I’m often asked this question and my answer is always the same. Good Marketing planning begins with good fact collection and analysis – of your business performance, your environment and the market in which you operate.
This is Business Situational Analysis and should be the first step in your Marketing planning process. It will highlight what you need to address and will guide you in choosing the strategy and activities which are most likely to produce effective results.
Here’s a list of what you should be considering:
Correctly define the market you’re competing in; use the Internet to collect the latest information about it. By referencing online archived magazines and business publications, you may determine the size of the market, whether it’s growing, and any trends.
Identify your competition via a search engine and look at their websites. Consider their product features, pricing, distribution footprint and their promotions. Visit their social media pages and find out what consumers are saying about them.
This exercise could possibly highlight a market niche which is not being serviced by your opposition. Equally, by visiting the websites of global competitors, you could spot an innovation that you could be first to introduce locally.
Your history of sales can unleash a whole host of data about your consumer. Who are your top customers by units and value? How much of your business is repeat business? If it’s a large percentage, perhaps your strategy should focus on Relationship Marketing – incentivising loyalty.
No business exists within a vacuum. Assess any imminent political, economic, social, technological, legal or environmental (PESTLE) changes which could have an impact. Plan for these changes.
Review your own product offering, pricing, distribution footprint and promotions. What has worked well and what has not? Have you achieved your sales and profit targets? Is your product well branded?
Ask and listen to feedback from your sales force about customer sentiment. Additionally, conduct dipstick research amongst your customers and prospects, preferably using the services of a third party, to ensure objective results and valid feedback. If you can stay abreast of changing customer needs and meet those needs, you have a winning formula.
Define your objectives for the next 12 months. Determine your turnover and profit targets, and what you can afford to spend on Marketing. Phase your targets over the 12 months.
Armed with the information you derive from your Business Situational Analysis, define the internal strengths and weaknesses of your business and its external opportunities and threats.
Following the above approach will allow you to crystallise the key strategic issues which your Marketing plan must address. You’ve now completed the ground work and are ready to draft a relevant Marketing plan for your business.