Successful Marketing Plan Execution

Hitting the target

It was one of those perfect October Saturdays.  The air had that fall crispness that’s so refreshing after a hot summer and the sky was that brilliant turquoise blue that only comes this time of the year.  You were ready for a great football game, after all your team had an incredibly talented roster of players, were coached by one of the best, had the most sophisticated set of plays and the morale was at its highest.  You just couldn’t lose…..but you did.  What happened?

What we have here is a failure to execute!

A well researched, documented and detailed strategic marketing plan is nothing but great intentions unless it is executed flawlessly.  Absolute attention to detail is the key and if executed properly, the plan will deliver on the increased sales that were the initial objective.

Here are some important things to remember:

  1. Make sure that you have the right resources in place and that they are committed to the plan. If internal departments were involved in creating the plan and had input, chances are very good that you will have their buy-in.  There’s nothing worse than generating great leads from a direct marketing action only to have the sales department not follow through.  Not only will the leads become stale, but the expectations of the prospects will not be met, generating negative impressions.  It’s also imperative to have the right external resources.  The selection of the right mix of vendors to perform the tactical actions is critical as their performance directly relates to your success, so it’s important not to fly through this step.
  2. Be sure to build in proper lead times. Things don’t happen as quickly as you might expect.  Sometimes a new website can take as long as sixty days to complete.  A good rule of thumb is to be working three to six months in advance and if your campaign is particularly complex, involving both offline and online efforts, you may need even more time.  There is a potential danger: allowing too much time, where other priorities start jumping in the way.  It’s a bit of a balancing act.
  3. Determine up front what every department, vendor etc. is going to need in order to properly execute their piece. If the sales department needs to upgrade their Customer Relationship Management system in order to follow through on leads, make sure that takes place before you start spending money on generating those leads.  Also, if one of the goals of your plan is to increase sales by 15%, you’ve got to have the capacity to produce or you’ll end up with unhappy customers.
  4. Hold people accountable for their commitments. A solid project management tool can be instrumental in documenting and communicating critical dates and benchmarks as well as formalizing expectations.  Who is supposed to be doing what and by when will keep the execution of your marketing plan from unraveling or underperforming.

Ongoing monitoring and follow-up is going to be a necessary aspect throughout the life of your marketing plan and most important, stay committed to the plan.  People and vendors will bring ideas or great media buy deals to you, which must be weighed against the plan to determine if they meet your plan’s objectives.

Lastly, if all of this coordination is outside of your ability or time constraints to manage, consider bringing expertise in to help, something we are very good at.

Five Steps to an Effective Marketing Plan

Plan blueprint

I’ll just start this post with some quotes I dug up:

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”

Earl Nightingale (1921-1989) American Radio Announcer, Author & Speaker

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
George S. Patton (1885-1945) American Army General, WWII

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

Plato  (BC 427-BC 347) Greek philosopher.

Okay, no more famous dead people quotes but there’s nothing here that any of us don’t already know, it’s just easier said than done.  Many times we just don’t know where to begin, or if we do, we need a guide to help us along the way.  Most important though, it’s better just to get something down in writing.  By writing it down, it memorializes your thoughts and makes commitments to your goals much more definable.

So, where does one begin when putting together an effective marketing plan?

I have outlined below some very general, basic steps to follow to help you get started. Knowing that there are many very smart people out there, I prefer to use the wisdom of two authors, Roman G. Hiebing, Jr. and Scott W. Cooper from their third addition of “The Successful Marketing Plan” for reference.

Step One-Business Review

This first step is probably the most involved and perhaps the most important as this entails building the database that you will use year after year as your benchmark.  Various sources for gathering this data exist, not the least of which are your own sales records and will include analysis of your company, your competitors, your product and the marketplace respective to whom you are trying to target.  It is also important to look at the philosophy of your company, your goals and aspirations, and how you want to make a difference.  Your business plan is a great place to start but you may need to do secondary research from industry reports. Surveys and focus groups are also sometimes involved. From this research you can start to analyze your Problems and Opportunities.  Some people refer to this as the SWOT analysis (stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).  The more information you can include here, the better.

