Marketing From the Inside Out: Clarity + Alignment = Traction

Part three in a three-part series: how to create a values-based marketing plan

This is the last of a three-part series in Marketing from theInside Out. In the firstarticle, I offered four guidelines for marketing: express yourpassion, honor your values, use common sense, and find a need andfill it. In the secondarticle, I laid out a fundamental marketing analysis, whichincluded the importance of examining core values at a corporate andpersonal level. Now we will explore how to create a values-basedmarketing plan.

The biggest obstacles in my life were usually put there by me.To quote the cartoon character Pogo, "We have met the enemy,and he is us." As a life coach, one of my jobs is to helppeople get out of their own way. In their hearts, they know whatthey want to do. They know right from wrong. They know when theyare lying to themselves. They know they have choices. But sometimesthey forget. Instead, they get in the habit of reacting to externaldemands, or following the herd, instead of listening to their owninner wisdom.

Clarity &Alignment
Hopefully the earlier articles in this series helped you gain someclarity about your product, your marketplace and your mostauthentic style of communicating your message. You also had anopportunity to explore your core values and to see where they werealigned with how you do business. Now it is time to put it togetherin order to gain some traction in today's mercurialmarketplace. Begin with a situational analysis. This includes anexternal analysis as well as a self-analysis.

The external analysis includes:

  • Customer analysis: What are the market segments,motivations and unmet needs?
  • Competitive analysis: Identify who your competitors areand their relative strengths and weaknesses.
  • Market landscape: This includes an industry analysis,the regulatory climate, etc.

The self-analysis includes:

  • Performance analysis: What is your ROI, expected growth,etc.?
  • Cost analysis: Define your sustainable advantage,experience curve, etc.
  • Financial resources and constraints
  • Strengths and weaknesses: Include distinctivecompetencies, assets and liabilities
  • Strategic questions
  • Identify your core values and where in your business youbest honor them as well as where you would like to more fully honorthem.

You are now ready to identify strategic alternatives based on yourcompany strengths and core values. The goal is to develop asustainable competitive advantage (SCA), which has threecomponents:

1. The SCA must be important to themarketplace. (Find a need and fill it.)

2. The advantage needs to be substantial enough to really make adifference. This can be challenging in a saturated market, butbecomes easier when one focuses on a specific niche.

3. It needs to be sustainable in the face of environmentalchanges and competition. This also speaks to how the companydefines itself. The classic example is the railroad industry. Werethey in the business of running trains or in the business of movingpeople and goods? How you define your business will have an impacton your ability to adjust to external factors.

Strategic Alternatives

There are three basic types of strategies: differentiation,low-cost and focus or niche.

  • Differentiation strategy: To differentiate your productor service from your competitors, you must make it appear differentin some meaningful way. This can be based on quality, reliability,innovation, level of service or product features.
  • Low-cost strategy: This is self-explanatory. When youare unable to differentiate your product from someone else's(e.g., it is a commodity), the purchase decision is often based onprice. The focus then becomes on controlling costs and reducingoverhead in order to maintain margins.
  • Focus or niche strategy: The focus strategy will involveeither differentiation or low-cost, and it will target one or morespecific areas of the larger marketplace. It will not attempt tocompete across the board, nor be all things to all people. Forsmall businesses with limited marketing funds and resources, it isimportant to choose these niches where you have the greatestsustainable competitive advantage.

Selecting theStrategy
To select the most appropriate strategy, consider the followingquestions:

  • What is or what should be your business mission?
  • What investment level can you make in the strategy? Which isthe most cost-effective for your long-term goals?
  • What is your sustainable competitive advantage? Which type ofstrategy (differentiation, low-cost or focus) best supports yourSCA?
  • Which strategy best fits your strengths, objectives and corevalues?

Examples of how this might apply to a product or servicebusiness are given below. Notice how the product or serviceoffering reflects the values of the owner.

Chef's own saladdressing
Industrial cleaningbusiness
MissionTo bottle andsell well-known restaurant chef's private-label salad dressingto 1) begin product line and generate revenue and 2) publicize andincrease name recognition of restaurantTo become thelargest cleaning service of office buildings in the greater Seattlearea
Investment LevelSmallMedium
SCAAward-winningchef developed this house-favorite recipe and uses it nightly inhis famous high-end restaurant.All bonded,legal-resident employees. Provides highest quality with lowestcost.
CoreValuesAesthetics,leadership, independenceHonesty, wealth,service/contribution
HowCore Values Are HonoredBeautifulpackaging and highest-quality ingredients. Branded products willcontribute to long-term financial independence and enhancerestaurant recognition.Only using legalresidents (even though illegal aliens would work for less).Carefully managing overhead, through computerized scheduling,multilingual checklists and other economies of scale. Helping theimmigrant community by providing employment benefits, which alsominimizes turnover.
Marketing StrategyFocus strategy:gourmet cooks and purchasers of high-end specialty food items.Distribute through gourmet shops, online gourmet retailers, therestaurant and through its Web site.Low-coststrategy. Highest-quality service for lowest cost.

Pulling It All Together: The Marketing Mix

An effective marketing plan will address the 4 Ps: product,price, place (distribution) and promotion. The following decisionsshould be made based on your values, mission and strategicgoals.


  • Develop new product/service
  • Change current product/service
  • Add or drop product or service from line
  • Product positioning: How are you perceived relative to thecompetition? What is your sustainable competitive advantage?
  • Branding: What is the image you are projecting in themarketplace?
  • Other product decisions: You add to list.


  • Price level (above, same as or below competition)
  • Price variation (discount structure, bundling of services,etc.)
  • Margins (price less cost to deliver product or service)
  • Other pricing decisions: You add to list.


  • Intensity of distribution (Will your product or service bewidely available or on an exclusive basis?)
  • Multiple channels (How will your product or service reach yourcustomers?)
  • Distribution structure (Will you use intermediaries,wholesalers, retailers, sell direct, etc.)
  • Other distribution decisions: You add to list.


  • Promotional mix of personal selling, advertising, dealerincentives, sales promotion, direct mail, etc.
  • Budget
  • Message
  • Media (e.g. print, Internet, broadcast, etc.)
  • Other promotional decisions: You add to list.

Two last things to think about:

1. When external factors change, yourmarketing program must change as well. For that reason, revisityour situation analysis and strategic alternatives on a regularbasis. A marketing program is not cast in stone. It is a reflectionof the situation at a point in time.

2. Do not assume that you can make customers change theircurrent behavior patterns. It is a much safer strategy to adapt toexisting behavior patterns. Marketing does not "make"people buy goods and services. Wise marketers monitor the reasonspeople purchase and then adapt their programs accordingly.

The key to marketing from the inside out is in developing yourskills of making supported and reasoned decisions that are groundedin a sound marketing analysis and are in alignment with your corevalues. The world is moving quickly, and the Internet allows yourcustomers to educate themselves, compare prices, understand yourcompany structure and even check you out as an individual. The BSdetector is set on high, and it is the most authentic products andservices, those that offer true value for an expressed need, bypeople with ethics and honor, that will survive and prosper.

Rebecca Cooper is a professional and personal coach who workswith visionary people seeking to create and live authentic lives.She helps provide clarity, illuminate choices and reflect thepassion of her clients. To explore what's next in your life,e-mail her at or visither Web site at

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