What are the Key Features of a Business Marketing Plan?

  

You've got a great product that people want. 

How do help people know about your new product? How do you create demand for your product? Where do you start? In this article, we'll discuss some of the key features to creating a business marketing plan. Your plan will change and evolve over time because market conditions never stay static. But by creating, and periodically reviewing your business marketing plan on a regular basis, you'll always have a roadmap that supports your goals and keeps you on track. 

Define Your Buyer Persona

To start your marketing plan, you need to know exactly who you are trying to reach. You should have a good idea based on the market research you did while creating your product (or service). If you don’t, get cracking and dig deep. You must know your ideal potential customers, understand what they need, and more importantly — why they are buying products or services like yours. To get started, identify the following characteristics of your buyer persona:

  • Demographics e.g.:  age, gender, income, occupation / job title, size of company they work in, religion, nationality, education, family size and ethnicity.
  • Geographic data e.g.:  country, city, region, climate.
  • Psychographics e.g.:  lifestyle, socio-economic class, attitude, political preferences, and personality type

Give them a name such as Tom Teacher or Cindy CEO. Write a "biography," a narrative description that describes this persona. Be sure to make your personas as human as possible — bring them to life! 

One way to do this is to talk to people who you see as your potential buyers. Interview them. Learn all you can about where your product would fit in their work or private life (depending on where your product is used), how they go about discovering similar products, how they make decisions, what do they look for, what pain does your product solve, or what desire does it fulfill. If you can't do that, do as much research as you can with similar people — find and read research reports, talk to other people who sell / market to the same persona - even if it's a different product or service.

Now imagine you're your ideal persona while writing a page in their daily journal about what they did, how they think, what they believe, how they like to do things, what's important to them. This narrative will be used by you and your creative team for creating key messages, writing and designing content, and creating promotional assets that your persona is eager to watch, read, or listen to — whether it's a web page, a landing page, a video, or ebook. You'll be surprised how much more effective your content will be if you do this well.

Competitive Analysis

In order for you to be an effective competitor in your target market, you need to know what your competitors are doing. Uncovering your direct and indirect competitors here is crucial. For example, let's say you're a local baseball stadium. Your direct competitors would be other baseball or sports venues. Indirect competitors would be any kind of entertainment venue such as movie theaters and concert halls. While movie theaters do not compete directly with a baseball stadium, people go see sports for entertainment just as they would a movie.

Conduct a SWOT analysis of yourself and competitors. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses are about your brand and are in your control. Opportunities and threats come from outside your company and are not under your control. Knowing these about your brand, your competitors, and the environment in which they all operate will help you create and execute a marketing plan that will minimize and mitigate the "bad" and capitalize on the "good."

This SWOT analysis should help you determine the similarities and differences between your brand and your competitors'. Make sure to clearly articulate all your competitors' top three or four differentiators. They could be anything from intellectual property to a solution's ease-of-use, to market distribution, etc. Remember: differentiation is not just about a product's features.

Positioning

Your brand's position is what makes it unique and different about your product versus other products in the same category (or "neighborhood" as we like to call it). The more unique and differentiated your brand's position — the easier it is for your brand to stand out in your potential customers' minds (the neighborhood). Your SWOT analysis and the competitive analysis will help you refine your positioning.

Pricing Strategy

Your pricing strategy will rely on a few different things.  The starting price depends on the costs of production:  material, labor, and overhead (aka "SG&A"). Your brand position, buyer persona, and promotional strategy (which we will discuss later) all play into your pricing strategy (and vice versa). Your buyer persona and brand positioning will help decide whether or not, and to what degree, you should price below or above the competition. You may also use other kinds of pricing techniques to price your brand. Depending on your product, you may want to look into these different strategies:

  • Skimming
  • Loss leader
  • Market-oriented pricing
  • Penetration pricing
  • Price discrimination
  • Premium pricing
  • Predatory pricing
  • Psychological pricing
  • Dynamic pricing
  • Premium decoy pricing
  • Absorption pricing
  • Price leadership

These are just some of the most common pricing techniques used today. Your revenue and business goals, along with your SWOT and competitive analysis and your brand's positioning will influence the pricing strategy you choose.

Promotional Plans

When you think of marketing, this is probably the part that comes to mind the most, but without the other pieces in place, you may set yourself up for failure. A broad description of promotional activities includes advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and personal selling. Depending on your product, you will want to select and prioritize strategies and tactics in each of these categories. 

Advertising is best used to raise awareness of your brand. You could use anything from TV ads, newspaper ads, billboards, direct mail, digital advertising (e.g. pay-per-click, banner ads, social media ads, video ads), etc. Advertising can be very effective when launching a new brand/product.    

Sales promotions are short-term incentives to encourage quick sales. These are most useful with an established brand that needs some revenue traction. Many companies use them to get rid of inventory overstocks (ever heard of Overstock.com?), perishable goods (e.g. grocery stores), and when some products are going to be replaced by newer versions (think cars, smart phones, TVs).

PR is useful when you're trying to establish a brand's position, launching a new brand/product, and for influencing those people who influence your buyers.  Public relations is far more than publishing a news release. Great PR is about establishing meaningful connections with editors, bloggers, and reporters who influence your potential buyers. It means feeding them exclusive stories, or information that helps them in their work. Under this category include social media as a tactic because social media is a huge part of PR today. For the best resource on PR today, pick up and read David Meerman Scott's The New Rules of Marketing and PR.

Inbound Selling involves relationship selling, face to face, with a customer. Inbound selling is about influencing customers to buy your product/service not by talking about your product's features and benefits, but by consulting with them, helping them to articulate their problem, giving them useful information along the discussion, and offering your product/solution as a way to solve their problem. The focus is on gaining their trust by giving them all the information they could possibly use to help them along their buyer's journey. 

Goals

You need to set goals for your business marketing plan that relate to your key performance indicators (aka "KPIs").  Create a timeline that links goals, strategies, and tactics to help you stay on track. A budget for your marketing expenses should be based on your revenue goals and also tied to this timeline. Learn more about setting inbound marketing goals here.   

Conclusion

Above are some of the key features to creating a business marketing plan.  Knowing your buyer persona, doing SWOT and competitive analyses, defining your brand's position, creating a pricing strategy and promotional plan to reach your goals are the key steps to a successful business.    

Find the Holes in Your Marketing
Photo Credit:  Bohman via Flickr