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November 13, 2012

Get prepared… part 2 of a 5-part series on how to create your marketing & sales plan for 2013

In last week’s post, we discussed Phase 1 of the marketing & sales plan process – Conducting your Background Review & Analysis.  This week, we’ll look at Phase 2 – Developing your Marketing Strategies.

‘Strategies’ are broad directional statements that define WHAT you will do to achieve your goals.  Don’t confuse these with ‘tactics’ – which are the HOW you’ll do it.  For example, a strategy might be to ‘position our CEO as an expert on the topic of mobile research.’  A tactic that might help you support that strategy could be ‘to have him write an ebook on mobile research.’

In this phase of the process, you will take what was learned during Phase 1 and use it as the basis for developing your strategies. This is the most critical step in developing your marketing & sales plan.  Here are several things to think about:

Define your target audience
If you were asked, “Do you know who your clients are?”, you could probably list your top 10 pretty easily.  Fair enough.  But could you define them?  Provide a profile of them?  And even if you could categorize them to some extent (e.g. “they’re mostly tech companies”), could you paint the picture any more clearly?

It’s important to be as clear as possible… with the goal of defining your ‘ideal” client.  Here’s why… if you can define your ideal client, you can create a marketing & sales plan to find more of them.  What if your description was, “Our ideal client is a technology manufacturing firm with between 250 and 1,000 employees, in a 100 mile radius of San Francisco that regularly launches new products and has an on-going need for new product development research.”  See the difference?

Look for opportunities
One of the primary ways to build strategies is to look for those obvious opportunities that “bubbled to the surface” during phase one.   Are there new services that your target market is looking for?  New pricing strategies?   Should you re-position your firm?  Can you leverage existing clients?  And so on…

Fix a problem
Are there any problems that exist – in your company, with your competitors or in the industry – that if you fixed, would put you in a competitively advantageous position?  Here’s an off-the-wall example to help explain… because of travel costs and limited facilities, conducting focus groups in rural areas is very difficult to do.  What if you developed a focus group facility on a bus that traveled into those rural areas and made the research possible?  OK, crazy example.. but you get the point.

The 4 P’s of Marketing
The 4P’s of Marketing that we all learned about in college (product, place, price, promotion) are now a little out of date.  So I dropped ‘place’ (which generally deals with hard goods distribution channels) and added ‘people’ and ‘positioning.’  So, here’s the new 5 P’s of marketing…

Product: What are you selling?  Are there new products/services you need to develop?  Do existing products/service need to be tweaked… or eliminated?  This really is the one idea that should really be driven by input from your clients and prospects.

Price: Not only the fees that you charge for your services, but discount programs, payment terms, introductory offers, guarantees, etc.

Promotion: This is the one ‘P’ that everyone thinks of when they think of marketing… what tactics make the most sense?  Don’t get into all the details at this point, but from a 30,000-foot view, what things make the most sense?  This could include advertising (when, where, message), social media (which sites, blog, who, how often), content marketing (editorial schedule, what kind), public relations (what lists, how often), SEO (key words, tracking), exhibiting (which events, focus) and so on.

People: Any employee who ‘touches’ a client or prospective client falls into this category.  Are they prepared to talk to clients about your firm and its services?  Do they understand the process for handling client interactions?  Do they have the communication skills to be effective?  Is there any training required to make them better?  Are they empowered to act on the company’s behalf?  Do they live the brand?

Positioning: What’s one thing that sets your firm apart from your competition?  This is not a catchy marketing slogan or promotional campaign that changes regularly, but gets to the core of who you are, what you do and what your clients should expect when working with you.  Do you have a unique position?  Do you know what it is?  Do you know what your clients believe it is?  Do you aspire to a position you don’t yet have… and have a plan for getting there?

Awareness always
In every marketing plan I’ve ever been involved with, the very first strategy that we included was “to build awareness of our firm and its services.”  It’s THE foundational strategy.  Why?  Simple… if your prospective clients don’t know you exist, they can never do business with you.

There is a marketing paradigm called the 3 A’s – awareness – attitude – action.

Awareness is that prospects hear/see you for the first time and then again thereafter through multiple exposures.  Their attitude about you is determined by the content of those touch points.  Finally, their attitude is swayed to the point that they decide to seek you out for a project – they take action.  But it will never/can never get to that point with them unless they become aware of your firm in the first place!


That’s PHASE 2 for building your marketing & sales plan for 2013.  It’s the most important phase for the development of your plan – and also the most difficulty – because it requires critical thinking.  But commit yourself to it and you provide your firm with a huge competitive advantage because most of your competitors will skip right over it.

Coming up in the next few weeks:
PHASE 3: Crafting the plan itself
PHASE 4: Execution and management
PHASE 5: Measurement and recommendations

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