February 7, 2018, posted by Tony Quin
What You Don’t Know Will Kill You
Without a good strategic plan, your marketing today has about as good a chance of winning as betting the farm on a roulette table. That’s why having a plan is so important. But not just any plan. All plans are not created equal, and while your plan might look good on paper, the only way to make sure it will deliver is to go through a proven, methodical process.
Don’t plan your marketing with getting answers first
It might be obvious, but to start with, the more you know, the better your plan will be. Holes in your knowledge about your customers, prospects, competition, category, what’s worked and what’s not worked, are very dangerous. So, step one in a planning process is exploring the knowledge that exists within your company.
First gather any research that has been conducted, even old research is better than none. Add to this any public research that is available and consider buying any current research studies about your category or target audience. Many industries have A&U (attitude and usage) studies available, which explore consumer behavior and attitudes in specific industries and product categories.
Next, conduct internal stakeholder interviews to help fill in the picture. This is very important because it allows you to extract the knowledge that exists within your teams, but which may not be shared within the organization. This should be mostly focused on the consumer, with attention to the customer experience, the sales process, attitudes, and the post-sale relationship. Much of this is anecdotal, but it can be very valuable. The easiest way to do this is to talk to senior executives and practice leaders. They will have deeply experienced perspectives about barriers and opportunities. Also, continue the data gathering part of the process with a distillation of any metrics you currently have. This includes sales trend data, sales data by product type and geographical area, and any other key factors that may be important for your industry. It should also include marketing data such as metrics for your website, mobile sites, email open and view rates, search performance, CRM and loyalty participation, and performance.
Next conduct a competitive evaluation. If you don’t know what the competition is doing, it can blindside you. Make sure you have a comprehensive understanding not only of the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s offerings but also how they go to market. This includes how they differentiate themselves, what marketing channels they are in, what audiences they are targeting, how much they spend, and what messaging they use, and have used in the past. You will also need to know what their visual or creative approach is, the strengths and weaknesses of their customer experience (CX) in all channels, their mobile strategy, and, if relevant, how they present themselves at retail.
Regardless of time or budget restrictions, be sure also to take advantage of the considerable insights you can get from by Social Listening research and Search Term research. The former will give you a glimpse into what people are talking about online in social channels. The latter will tell you, what people are interested in when they search, and the words and phrases they use related to your category. Both are usually very enlightening, and although, like most research, they only provide a piece of the picture, when combined with other inputs and insights they will help to point you in the right direction. They will also probably be the freshest, most up-to-the-minute research you will have.