Tag Archives: Strategic Marketing Plans

Could Santa Claus Use a Strategic Marketing Plan?

Santa Claus

Let’s take a good look at Santa Claus.  Here’s a guy who has been in business for hundreds of years but when you look at his Business Plan, it sure ain’t pretty!

  • First of all is his location. There’s no way he could be a “destination based” business, who in the world is going to want to travel to the frigid North Pole.
  • Next, he’s obviously not too concerned about profits, since he gives everything away!  How he’s able to do this and sustain his business I’ll never know.
  • He’s quite overweight, which means he’s probably paying a fortune in health insurance, especially to cover all of those workers.  When you look at his rosy cheeks, you just wonder whether he’s a heart attack waiting to happen.
  • I’m not sure how he’s been able to avoid the unionization of his elves.
  • He has been offering the same products and services since his inception.  Most business plans require some modifications and adjustments to account for changes in customer demand.
  • You wonder whether he has updated anything from a technological standpoint, since he is still cruising around in a sleigh drawn by reindeer.  Has he not heard of the internal combustion engine?
  • He still keeps his database of “naughty” and “nice” children in a large book.  Does he have something against computers?
  • Talk about stress!  He waits to deliver all of his products during one twenty-four hour period.  Most businesses try to level out the peaks and valleys.

Since it’s obvious that his Business Plan leaves a lot to be desired, perhaps we can help him with a Strategic Marketing Plan that will take some of the pressure off and insure that his business continues to grow.

A.  We have to begin with the GOALS of the plan.

  • Since Santa Claus holds the market leader position, first and foremost, we want him to retain that leadership position and remain “top of mind.”  This will probably entail specific tactical actions to counter any competitive threats that may come.
  • Another goal would be to maintain the current level of demand as measured through the number of requests coming via email and snail mail.  This should include the website where an accurate measurement of conversions and requests would be possible.
  • Third, since we want to ensure long-term growth, a continued strategy of reinforcing market awareness will be necessary.  This could be measured through comparison to population growth.  Market image and perceptions could be evaluated based on target market survey results.

B.  Next we shall examine DEMOGRAPHIC and MARKET TRENDS.

  • The target market continues to be children ages 2 through about 12 and who have been good for the last twelve months.  However, we cannot ignore the parents of this target market as they will be strong influencers and can help to drive demand.
  • Since we have seen a decrease in the population size of the target market, it will be necessary to examine markets outside the traditional service areas.
  • As we move into new market areas, we may experience a shift in the kinds of products demanded, focusing more on staples like clothing, shoes, food and basics instead of electronics and toys.
  • The “viral” nature of communications by the target market through social networks can be expected to continue.

C.  No Strategic Marketing Plan is complete without a S.W.O.T. ANALYSIS

  • Strengths
    • Santa Claus was first to the market
    • There is a high level of market awareness
    • He holds the leadership position and significant market share
    • Santa has the manufacturing capacity and a strong work force
    • He has a solid track record of reliability and quality
  • Weaknesses
    • Santa is technologically behind the times
    • He probably lacks the capital for an extensive marketing push
    • We cannot be sure of his succession plan should something happen to him
  • Opportunities
    • New markets could open much larger demand
    • His concept of giving could spread to those outside the target market
  • Threats
    • We must assume a strong competitive threat as “copy cat” Santa Clauses attempt to steal market share
    • There is the potential that the target market could stop believing

With this plan in place, we can now start to chart the Media Calendar and Marketing Spend which we believe will drive the results that will help Santa Claus achieve his short and long-term goals.  It will be necessary to periodically measure results and make adjustments to ensure success……………..

I have had a lot of fun with this post and I hope you have had fun reading it.

My sincere wish during this season and year-round is that since we all live together on this tiny planet, that we find a way to Have peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind.” Let’s all do our part to make this a reality.

All my best,

David Soxman

Do You Have a Disconnect Between Sales and Marketing?

Road closed sign

I was talking with a business owner the other day at a networking event and when the subject came up about the importance of having a marketing plan to follow, he said, “well isn’t marketing just sales?”

I don’t mean to poke fun at this individual because I strongly believe he is not alone.  I can’t count how many calls I have received that have asked for a marketing person when in reality, they were looking for a sales person.  This distinction between marketing and sales is important to make, particularly in Business-to-Business (B2B) sales, where the buying cycle can be complex and take much longer, particularly on bigger ticket products and services.

Marketing’s objective is multi-faceted: to raise awareness of the company, product or service; to educate the public on the product’s use or value; and to generate qualified leads.  Once the lead information has been captured, regardless of how that took place, it is then handed to sales to negotiate and close the deal, resulting in the transfer of money.  But is this the way it really works?

As we all know, this overly simplified scenario above is not exactly reality, because it doesn’t take into account the quality of the lead.  As the buying cycle of many products and services lengthens, a prospective buyer at a moment in time can be at any number of stages in their process of making a purchase.  Marketing may have captured their lead information, but do they really know at what stage of the buying process the lead is?

Now we move to what I call the disconnect in this process.  So many times, when it is determined by sales that the lead is not ready to purchase now, it is simply discarded as a poor quality lead.  Depending on how the lead information was collected, if the prospect made the effort to provide information, then it could probably be considered a valid lead and therefore should not be discarded.  What should take place in this process is a method for sales, after having discovered the lead is not ready to purchase now, to be able to return the lead to marketing for what we call “nurturing.”

Nurturing a lead through their buying cycle involves a unique set of communications messages.  Hopefully sales was able to determine at what stage the prospect was at: awareness, interest, intent, consideration or comparison.  Based upon this information, a schedule of specific messages can be established to stay in front of the lead and remain in the forefront of their mind, helping them through their buying decision process.  Once marketing can determine that the lead is ready to buy, it can then be shifted back to sales to close, and the circle is completed.

In order for this process to not become too onerous, it is imperative to have in place the proper technology to automate this function to help maintain consistency and to improve tracking and measurement.

I thought the following chart from MarketingSherpa was interesting in how it relates to this topic of lead quality and the challenges all marketers face.

New Chart: Today’s Most Significant Challenges for B2B Marketers to Overcome

Marketing Challenges chart

I would love to know your thoughts on this.

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.