Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Formal Marketing Plan

My last blog post was about the 4 P's or the basic ingredients to the so called, Marketing Mix.  I stated that the 4 P's are the foundation of a proper marketing plan.  Don't have a marketing plan?  Now is as good a time as any to get started.

Here is a list of topics that should be included in your formal marketing plan and some examples of the specifics:
  1. Executive Summary - this is at the front, but usually written last
  2. Current Situation Analysis - covers areas like resources, offering, KSFs, economic environment, socio-cultural, technology trends, etc.  Should include macro and micro analysis
  3. Market Summary - size, growth trend, regional differences, market needs, market trends, market position of the firm
  4. S.W.O.T.  -  remember that 'strengths' & 'weaknesses' are internal to the firm;  'opportunities' & 'threats' are external and reflect the target market
  5. Competitive Analysis - market share, market positions of competitors, strengths and weaknesses of competitors;  don't forget your customer's options 'not to use' as a competitor
  6. Critical Issues - these are make-or-break issues like the need for a marketing automation platform or content development strategy
  7. Marketing Strategy - how will the marketing strategy support the business strategy and/or corporate strategy?  objectives, target market definition, positioning, value proposition?  Will you use inbound, outbound, content, or combination?
  8. The Offering - describe the product or service
  9. Price - describe the pricing strategy
  10. Promotion - budget, tactics, messaging, regional differences
  11. Sales Channel - how will you move your product or service to the market so it can be purchased; direct, distribution, resellers, agents, licensing, other
  12. Financials - describe the important financial data, net sales growth, EBIT, targets, regional breakdown if applicable
  13. Controls & Measurement - how will you measure the marketing ROI and marketing spend, KPIs, planning milestones
This is not the only way to construct a formal Marketing Plan, however, it is a fairly comprehensive outline of a standard plan.  There are many, many textbooks, references and templates available and most of them are pretty good.  This Amazon page shows a few good references to get you started just in case you don't already have a marketing plan in place.  Today is a great day to get started on a plan or to update your existing plan.  These documents are not meant to be written and then ignored.  A good marketing plan is a dynamic document meant to be referred to and updated as your business environment lives and develops.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lost Art of the 4 Ps

Remember the 4 P's that make up the marketing mix;  Product, Price, Place, Promotion?  The theme of this blog is to look at fundamentals and cut through all the marketing stuff we hear about day in and day out.  Is anyone able to keep up with it all?  Not me.  So, my fellow Modern Marketers, let's look at the fundamental ingredients of the marketing mix.  I propose that marketing strategy and tactics built around the 4 P's is a lost art and should be brought to the surface.

I was attending an Eloqua Experience conference a few years ago and I remember someone up on the stage mocking the 4 P's.  It went something like this, "can you believe that some people are still talking about the 4 P's".  I said to myself, what ignorance is this I'm hearing from a company selling marketing expertise no less?  Sure, marketing automation tools like Eloqua, Marketo, et al are great, but they are not a strategy in themselves, they are only a tool that enables execution.  Every Modern Marketer must understand the fundamentals of their business and how it relates to the marketing mix.  If you don't understand this, stop what you're doing, back up and make sure you have a clearly defined answer for each of these 4 P's.

P1 - Product.  Everyone in business is selling something and at some point you decide on what product you will attempt to sell.  Product could be a physical thing or a service. Why did your firm choose the product or service you are presently marketing?

P2 - Price.  At some other point, you decided how much you would charge for your product.  Price is usually taken much more lightly than it should be.  Price may be just a way to make a profit or it might be part of the strategy to take a position in the market.  How did your firm arrive at it's price structure?

P3 - Place.  Place defines the channel uses to sell your product;  direct, distributors, resellers, agents, mix, etc.  At some point, there is a transaction where your product is exchanged for money, this is the 'Place'.  Why did your firm choose the channel where your products are sold?

P4 - Promotion.  Ah, finally, we arrive at the place where most of us Modern Marketers understand.  What's that, you thought marketing was only about promotion?  Non, non monsieur et madame. (I'm at the Montreal Airport right now, so threw in a little local flavor here).  Promotion is about how we tell the target market about our wonderful product and why they should buy many.  Why are you choosing the promotions you are executing on a daily basis?

The 4 P's are the trunk of the tree.  Everything related to marketing which is really everything about the business, should come back to the 4 P's.  For you, the Modern Marketer, are the "baker of the cake" and the ingredients of the cake are product, price, place, and promotion.

