Creating a marketing plan
A good place to start is creating a marketing plan. While it sounds ominous and time-intensive, you won’t need to construct a grandiose document. In this section we’ll tell you what you need to know and guide you through the process.
1) It’s all about the customer
There’s a tendency to make marketing much more complex than it needs to be. In the simplest terms, the role of your marketing plan is to make sure the stuff you’re putting effort into building, making or developing matches the desires of the people you hope to sell it to. (Communications, then, is a marketing subset that gets you and your product in front of your audience and encourages them to buy from you). It’s quite easy to lose sight of your customer in the day-to-day of a business, which can lead to you focusing on what you want to do rather than what your customer genuinely needs. By always thinking of the customer first, you’ll be in a stronger place when it comes to maximising the efficiency of your marketing money.
2) What are you trying to achieve?
Once you’ve got your brand in shape and a clear sense of your proposition (for more, see Part 2), it’s time to clearly state your commercial ambitions and business goals. Too often teams get caught up on the mechanics (‘How do I run online ads?’) rather than spending time working out the best way to achieve their real objectives (‘We need to enter the market and take 5% share over the next six months.’) Your marketing plan needs to answer the question: ‘How do we achieve our goal at sustainable cost?’
3) Understand the market opportunity
You’re hopefully clear on what you want to do. Now’s the time to figure out what the market wants. You probably have a rough idea of who your audience is, but the real secret to marketing is having a crystal clear idea of who your target is – what they need and how you might be able to meet that need. It’s time to gather data. Who’s your target? By what metric will you describe them? Age? Income level? Location? Gender? How many of them are there? What kind of qualitative assumptions or facts can you identify about them? All of this contributes to building a profile of the person to whom you’re hoping to sell.
From there, it’s time to meet them. Nothing compares to talking to your customer. First, a word of warning: before you finalise your list of questions, get clear on your role vs theirs. It isn’t the job of the audience to tell you what they want, and if you ask them, they’ll usually give you the wrong answers. Focus groups can be notoriously inaccurate when you ask questions such as whether they’d buy a certain product, whether they like X over Y, or what price they’d pay. Instead, focus on understanding their lives and the problems they face which are relevant to your business. Consider your job as more like a detective, listening for interesting insights and finding clues to what could potentially excite your target or motivate them to buy. You’ll know you’ve done a good job when you feel as if you can intuit on behalf of your customers and when you can precisely describe a fairly narrow band of core customers rather than a wider, more general audience.
4) Get your plan together – and get yourself out there
Explore each of the ‘five Ps’ (see sidebar). Test and refine your product with real customers. Experiment with price points. Get your proposition and distribution strategy in place. Where you don’t have facts, improvise. If you’ve done a good job of understanding your target’s real needs, you’ll be able to take calculated guesses. Test your assumptions, ideally in a live-selling situation. Observe and refine. Once you’ve got a good sense of the path forward, its time to set a promotional strategy in place. Work through the rest of this supplement to understand the different tools you can deploy. Identify a rough amount you can afford to spend and again, try experimenting. Does Facebook perform better for you than Instagram? Do price promotions help drive volume and repeat purchase? Is there a role for email or out-of-home advertising? Marketing is at least as much art as it is science, and the frustrating thing is that the right combination of activity for one business can be completely wrong for another. You’re setting off on a journey to find the right mix. Watch, learn and enjoy.
The five Ps: your marketing toolkit
Professional marketeers refer to the ‘five Ps’ which is just an easy way to remember five main ways to connect what you make with what your audience wants to buy.
What are you selling and what will make it sell? What makes it stand out from existing products or services in the market? What features or innovations can you use to better cater to the needs of your audience than what’s already out there?
Base your assumptions on what you’ve learned from your audience and then get out and test it in the market. Do a pricing trial so you can get real data from live customers. Do they buy in the quantity you require? Can you justify a premium? Is there enough margin for you to make a profit?
This is all about distribution. Through which channels will you sell? Will you go direct to customers or sell via third parties? What logistical support will you need to ship product? How will you handle returns? All of this needs to be costed and taken into account.
Most businesses involve some form of customer contact but this can vary widely. If you operate physical stores or offer face-to-face services, this is especially important. How are you training your frontline people to describe and sell the product optimally? If you’re web or telephone based, how and who will handle this?
What are the best communications channels to get the word out? How will you describe your offering? Do you need to buy media or partner with PR professionals to create advertising or manage analytics?
Founder, Samsara Communications
‘There’s by no means a one-size-fits-all approach. For some clients, social media will need to take precedence – one client generates 80% of their sales from Instagram, for example.’
‘I’d also recommend that market research is carried out annually to ensure that you’re staying ahead of the curve.’
‘I work with clients up to three months ahead of launch to build solid marketing foundations and generate intrigue amongst their target customers so that they can really hit the ground running when they open their doors.’
‘Agility and the ability to pivot across multiple touch-points within the rapidly changing digital landscape is vital, along with an understanding of what makes your customers tick.’
Tech will save us
Tech Will Save Us is an agile startup that understands the specific passion points of their audience. When undertaking market research, the toy and game manufacturer runs flash surveys to help map trends and uses focus groups for product testing. Most recently they noticed a growing trend in traditional game boards, an insight that helped inform one of their new products launching later this year.
“Building brand awareness is about driving discovery.”
Discovering that music was a big customer interest, they created a ‘ social ad campaign, which led to a significant boost in engagement. While Tech Will Save Us typically generates roughly 4% engagement in their social ads, this post resulted in 10% – a huge increase. On balancing brand awareness with sales goals, the company’s Head of Marketing Rikke Borregaard Eriksen explains: ‘Building brand awareness is about driving discovery, it’s not product dependent. We see it as a springboard to purchase.’
Put your audience at the heart of your marketing
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