You have a marketing strategy. It’s the heart of your plan. You’ve talked it out, probably written it out. You may have done the market research and industry research, or maybe you’re just sure of yourself in your market. We used to call it marketing mix, or the three Ps (pricing, promotion, and an artificially forced place to stand for distribution and make the alliteration work). Then it became fashionable to make it four Ps by adding product. And even 5 Ps, to include packaging. The problem, at this point, is knowing what do I do, specifically with each of those Ps. That’s the heart of the action plan. One the biggest problems many businesses face is strategic alignment. By that I mean making what you do every day match what you say is your strategy. It’s amazing to me how often the daily activities don’t match the strategy. That’s why I’ve included the strategy pyramid and the value-based marketing as part of this book. More than that, though, as you fill out the what’s-supposed-to-happen parts of your plan-as-you-go plan, I hope you get turned on to new ways of marketing.
Marketing has changed. It’s about being remarkable. Don’t fill in your marketing plan until you’ve been through at least one of Seth Godin’s books from the list here. I don’t know which to recommend. Purple Cow is perhaps the best summary of a new kind of marketing, but All Marketers Are Liars is great reading and makes its points in a more direct way, and Meatball Sundae is the latest, released early in 2008. John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing has transformed service marketing for small and medium companies. It’s more method than approach. It’s full of specific steps to take. And it’s very much rooted in the new world of blogs and social media and Web 2.0. Conrad Levinsonand Al Lautenslager’s Guerilla Marketing in 30 Days has had remarkable staying power for more than 20 years. It was written before the Internet became widely available, but still managed to foresee a lot of what has happened since then. Levinson was probably the first to free marketing from the corporate budget. What’s still critical is the message and how to deliver it, to whom, for how much money. It has to do with focusing on your key target market, figuring out the media, and getting that message across. Marketing is delightfully creative. What you want in your business plan at this point is something specific about what you’re going to do, and how much it’s going to cost.
Aside from the target market strategy, your marketing strategy might also include the positioning statement, pricing, promotion, and whatever else you want to add. You might also want to look at media strategy, business development, or other factors. Strategy is creative and hard to predict. Some of the following sections will give you more ideas.
Positioning Still Matters
Positioning is an old-fashioned buzzword, but it still works. I talked about positioning in the heart of the plan. The question is how do you do it? You can use advertising, marketing collaterals, your website, your employees, so many different methods. Try this positioning statement to help: For [target market description] who [target market need], [this product] [how it meets the need]. Unlike [key competition], it [most important distinguishing feature]. For example, the positioning statement for the original Business Plan Pro, was: “For the businessperson who is starting a new company, launching new products or seeking funding or partners, Business Plan Pro is software that produces professional business plans quickly and easily. Unlike [name omitted], Business Plan Pro does a real business plan, with real insights, not just cookie-cutter fill-in-the-blanks templates.”
One of the strongest messages you deliver is your price. It’s also the most important tool for positioning. Don’t be afraid to price at a premium if you’re offering a premium product. In today’s world, it isn’t true that lower price necessarily delivers higher volume. That may be a standard of microeconomics, but it doesn’t happen that often in the real world. Consider your value proposition. Does your pricing fit your strategy?
Promotion Means Telling Your Story
Promotion is a pompous word. I could call it telling your story, or spreading the word. It isn’t just what Seth Godin calls shouting, which he uses to refer to traditional advertising that interrupts people. For a lot of today’s business, it’s very much a matter of website positioning and guessing about search terms to buy from Google. In retail, it’s about location, signage, interior design, and the kind of positioning that has to do with what you sell and to whom, for what price. For products going into distribution channels and eventually to retail, packaging is still critical. Consumers in stores make so many of their buying decisions based on packaging. Does the packaging support the underlying story? Do you have strategic alignment with the packaging. Does it match the rest of your positioning? And of course you still have the old standbys, for more traditional marketing.
- Do you look for expensive ads in mass media, or targeted marketing in specialized publications, or even more targeted, with direct mail?
- Do you have a way to leverage the news media, or reviewers?
- Do you advertise more effectively through public relations events, trade shows, newspaper, or radio?
- What about telemarketing, the Web, or even multilevel marketing?