All construction must begin with a solid foundation otherwise you risk erecting a structure that requires constant maintenance and repair. Creating a solid marketing plan is no different. Jumping directly to program execution without producing the necessary foundation increases your risk of missing your target and wasting your marketing dollars. The fundamental information and tools that simply must be in place before any marketing campaign will be successful need to be built as carefully and with as much care as the foundation of a building. So before you begin spending your precious marketing budget, take a moment to be sure your marketing foundation is solid.
The following diagram illustrates the critical components of the marketing foundation and how that foundation provides the base for all of the marketing programs you may want to execute.
Lay the Foundation
Before you can determine what your marketing strategy is, you need to understand your vision and goals. All marketing activities will be chosen based on whether they will achieve one or more of your goals. When you have a clear understanding about what you are trying to accomplish with your business, you can then determine how you will get there.
Now you need to look at the market and analyze whether the market you wish to serve wants what you can provide. You should sit back and think about your business and determine your focus. By evaluating your business from the perspective of client need, you will be able to focus your efforts on initiatives that are key to the success of your business.
Understanding your competition from both a business and marketing perspective helps you determine how you are different from them. Your marketing plan should emphasize how you are different so that you stand out from the crowd. This differentiation will be the basis of your core marketing message.
Identify Your Brand
Your brand is the image you wish to portray to the world and is one of your company’s most valuable assets. It communicates your corporate personality and shapes the internal and external clients’ perceptions of who you are as well as the expectations and promises you extend to your customers in terms of quality, service, reliability and trustworthiness. A strong brand helps the audience differentiate you from your competitors and can positively influence their purchasing decisions, directly impacting your profitability
Also, identify your personal brand. If you are an independent professional or partner in a service business, you are your brand.
Identify Your Marketing Strategy and Budget
The marketing strategy outlines your plan of action to achieve your marketing goals. It is how you take advantage of the various marketing activities to build awareness and educate your prospects. If one of your marketing goals is to double traffic to your web site, what activities will you use to drive more traffic to your web site and in what timeframe and with what budget? Think through each of your marketing goals and identify the key activities that will help you achieve success.
Create Your Sales Tools
Your sales tools are the last activity you should undertake before you launch your marketing campaigns. Until you know what types of marketing you will do, you don’t know what materials you will need to support them. Using the brand identity and messages developed earlier, combine them to create the sales tools that help you communicate with your target audience. A good first impression makes selling that much easier, and a consistent set of materials – Web site, brochures, newsletters, advertisements, business cards and other materials – with a strong identity and a compelling, powerful and enduring message, gets you noticed and remembered.
If you can do only one thing well because of budget or resource constraints, be sure your Web site is the best you can provide. It is most likely the first impression your prospect gets of your company, and how useful, informative, and simple it is to use will impact their decision to do business with you. I cannot stress this point enough – a bad Web site can ruin your entire marketing effort by turning away prospects before you even know they are there.
Build Upon the Foundation
Now you are ready to execute the plan. You have a roadmap for your business, a budget for your activities, and an understanding about how you will reach your prospects. By building your foundation first, all of your programs will be consistent, targeted, and more likely to succeed. You can be assured that no matter what type of programs you choose, you will consistently communicate your value to your prospects, raising your awareness, attracting ideal prospects, and increasing profitability.