By: Thomas Young
The marketing plan is the driving force behind the success of any organization. Your marketing efforts should be well-researched and planned in order to get results. The steps needed to hit sales goals are defined in the marketing plan. The following areas are key components of a successful marketing plan.
Identify the Target Market
The first and most important step is to identify the target market clearly. All the components of your marketing plan will relate back to the needs of the target market. Your business exists because of a specific market that will buy your products and services. This market needs to be identified in detail. One of the most common mistakes organizations make is to identify too broad a market and not to focus on the specific needs of the targeted group. For your marketing plan to work, you have to be able to answer the following questions:
- What are the needs of the target market?
- How does your company add value to that target market?
- Who are your current clients or customers?
- How can you find more prospects like your current customers?
- What benefits do your customers receive from your products and services?
Conduct Market Research
Market research identifies the specific needs of your market. Another critical mistake many companies make is to assume they know the needs of their customers and prospects. Nothing could be further from the truth. As sales and marketing professionals, we must constantly ask customers how to meet their needs better. Primary research such as questionnaires, surveys and focus groups can be used to gather data on the current status of your target market. Secondary research involves analyzing existing data. Use this data to develop a profile of your customer and gather general information about your target market. What are their demographics? Buying habits? Why do they buy your products or services? How can market research be used to increase revenues?
Develop the Four P’s: Product, Price, Promotion and Place
Reviewing how the four P’s meet the needs of your target market is at the core of a successful marketing plan. How do your products or services meet the needs of customers? Is there potential for new products and services to be developed? Are the products and services managed effectively? Is there a solid product mix?
Your pricing structure should maximize profits. Does your pricing structure maximize or impede your sales revenues? Are discounts used properly? What are your competitor’s pricing strategies? Put in place a specific pricing strategy based on your target market.
Promotional efforts should be measured and provide financial returns. Establish a promotional mix strategy that will best reach your target market and result in increased sales. Is advertising actually generating sales? Can your advertising efforts be measured? Is your sales force trained and motivated? Do they have fair compensation based on results, and are targets and goals clearly spelled out? Evaluate how well you are performing in the areas of public and media relations, referral networks, word-of-mouth, customer service, direct mail, telemarketing and other forms of mass selling. Can those results be measured? How can results be improved?
The place where your products and services are sold must conveniently meet the needs of your target market. Many of Colorado Springs’ best restaurants have failed because of location. Is your current location optimal for business? Are the proper sales channels in place? Take advantage of the Internet, the hottest marketing tool in the last 50 years.
Gain a Competitive Edge
Finally, it is critical to determine your distinct competitive advantage. Who is the competition? How can your company gain a competitive edge? Has the competition been researched? How are you positioned in the market? You must be able to perform better than your competition in the eyes of your target market.
From each of these areas, a sales and marketing action plan is developed. The critical steps that make the marketing plan a reality and lead to increase revenues are included in the action plan. Marketing involves intensive research, smart planning and a keen insight into the real needs of your target market. Develop a focused, well-researched strategy that positions you to maximize sales in your market.
Tom Young, MBA is a marketing consultant helping companies increase revenues.