The Ingredients of a Marketing Plan

Marketing Objectives

In the "marketing objectives" section, you paint your picture of the future: What marketing objectives do you want to achieve over the course of the plan? Each of your marketing objectives should include both a narrative description of what you intend to accomplish along with numbers to give you something concrete to aim for. Just to say you want to make a first entry into the Swiss screw machine marketplace isn't providing much guidance. Saying you want to go from 0 percent to 8 percent of the local market in two years is easier to understand--and verifiable. If you're not sure of the size of the local market, then aim at a dollar figure in sales. Your accountant will let you know whether you've succeeded or not.

Goal for It
If you're new to the marketing plan racket, how do you set a quantifiable goal? Start with your past. Review your past sales numbers, your growth over the years in different markets, the size of typical new customers, and how new product introductions have fared. If over the last five years you've grown a cumulative 80 percent in gross revenues, projecting a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in the next year is reasonable; 45 percent is not. Make a low but reasonable projection for what you'll be able to accomplish with marketing support toward your new marketing objectives. Set modest goals to start, until you get a feel for the terrain.

You should make it a point to limit the number of marketing objectives you take on in a given year. Let's face it, change can bring stress, disorient staff and sometimes even confuse your target market. Keep your objectives challenging but achievable. Better to motivate yourself with ambitious but worthy targets than to depress yourself by failing at too many enthusiastic goals.

Here are some typical marketing objective categories:

  • Introduce new products
  • Extend or regain market for existing product
  • Enter new territories for the company
  • Boost sales in a particular product, market or price range. Where will this business come from? Be specific.
  • Cross-sell (or bundle) one product with another
  • Enter into long-term contracts with desirable clients
  • Raise prices without cutting into sales figures
  • Refine a product
  • Enhance manufacturing/product delivery

This third section of your plan should include perhaps a half dozen such objectives, spelled out with specific goals. Some examples:

  • Objective: Introduce our accounting and audit services to Blankville. By the end of the first year, we want to have six clients of significance and billed time of $75,000.
  • Objective: Reverse the decline in our package Caribbean winter tour sales in Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. Sales over the past three years have declined 11 percent. We intend to increase sales 4 percent this year and 8 percent next year.
  • Objective: Introduce lunch fax business at the west side restaurant and deliver 420 lunches per week by June 1.
  • Objective: Demo updated X-ray crystallography at selected trade exhibitions in the summer of 1999. Capture 250 leads per show and secure 75 on-site demos.

To repeat, make your objectives simple, concrete, countable, ambitious and achievable.

Marketing Goals: Where the Details Start
Here's where you come down out of the clouds and spell out how you're going to make things happen. While your spreadsheet has shown increasingly stunning profits each time you bump up the market gains, now you're in the real world. Gains must be made by brains and brawn.

Each marketing objective should have several goals (subsets of objectives) and tactics for achieving those goals. In the objectives section of your marketing plan, you focus on the "what" and the "why" of the marketing tasks for the year ahead. In the implementation section, you focus on the practical, sweat-and-calluses areas of who, where, when and how. This is life in the marketing trenches.

When Eisenhower and the Allies decided to invade Normandy in 1944 to open up a mainland Europe offensive against the Axis powers, they developed detailed plans for victory. While successfully landing in Normandy and holding it were the overall objectives, many intermediate goals were set to make this possible: lining up the needed boats, air cover, behind-the-lines paratrooper drops to cut off communications, feints at a Calais landing to fool the enemy and so on. And, of course, each of those steps had its own list of details.

The key task is to take each objective and lay out the steps you intend to take to reach it. As an example, let's take the first marketing objective mentioned

Objective: Introduce our accounting and audit services to Blankville. By the end of the first year, we want to have six clients of significance and billed time of $75,000.

How can you make this happen?

Let's suppose you've assigned this objective to a group of people, and they've worked up some plans on moving into Blankville. Here are what some of their goals might look like:

1. Since accounting and auditing services don't work well at a remote site (except for the very largest companies), we'll probably need a local office in Blankville. We should open this new office by July. (Always include target dates when possible.)
2. If we're going to talk about our expertise, we need some of our professional staff there. We'll probably want to detail two or three of our experienced people in that new office, as well as hire local support staff.
3. We may want to do some direct-mail advertising to companies in Blankville. Our message might talk about special expertise in certain areas of business. We'll target those types of businesses in Blankville.
4. We'll talk to the business editor of the local paper and let him or her know we're coming to town. We might contribute a "tax tips" article or two for the exposure.
5. We'll approach several business associations in town and offer to give a talk on some specialized topic in which we can offer some expertise.
6. We'll ask our clients in other cities if they'd be willing to give us some referrals in Blankville.
7. We may run some modest advertising in the Blankville Bugle (a fine and respected newspaper) announcing our arrival and explaining our special expertise.
8. We'll have an open house and invite a number of local business celebrities, political people, potential clients and media.
9. We might look to get our Blankville office involved in some high-profile charity or public service work.

You get the idea. If your objective is to build a business in Blankville, you have to put together concrete goals to make it happen. Each of these actions makes sense. You might come up with others (there's no limit to human creativity, after all--especially in marketing). The point is that each goal should consist of concrete actions.

Each of these goals needs to have its own series of steps formalized. Who's going to check on the advertising rates for the Blankville Bugle? And when should those ads run? Which professionals are moving to Blankville and how do they feel about it? How do we get a list of companies in Blankville? Lots of work to do.

One of the best ways to handle such details is through an activity matrix. A matrix is a grid table that lets you plot actions across time. When you're developing a marketing plan, you'll soon reach the point where you have to turn to your calendar and see when things should happen. A matrix provides you with a clear and very usable framework for such timeline plotting.

You can make the matrix as detailed or as big picture as you want. It should, however, include everything that's scheduled, when it's scheduled and who the responsible party is. Don't forget to delegate responsibility as you go.

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Seth Godin on Failing Until You Succeed

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