We pour over analytics and metrics. But what about the marketing plan? Has technology changed marketing planning?
One thing for sure: The fundamentals still apply. As much as ever, marketing is still getting people to know, like, and trust your business. As much as ever, marketing still needs defining target markets, knowing those market segments, reaching the right people with the right message. Pricing is still the most important message, and the lowest price is – as always – not necessarily the best price.
Another thing for sure: the marketing mix, the tactics, are changing rapidly. Goodbye to the yellow pages, hello Facebook. Goodbye public relations, hello social media. Goodbye advertising, hello content marketing.
And where is the marketing plan, in all this? Let me suggest 10 marketing plan essentials for 2016. The fundamentals still apply, but the specifics are changing.
- Target Market. The better you define it, the better for the marketing. Experts recommend describing an ideal target customer in detail. Don’t try to please everybody. Instead, please some specific kinds of buyers who have the right set of needs, habits, locations, etc.
- Messaging. A summary of the main tag lines, key selling points, value proposition and so forth (we could call this messaging). There are a lot of different jargon words for this, so be flexible.
- Media. Discussion of media, which almost has to be social media and content marketing these days, but used to be advertising budgets, placement, and so on. I’m growing more interested in taking steps beyond just content marketing, to distributed marketing, and real engagement. That means something more than “post and pray.’ As you think about this topic, think about where your potential customers will see your message. What else do you do to help the right people find your message? To track what they say about it?
- Pricing. You have to make pricing match product or service, market, or messaging. Don’t assume that the lowest price wins. Pricing is your most important marketing message. Would you buy day-old sushi because it’s cheap? Your price needs to synchronize with your product offering and your target market. If you discount excellence, it becomes less credible in the eyes of your potential customers. And if your strategy is selling an undifferentiated lowest price product or service, make sure that matches the rest of your marketing
- Channels. For product businesses you have the classic question of channels of distribution, either direct (usually web and mobile these days) or via distributors and retail, or direct to retail. Information and service businesses need to consider channels too, even though the channels are marketing channels, such as web and mobile. We all need traffic of one sort or another
- Promotion. These days promotion might be as simple as consistent presence in the main social media platforms. It might be email marketing, advertising, affiliate sites, public relations, price promotion, and events.
- Tasks and major milestones. Every good plan requires some specific tasks and major milestones to make it concrete. Otherwise it’s just theory. You need to be able to track progress against the plan. Milestones help us get things done. We work towards goals.
- Important metrics. It takes real numbers to actually work a plan. That might be sales, web traffic or store traffic, leads, presentations, seminars, conversions, tweets, posts, likes, follows, or whatever. Make it measurable.
- Review schedule. Keep your plan as short as possible, just lists and tables, because it’s only good for a few weeks before it needs revision. The real world keeps intervening. You need to plan ahead for a monthly meeting to review results and revise that plan.
- Budgets. You have to manage the money. A good marketing plan needs to include budgets for expenses, and the sales that result from the different activities.