Your formal marketing plan should address each 'P' in detail.  What's that, you don't have a formal marketing plan?  Mon Dieu!  If you don't have a formal marketing plan, you'll be amazed at what you don't know about your business.  Get started today.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


TOMA is top-of-mind-awareness. 

I started out in marketing as a salesman for ad specialties and eventually started my own ad specialty business.  I'm talking about the stuff affectionately known as swag, tchotchkes, promotional products, etc.   (a $17 billion a year industry) I learned from an old pro that the good professionals guided their customers in looking at the purpose of the promotional product not just the product itself.  If you wanted to create good will, you chose a higher end item and made a strong presentation.  If you wanted to make them say 'wow', you found something different or new.  If you wanted them to remember you, you gave them something they would keep with them at the place where they made purchasing decisions.  Naturally, all of it has a logo, phone number, web site, email or some contact info so that when the day came and they needed to purchase something that the gift giver offered, the gift giver was 'top-of-mind' and they got the call.

TOMA is the fundamental concept behind content marketing.  The Modern Marketer knows that one of the two primary purposes of content is to place their firm top of mind with prospective customers.  What's that you say, what's second purpose?  The second purpose is to establish credibility.

The challenge for the Modern Marketer is to establish TOMA with the ideal prospect or target market.  Now, you have to ask yourself the question, "Have I established TOMA with the people in my target market?"   If you cannot or will not answer 'yes' to this question, then the bad news is you have a lot of work to do.  The really great news is that there is huge upside potential for those firms that are willing and able to establish TOMA.  TOMA with customers is also important, but it's implied since the firm already has a relationship.

Most people (perhaps up to 98%) who respond to a campaign of one sort or the other are not ready to buy or even engage with the firm at that time.  However, statistics show that 80% of that group will eventually buy what you are selling.  The question is, will they buy from you?

A strong content marketing strategy executed well is the best way to establish TOMA in this modern marketing world.

Check out Joe Pulizzi's blog, Content Marketing Institute, for some great content about content marketing.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ethnocentrism and the Modern Marketer

Did  you ever wonder why those people in distant lands are so strange?  They're just so different; we can't understand why they do the things they do.  They're too slow, too careful, too careless, they have no sense of urgency, they don't respect superiors, they treat superiors like friends, they take forever to eat a meal, and on and on and on.  Most of us are ethnocentric.  We view the world through our own cultural lens and compare experiences to our own culture.  I'm not just talking about Americans, this happens in nearly every culture.  Do you think you are ethnocentric?

If you happen to work for a global company as I do, it is very beneficial to have an understanding of the broad cultural differences and similarities.  There are several dimensional frameworks that classify cultural differences and my favorite is the model developed by Geert Hofstede.  In my travels and in working with colleagues from around the globe, I find this model generally true to my experience anyways.  I find that understanding the differences and similarities between our own culture and that of our colleagues makes life a lot easier in a global corporation.  It is especially important for managers who have direct reports around the globe to understand the cultural dimensions in order to cultivate happy and high performing cross-cultural teams.  Without a thoughtful understanding of your team's differences, it is too easy to draw negative conclusions causing one misunderstanding after another.

Hofstede's talks about 6 dimensions; Power Distance, Individualism versus collectivism, Masculinity versus femininity, Uncertainty avoidance, Long-term versus short-term orientation, and Indulgence versus restraint.  The results are truly fascinating and I encourage everyone to take a look and compare your country's culture to a colleague's culture.  It might explain a lot about your present interactions.

I'd like to make a strong disclaimer that it's not wise to try to put everyone from a certain culture into a box.  Naturally, there are many other cultural factors that influence each individual. The Hofstede dimensions should be applied more broadly and not so much directly to individuals.

Most Modern Marketers deal with myriad cultures in this modern globalized world, so check out the Hofstede dimensions.  I guarantee it will improve your cross-cultural relationships and make your business (and maybe personal) life easier and more productive.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quick, What's your Value Proposition?

Are you able to respond quickly and automatically when someone asks you this question?  Most of us are not able to articulate a good value proposition (vp) whether it's the vp of the firm we work for or our own personal vp.  Today, I'll discuss in the context of the firm and leave it to you to ponder your own personal proposed value.