Step Two-Marketing Objectives and Sales Objectives

No plan works without clearly defined and measurable objectives.  With the thorough understanding of your target market and its demographics and buying patterns, you articulate what it is you want this target market to do.  What action do you want your target market to take?  How will the target market use your product or service and what are their buying cycles and habits?  Once you’ve established what you want them to do (your marketing objectives) you can now quantify how these actions translate into sales and profits.  If you haven’t defined exactly what kind of sales you hope to achieve, it will be difficult to know how the plan is performing.  What kind of sales must you have to make a profit and stay in business?  What kinds of margins are you able to command?  Be as specific as possible.

Step Three-Plan Strategies and Communication Goals

Here you are defining the desired perception of your product or service within your target market relative to your competition.  This is brand positioning and helps you decide how you will communicate with the target, what awareness and attitudes will be necessary to deliver on your defined objectives.  While the marketing objectives above are specific, quantifiable and measurable, the marketing strategies explain how these objectives will be met and will guide the tactical marketing tools you establish later in your plan.

Step Four-Tactical Marketing Mix Tools

It’s not uncommon for many business owners to jump right to this step.  Do you need a new website?  Is email or social media a better way to go?  Should you buy television advertising time or use outdoor billboards?  Will ads in trade magazines build more awareness?  If you have done a good job in the previous steps, this step should almost build itself.  You will have a clearer understanding of what marketing tools to use with the information formulated above.

Step Five-Budgets, Payback Analysis & Calendar

Clearly you must know what the execution of the plan is expected to cost as well as whether your plan’s marketing programs will generate the projected revenues that will exceed expenses.  This is also the step where you establish the calendar of when certain tactical activities will take place.  It is here that you can establish those tactical activities that should bring about a faster result and therefore a quicker return on the investment versus tactical activities where the results are longer term.  This kind of prioritization will determine your calendar.  It is important to stick to this calendar and budget in order to track the plan’s overall effectiveness.

If it seems like the seventy hours per week you are already putting in simply doesn’t allow time for creating this kind of marketing plan, don’t feel alone.  It is where my passion for helping business owners took me and why I offer to help with this important business process.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments.

Next time I’ll talk about your Marketing Plan Execution.

Article-Based Advertising Can Get Results

Classical booksEveryone loves the storyteller who captures our minds and tickles our desire to be entertained, to be carried away to a world that only exists in our imaginations.  It’s what makes the classics so accessible and worth reading; their creators were incredible storytellers.  I wrote a recent blog about how to use storytelling in your marketing,  but there is a recent post about a two year consumer preference survey which supports this concept of creating content on the Internet that can help build brand awareness and drive sales if written as an article or in a story-based form versus other methods of online advertising.

Jack Loechner, writing for the Center for Media Research, sites a two year study conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation whose results show that “article-based advertising was preferred by 53% of respondents who said they are ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ to read and act upon the material, compared to 51% a year ago.”  And of the age demographic of 25 to 34, there was a 66% favorable reaction.  Even the affluent, those making in excess of $75,000 per year, showed a 60% likelihood of reading and acting upon this kind of content.  These results far outdistanced other methods of Internet advertising like pop-up ads and sponsored search.

In examining closer, we find that this two year study was sponsored by Adfusion, which is a company that writes “advertorials” for their clients that are placed in publications around the country.  These are stories that are made to appear as articles but are really brand promotions.  This could cause us to invalidate these survey results; however I believe that would be a hasty conclusion.

I am not saying that when writing a blog, article, or newsletter, that there should be a blatant self-promotion or an attempt to fool people into believing that they are reading a legitimate article when in reality it is simply brand advertising.

What I am saying is that if you provide value through the telling of a story, and your readers find it interesting, then you will likely see a positive reaction to your brand. This in turn can support the other methods of direct advertising which are a part of your overall media mix and as the survey above shows, can bring measurable results.

What are your thoughts?