Sunday, October 28, 2012

Marketing Plan - Step 1 'Current Situation'

These are the steps for creating a proper marketing plan:
  • Step 1 - Situation Analysis
  • Step 2 - Objectives & Issues
  • Step 3 - Target Market analysis
  • Step 4 - Marketing Strategy
  • Step 5 - Marketing Programs
  • Step 6 - Financial Plans
  • Step 7 - Measurement & Controls
  • Step 8 - Executive Summary

Image from Management Study Guide
Step 1 - Situation Analysis.  Now is the time to take stock of where you are at your present situation.  You can't create an effective plan to move forward if you don't have a concise understanding of the point where you start.  There are 5 sections in this step:
  1. Summarize your market.  This is a great place to bring in your cross-functional team together. Market summary should include a definition of market demographics, needs of your target market, trends, and current, past and future growth.  Michael Porter's Five Forces framework is an excellent tool for the market assessment. There is also a nice summary here from the Management Study Guide web site.  Keep in mind that understanding  your market may include primary or secondary research.
  2. SWOT Analysis.  Now, you should prepare a summary of what you learned in the previous step using a SWOT framework.  One common mistake I see in these summaries is people mixing up the strengths and weaknesses with the opportunities and threats.  Strengths and weaknesses are internal to your firm.  Opportunities and threats are external from the market.
  3. Analysis of Competition.  In this section, include a SWOT analysis for each of your main competitors. It's important to understand your competitors core competencies, value message, market perception, and why customers choose the competition instead of your firm.

Disclaimer:  I understand this is a very broad overview of a highly detailed subject.  My purpose here is to help you start thinking about this process.   The process of writing a plan is extremely helpful in building a profitable and growing business. You should find a good reference to go along these posts.  I recommend, 'The Marketing Plan Handbook' as a great reference.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Marketing Plan - Prepare and Engage

You should not write your marketing plan in a vacuum.  In other words, you should not just sit down and write it on your own.  It's important to have support from above and buy-in from your stakeholders.

You will need to have a strong understanding of your company's business strategy, positioning strategy and the associated value proposition.  What's that you say, your executive team doesn't know or is not able to articulate this information?  Never fear, sadly, it's not that unusual.

It is highly probable that your executive might say, "we don't need no stinking marketing plan, I have it all in my head" or some words to that effect.  If this is what you hear, get ready to launch your importance and the standing of your marketing team to the stratosphere with the likes of 'Sales' and 'Operations'.   Marketing is no longer just the folks down the hall who set up trade shows and make brochures.  In this modern age, Marketing is a key contributor to the business; providing advice on strategy, offering development, voice of customer, KPIs, financial analysis and the like.  Marketing now commands a seat at the executive table.

One way to elevate from the brochure folks to the executive table is to write a proper marketing plan. Before you delve into section 1, Assessing the Current Situation, you must understand the components of the business.  In order to understand the components, you need to assemble a diverse cross functional team.  I suggest some or all of these folks:
  • CEO, President or General Manager
  • Head of Sales
  • Head of R&D
  • Head of Finance
  • You - Head of Marketing, Marketing Director or CMO
Now that you have the commitment of your key business stakeholders, you're ready to take on Step 1, 'Assess the Current Situation'.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Your 2014 Marketing Plan - Start!

We're well into the 4th quarter and many Modern Marketers' thoughts are turning to their 2014 marketing plans, activities, goals, etc.  I think it's really important that each and every marketer go through the exercise of writing a marketing plan.  What's that you say, your CEO or CMO says they have the marketing plan in their head or they know what the plan is so there's no need to write it down?  If that is the case in your company, I challenge you to challenge your management on this issue.

If a marketing plan is not written down, then it does not exist. Period.

It's a lot of work to write a proper marketing plan, but I guarantee that it is worth it.  What are you waiting for?  Time to get started.

I'll be writing a series of blog posts over the next few weeks talking about each part of the marketing plan.  As a refresher, you may want to review this overview I wrote a few months ago, The Formal Marketing Plan.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Top 6 Techniques for Persuasion and Influence

Now that we've spent the last few weeks discussing the 6 principles for persuading and influencing, I'd like to summarize in one blog post.