Why is it so hard to articulate what should be ingrained in your corporate mindset?  Most of us default to describing the offering.  It might go something like this:  "What's XYX company's value proposition?"  "Well, ahm, we're the global leader in the manufacture of premium widgets.  Our widgets are the best, most reliable and most cost effective on the market.  ABC, DEF, and GHI are some of our global customers.  Oh, and we just released version X which is our fastest widget yet."  If I'm a prospective customer, I ask myself, WIIFM (what's in it for me).  I don't see any value in this statement unless I draw conclusions about 'fast' or 'reliable' which I'm too lazy to do.  Perhaps a fast widget is important to me and there may be some value to speed, so why not make that statement as a value proposition?  For example:  "Our widgets are fast (as proven by an independent testing lab) which means your manufacturing time is reduced by 15% translating to a 25% increase in operating profit."  Hmmm, now I see some value in the increased speed of your widget and there may be some value to me after all.

The question still remains; how is a firm to determine their value proposition?   The vp is born out of the strategy, assuming the strategy is more than just another 'me too' offering.  Strategy development is beyond this discussion, however if you are able to extract these components, you should be able to craft a good value proposition:

  1. Why do your customers choose your offering?    Avoid generalizations.  Break it down to buying criteria.  You should see at least 2 common themes.
  2. Survey your target market to determine the buying criteria and the associated priorities.  Ideally the results will be statistically significant, however, at the very least you will have some qualitative data.
  3. Align your core competencies and/or defensible differentiators with the buying criteria to help craft the value proposition.
Tip - Don't ask your customers what is most important, ask them about their buying criteria.  The two may be very different.  For example, if you ask someone what's most important to them in using air travel, the answer is likely 'safety'.  Ask the same person what factors they use to make a purchase decision and you'll likely get a different answer because 'safety' is a given (in most cases).

Tip - Don't rely solely on input from your customers for they have already chosen you and may not reflect the buying criteria of the target market in general.

Check out for some very good discussion about value propositions.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

5 Key Success Factors for the Modern Marketer

To summarize, we discussed 5 Key Success Factors for a modern marketer.   Just to clarify, these are not the only KSFs but I suggest they are 5 basic KSFs that every marketer should have on their own list.  What's that you say, you don't have your own list of KSFs?  Well then what a great time to start building your list.

KSF 1, Understand the needs, wants and desires of your target market(s).  Be the voice of the customer for your firm.

KSF 2, Understand the real capabilities of your firm.  Dig into the inner workings of your company's departments like operations, R&D, shipping, manufacturing for example.  Don't rely on hearsay or on what the executive management says.

KSF 3, Develop and maintain an excellent and complete knowledge of your offering.  Not only will this give you credibility with your key stakeholders, but it is essential in preparing the value proposition and associated messaging.

KSF 4, Alignment between Marketing and Sales.  Firms that achieve the nirvana (or enlightenment) of this alignment will typically outperform those that cannot achieve alignment.

KSF 5, Be intimate with the R&D team.  R&D need your market knowledge and needs to hear the voice of the customer in order to develop the correct competitive offering.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

KSF Number 5; Be Intimate with the R&D Team

KSF Number 5, The Modern Marketer Must be Intimate with the R&D Team.  In order for R&D to develop and deliver products or services that fill a need and differentiate in the marketplace, they need to have access to market information and hear the voice of the customer.  The Marketer needs to be very involved and provide guidance to the R&D team in order to be successful.  I've seen many cases in companies started by engineers where R&D considers the marketing team just the 'girls down the hall' who make brochures and set up shows for the sales guys.  The engineers think they know best and build products based on their limited knowledge of the market.  In these type of companies, typically, more products fail than succeed.  The take-away here is that it's up to the marketer to develop a close relationship with the R&D team by establishing lines of communication and a mutual trust.

It is only after the Modern Marketer establishes credibility by achieving in depth market knowledge and knowledge of the firm and it's offering that R&D will begin to base their developing offering on the market data.  Think about the firm you work for today and consider how the new offering is chosen.  Is it chosen by the R&D team?  the sales team? the C-suite?  Ideally, all of these groups contribute and it should be the marketer who brings everyone together along with some real data so all hear the whispering voice of the customer.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

KSF Number 4; Alignment Between Marketing and Sales

KSF Number 4, Alignment Between Marketing and Sales. Does the sales team know what the marketing team is doing on a daily basis and on a strategic basis?   Do they know the value proposition, target market and associated messaging? Does the marketing team have a clue about the daily activities of the sales team or their needs, wants, frustrations, likes or dislikes about marketing activities or content?  In many cases, the answer to these questions is typically 'no'.  There is much writing and commiserating about this topic. Check out the Eloqua weblog, 'It's All About Revenue' for some good posts, writing and references about this subject. Alignment between these seemingly disparate functions is very hard to achieve.  However, data shows that the firm that is able to accomplish alignment between sales and marketing will significantly outperform those firms that do not achieve alignment thus it is a KSF for the Modern Marketing Team.

