The marketing plan is undoubtedly the essential document that will mark the steps that, for a defined period, usually one year, a company must follow to efficiently position its brand, its products and / or services in the markets in those who want to operate.
The marketing plan allows us to analyze the current situation of the company to establish a series of guidelines that enable its consolidation in the market in the medium and long term. It is, therefore, an essential instrument to determine which opportunities that the market provides should be exploited, taking into account also the resources and capacities available to face these opportunities with sufficient guarantees of success.
The purpose of the plan is to avoid hitting the blind and using our resources in the most efficient way possible, which implies trying to reduce the operating costs of all our commercial actions as a company and achieve a higher number of opportunities.
Therefore, it will provide us with the most accurate vision possible of the market situation to guide our resources in the most efficient way possible.
To be a handy instrument, a good marketing plan must consist of at least the following sections:
We start from a scenario marked by the situation of the company at the time of preparing the plan. It is about doing an exercise that, by way of reflection, will help us lay the foundations for our actions as a brand according to a series of parameters marked by the situation of the company, its resources and capabilities.
We will make a brief tour of the history of the company, the essential aspects that make up its portfolio of solutions as well as its possible advantages and values that have defined the company over time. Later we will situate ourselves on the current level and prepare a realistic scenario capable of adding value in our initial stage.
When analyzing the current situation of the company, we will focus on its available resources, its position in the market and, above all, its ability to face new challenges and opportunities.
After analyzing our company, we must also investigate who constitutes our target audience, what capacities we have to meet their expectations and what are the needs that our client may present in the immediate future.
In this sense, we must know who is buying the company’s products and services, what part or percentage of the market it is that makes up its customer base, and to what extent we may be able to retain this critical mass so that they continue to trust the company .
Once the current customer or installed base has been analyzed, we will examine the rest of the population that may be liable to become clients of the company. We will need to have a clear view of the demographic profile, the potential volume, its purchasing or decision-making capacity and the existence of variables and components that allow us to have access to this new opportunity to expand the company’s customer base.
Ultimately, it is about establishing a clear and concise profile of the ideal client for our organization, that is, what is known as a “buyer persona”.
I am always in favour of finding a balance between a realistic approach of competitors, that is, those companies that compete in a segment similar to ours and with which, in some way, we can establish a comparison concerning ours by size and markets. , with considering the possibility of including a quasi-unreachable leader in the sector that forces us to make a little more effort to overcome the natural barriers that our company has in the form of resources and capabilities against this giant, not necessarily by size but by positioning.
Therefore, we should look at our direct rivals, but we can also be inspired by trying to brush the wings of a bird that undoubtedly flies higher than us, but that forces us, in a way, to be better every day in our activity and consequently will help us As a company to continue growing in aspirations and business opportunities in the medium and long term.
Currently, and thanks to the Internet and social networks, we can carry out a complete analysis of our competition, even with the appropriate tools we can get to know what degree of penetration and positioning they have in the different target markets of our organization.
Analysis of the portfolio of products and services
In a good marketing plan, you cannot miss an analysis of the products and services that the company makes available to its target audience in the market. In this sense, we must determine their attributes, their benefits and their life cycle to conveniently catalogue them and identify substitutes to promote cross-selling and complementary ones so as not to miss up-selling opportunities.
We will analyze the prices of products and services as well as market shares based on the type or category of the product. In other words, within our portfolio, we will have more affordable range products while we will have other high-end products aimed at a more select target audience.
We will also analyze the elasticity of demand, that is, how the customer reacts and his intention to buy against price changes, as well as the level of perception of the target customer for each price level of the company’s product portfolio.
With all the actors that make up the market duly identified and analyzed, it is time to obtain information on the evolution that the market has had so far and what are the keys that will define its immediate and medium-term future.
For this analysis, we must obtain the most accurate economic information possible from what the market turnover has supposed. Once again, the Internet plays a fundamental role today to collect information, studies and data that can be very helpful. This analysis exercise will allow us to determine what volume of business can be expected within each of the categories of products or services that make up the company and what is the room for improvement that we have to determine the potential growth of the income figure of the organization during the period defined in the plan.
In addition to the strictly economic information, we must take into account aspects such as the political environment and even the predominant culture in the target market because it will undoubtedly determine the objectives and the strategy to follow. It is not the same to try to enter Japan as in the United Kingdom, for example. This is a good sign that we must be aware of the environment to adequately define the steps to be followed by the plan.
Within the market analysis, what I usually address is also an analysis of the possible distribution channels of the company’s portfolio of products and services. We must identify the ideal channels taking into account the characteristics of our portfolio and the possibilities that each of the target markets in which we want to position ourselves offer us.
Once we have a list of the company’s competition, we must carry out a SWOT analysis, both internal and external, that allows us to know how far we can go with our plan in the short and medium-term.