  1. Reciprocity - This is the same idea as the Golden Rule.  Treat people like you would like to be treated.  More specifically, you get what (or if) you give.  It is a deeply ingrained human predisposition to repay in kind when we are given some thing or another.  One way the Modern Marketer can apply this principle is with a good content marketing program.  Give away information that is valued by your target audience and watch your business growth soar.
  2. Liking - People are more influenced by those people they like. And people generally like other people similar to themselves and/or people who like them.  Tactics to increase your likability are praising and pointing out similarities.  Always be authentic in your praise.  One way the Modern Marketer can use this principle is using imagery and language that resonates with the target audience.
  3. Social Proof - People are influenced by the ideas, actions and statements made by or endorsed by the group of people they consider as being part of their own group or type.  One example of applying this principle in practice is the tried and true customer testimonial.
  4. Authority -  People who are viewed as experts are able to persuade and influence because of their perceived expertise.  A Modern Marketer could apply this principle by branding an internal expert as an expert in a topic where the target market has interest.  And it's always good to remember; expertise = credibility = premium pricing.
  5. Consistency - The idea behind the principle of consistency is that people will, more often than not, want to remain consistent with their stated or written opinions, values or commitments. If you want to influence your colleagues, subordinates, or your boss, getting them to state a position out loud is a powerful form of persuasion. Even more powerful is getting them to write it down and share it with other colleagues.  How could you utilize this principle in your 2013 Marketing plan?
  6. Scarcity - It is human nature to want what one cannot have or want more when we can only have less. There are many studies that prove this as true.  Remember I mentioned the struggle to obtain the elusive hot video game during the Christmas shopping season as an example.  Scarcity goes hand-in-hand with promoting your unique selling position or differentiated value proposition.  An exclusive and limited available offer is even more compelling than just a scarce offer.
Those are the 6 principles of persuasion and influence.  These are not new.  In fact, these principles have been documented and discussed as far back as the ancient days of the Greeks and Romans.  One major aspect of marketing is to influence the target audience to choose your particular product or service.  These principles should be kept in mind as you develop your 2013 marketing strategy and tactics.  What's that you say?  You haven't started your 2013 plans?  No worries, my next series of posts will be all about the Marketing Plan.

Last and most important point about the 6 Principles is to apply them with authenticity.  There's nothing any of us hate more than to feel manipulated.  Be genuine.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Persuasion & Influence for Modern Marketers - #6 Scarcity

This is a principle that is regularly used in the world of advertising and/or marketing.  "Sale ends Friday",  "Going out of business",  "Columbus Day sales" are examples of applying the principle of scarcity to influence people to make a purchase.  When I was a young bag-toting salesman, I read a book by Tommy Hopkins and one of the chapters was about closing techniques.  One of the techniques he named as the "impending event" close.  "The price goes up on Monday" is how it was usually applied.  This is a highly manipulative closing technique and I don't recommend any of Hopkins' techniques, however, it is a good example of the principle of scarcity.  To avoid ranting against Hopkins and his outdated, manipulative, misguided selling advice, I'll go back to the subject at hand.

It is human nature to want what one cannot have or want more when we can only have less.  There are many studies that prove this as true.  Another example from the retail world can be observed nearly every year during the Christmas shopping season.  It seems nearly every year, one or more companies is able to craftily position a new toy or video game as highly popular with limited quantities sure to run out before Christmas morning.  Oh the lines and the fights that ensue.  This is the principle of scarcity at its best (or maybe at its worst).

A savvy Modern Marketer could apply the principle of scarcity quite easily and effectively, but it must be applied authentically. It must be applied authentically.  Scarcity works very well if your product (or service) is able to offer a unique feature or benefit that your target market wants or needs.  Scarcity persuades even stronger if the information about the scarce supply is exclusive information.  Suppose your boss or co-worker tells you that they heard about an organizational change about to happen to your division not yet public information.  My how badly we want to know what that information might be about.  Compare this to a public notice sent out via email that talks about a new change being considered and follow this link to find out more information.  Not as compelling is it?

Another way to apply 'scarcity' in the world of marketing is to use language that talks about a potential loss as opposed to language talking about a gain.  People will usually react more if they fear they will lose something as compared to reacting because they may gain something.  For example, if I offer a product that will reduce energy costs in a compressed air plant, my message might be "if you buy my product, you'll save 30% on energy costs" or the message could be "if you don't have this product, you're wasting $XX each and every month".  Studies show that a larger proportion of the target audience will respond to the second message.

The problem with the principle of scarcity is that it is easily used to manipulate by offering false information.  As with all of these principles of persuasion and influence, scarcity must be used genuinely.