As a manager of both global marketing and regional execution, I experience the difficulty in achieving alignment every day.  Sales is busy and focused on doing everything they can to sell more. Marketing is working hard to generate demand through events, brochures, emails, etc. and never the twain shall meet as they say.  My experience tells me that the critical piece of the alignment puzzle is direction from the top of the chain of command.  Ideally, I would have a senior person leading, let's say, a 'revenue team', which includes field sales, inside sales, field marketers, content developers, etc. The ubiquitous structure where there is a sales team and a separate marketing team with different leaders should be abolished and replaced with the single 'revenue team'.  Once this structure is changed, you are in a much better position to achieve alignment within one team versus struggling to align, what commonly is seen as two disparate 'empires', if you please.

Next and final post of the KSF series, KSF 5, Marketing and the R&D Team

Saturday, May 5, 2012

2 Simple Rules for Trade Show Success

We just finished our single largest trade show event this year, Interphex 2012 in NYC and I realize, once again, trade shows are here to stay.  In spite of all our digital tools like marketing automation, content management, webinar platforms, VOIP video calls and even virtual trade shows, we all love the real excitement and energy of a live trade show.

10 years ago when I owned a marketing production company, as a pioneer in content marketing, I taught small Chambers of Commerce and other Associations about trade show best practices.  As I reflect on the best practices, I come to the conclusion that trade shows require a lot of work to make them successful.  The fundamentals that drive booth traffic and increase ROI have not changed in 20 years.  As I strode along the aisles of Interphex 2012, I saw a myriad of booth sizes from the large 40'x40' to the small 10'x10' with all kinds of booth components, slogans, dress, give-aways, ad nauseam.  Remarkably, if you asked people who stood at similar booth sizes and locations how the show was going, some said "great show", others said "it's kind of slow".  How could this be?  It's the same booth size, same show attendance, same location but different results.  I would bet that the ROI directly correlates to these different perceptions as well.

Although a successful show does take a lot of work, if you follow just these 2 simple and basic rules, you will be one of those who say "great show" and not one of those sad booths with no traffic and no energy:
  1. Let them know you'll be there and why they should visit your booth.  I've seen the oft quoted statistic that 80% of trade show visitors decide which booths they will visit before ever setting foot on the show floor.  You need to let your target audience know ahead of the show that you will be there and give them a compelling reason to put you on their list of booths to visit.  What's that you say, of course our customers will seek us out, they love us and how could they resist our charm and our magnetic smiles?  Think again my friend, you even need to give your customers a reason to visit. We offered a very simple promotion this year at Interphex; stop by to see some new products and pick up a free t-shirt for your trouble.  It worked like a charm.  We had more visitors than any previous year.  I couldn't help but feel sorry for the booth across the aisle with not much activity and a booth size twice as big.  Undoubtedly, they did not tell their target audience or their customers about the show or give them a reason so visit.  But, they did seem charming and magnetic.
  2. Follow up quickly.  After 3 days, every day that goes by causes an exponential decrease in your show ROI.   Make sure the sales people follow up on requests immediately and that everyone else who visited the booth gets some type of follow up correspondence or action within 3 days.  You would be amazed at the number of companies who spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a show but never follow up with the visitors after the show.  It's hard.  The poor salesman spends 3 days at the show, offline or partially offline and when he gets back, there's just too much "real work" to do, so the leads go into the CRM or sit on his desk, never to be heard from again.  This scenario is the BIGGEST killer of trade show ROI above and beyond any other issue.
If you're a Modern Marketer, you need to face it, trade shows aren't going away and you, as the marketer, need to make sure they pay off.  These two rules will help you make it pay.  There are plenty of books and gurus out there to give you good tips.  Or shoot me an email and I'll be glad to chat with you about your trade show challenges.

Next blog finishes out my 5 Key Success Factors for the Modern Marketer.