Internal SWOT analysis
The first thing that we are going to focus on is analyzing from a perspective of the organization itself what are the strengths and weaknesses that we have in terms of attracting resources, for example, brand assets, structure, etc. We will also attend to the threats and opportunities that may be presenting themselves to accurately identify all the elements that can make the company more consistent in its attempt to position itself in the market.
External SWOT analysis
Once the situation has been analyzed at the organizational level, what we do is determine the strengths and opportunities presented by the market in general, in an international context and which may have an impact on the company itself. We will also analyze the weaknesses and threats that the company faces concerning the environment or market in which it must operate.
The next step in our marketing plan is to outline the objectives that the company will pursue during a specific period, a period that usually covers one year. They must be specific, measurable, achievable objectives and must be well defined, in addition to having the necessary flexibility to adapt them to the new demands or unforeseen events that the market presents during the marked period.
To achieve the success of our strategy and achieve the proposed objectives, we must be aware of the economic capacity we have to carry out all the planned actions. It is an essential aspect that will undoubtedly determine the objectives that we define in our plan since, for example, it does not make sense to be very ambitious in our goals if we do not have the necessary financial capacity that can be aligned with excessive claims to the real capabilities of the company.
We must, therefore, adapt our plan to the financial capacity of the company and a well-defined budget is undoubtedly an essential starting point to determine the scope of our claims.
And what strategies should we follow to achieve the proposed objectives? Above all, what strategies are we going to be able to design according to the assigned budget?
To determine in the best possible way the strategy to follow, my advice is to analyze it from multiple angles or points of view to obtain the most complete vision possible that will help me to design much better the steps or tactics to follow to achieve the defined objectives. Only with a comprehensive view can we make decisions that are useful for the survival of the company in the medium and long term since a lack of perspective can backfire.
In addition, in my opinion, it is essential to define the tone or type of communication with which we are going to address the market to homogenize the message and ensure that it will arrive in the same way regardless of the channel or medium that the company uses.
I usually distinguish between strategies concerning competition and policy about the segmentation I have made of the target market.
Strategies regarding competition
In that sense, to define the strategy with respect to the competition, we usually have three well-differentiated options:
- We can follow the industry leader and determine our actions based on what the competition does. In this case, we must decide who is the leader of the sector, what resources it has and what it does. We will try to do something similar since apparently the leader works, therefore, we will try to replicate it adapting it to our resources and capabilities.
- We can differentiate ourselves from the competition and in this case, we will analyze it to follow completely different steps and somehow do what they do not do to identify opportunities.
- Finally, we can take advantage of an untapped niche taking into account that currently, within the framework of a globalized market, there are few actions or strategies that we can carry out and that has not already occurred in the market in any way.
In my opinion, the strategy to follow should be marked by a careful analysis of these three sections, perhaps introducing elements that, according to the company’s capabilities, can provide an innovative point of view about how we should approach the market.
Strategies regarding segmentation
The strategy to follow for this area can also be analyzed from a triple perspective:
- Attack the same audience as the competition.
- Go for a different audience than the competition.
- Take advantage of an untapped niche.
In general, my strategy is to go for the same target audience as the competition since usually companies generally offer a very homogeneous range of products or services within their sector, but there is the nuance, I like to introduce a series of elements in the portfolio that will allow us to distinguish ourselves and access opportunities that our competitors may leave aside either because they do not have structure or resources or because they do not enter into their short-term plans. This circumstance leaves our competition without the capacity to react in the short term, which gives us a substantial advantage in the short term that we must take advantage of, as soon our competition will respond and will try to match the bets in its fight for the end customer.
In my opinion, it is essential to be able to identify those key elements that can help us introduce differentiation aspects in our offer to be able to differentiate ourselves, even if it is by nuances, from the increasingly homogeneous competition.
Well, we already have the necessary parameters defined on which to carry out the actions we want to implement, so now we must determine what we are going to do in the coming months to achieve the proposed objectives.
We must write for each defined objective a set of actions that we will carry out to achieve it, as well as a plan that we will draw up through a calendar that includes the deadlines for the execution of said actions. In this calendar, we will establish the milestones to be achieved as well as the necessary resources for performance to be effective.
Once we are immersed in the full execution of the marketing plan, the first thing we must do is take a look at the market to determine the level of success that every one of the tactics that we are implementing is having.
To analyze the level of effectiveness of our plan, we must define a series of indicators or KPIs (Key Performance Indicator), which will tell us where we are at all times and will help us make essential decisions to achieve the long-awaited achievement of objectives.
And what indicators are the most appropriate to include in a marketing plan? Well, that depends on each company and each situation because the information to be obtained will vary greatly depending on the sector in which the company operates, the market, the distribution channels of the portfolio and other aspects that, as I say, will determine the choice of KPIs or others.
Finally, we must identify the technological tools that we are going to use for the proper development and execution of the marketing plan. Both in the daily operations of the company and its commercial activity both inside and outside our borders, it is necessary to be able to work with reliable data and information to help us make the most appropriate decisions, and that is why I always recommend supporting the operational in the most appropriate management solutions.
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