As we move into the second half of the year, many companies and organizations throughout northwest Louisiana are beginning 2018 marketing planning. Are you?
Mark Twain once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” However, when asked about marketing planning, many businesses simply list advertising placements. While advertising is an important marketing tool, it is not the complete picture. Advertising is one component of the overall marketing process. Marketing is the larger umbrella which requires thoughtful planning, market evaluation and strategy development to create awareness of products, services and brands with the ultimate goal of bringing together sellers and buyers.
In absence of planning and analysis, advertising often yields “hit or miss” results. With businesses being increasingly challenged to do more with less, strategic marketing planning to make the best use of available marketing dollars and receive the highest return on investment is critical.
When a business makes marketing decisions without a plan, promotional efforts also tend to be less targeted and more visually disjointed with little attention to branding. This runs counter to the need for frequency, consistency and reach in building brand, product or service awareness. All marketing efforts must be coordinated to convey consistent positioning and reflect a cohesive look and feel that will build a memorable brand.
Where do you start? Create a strategic marketing mission statement which succinctly identifies what you’re selling, who you are selling it to and what makes your product or service unique. This may seem like a simple step, but if employees don’t answer these basic questions the same general way, your marketing efforts will be fragmented.
Next research and analyze the business environment you operate within to evaluate the competition, define your customer profile, and note industry trends. Identify internal strengths and weaknesses, and forecast upcoming external opportunities and threats. Then apply this knowledge to the marketing mix: product, price, place, promotion and positioning.
As a next step, establish existing benchmarks and set measurable goals in areas such as sales, retention, customer service, target market penetration and brand awareness. It has often been said that if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. Yet many businesses spend marketing dollars without taking the time to establish realistic and measurable goals.
Once goals have been developed, outline specific strategies and tactics to reach each one. Then establish an estimated budget and a timeline associated with plan implementation. Adjust strategies and tactics as necessary to work within budget and timing parameters.
When planning is finalized, make a commitment to adhere to the plan to avoid making knee-jerk marketing decisions. However, market conditions can and do change, so it is also wise to re-evaluate your plan periodically throughout the year. Track and evaluate results to determine which marketing strategies are working and which ones are not. Consider emerging market conditions which may also dictate adjustments, and change strategy approaches if needed.
Marketing planning is an essential investment in your business’s growth. Begin planning now and enjoy continued success in 2018!
“Schedule time to evaluate results and plan for future success. Remember, it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.”