Planning Your Overall Marketing Program¹

Planning Your Overall Marketing Program

Marketing is not just advertising. Marketing, whether advertising, public relations, promotional literature, etc., is an investment. Like any other investment you would make, money spent on marketing should generate a return. While that return could simply be greater cash flow, the best marketing plans result in higher sales and profits.

Don't simply throw money at a variety of advertising efforts; do your homework and create an overall marketing program. Follow these basic steps:

  • Identify Your Target Markets. Who are your customers? Who will you target? Who makes the decisions? Create a Customer Profile so you understand how best to reach potential customers. Then develop a Market Analysis so you can better understand the nature of your market and how to position your business within that market.
  • Evaluate the Competition. Your marketing plan must set you apart from the competition; understanding the competition is the basis for determining how to stand out. (You can't stand out from a crowd until you know where the crowd stands.) Know your Competition by gathering information about products, service, quality, price, and advertising campaigns. What does the competition do that works? What are their weaknesses? How can you create a marketing plan that highlights the advantages you offer to customers?
  • Consider your Brand. How customers perceive your business makes a dramatic impact on your sales. Your marketing program should consistently reinforce and extend your Brand. You should further that effort by developing a clear, professional Business Identity. In short, before you start to market your business, think about how you want that marketing to reflect on your business and your products and services.
  • Think Benefits. What problems do you solve? What benefits do you deliver? Customers don't think in terms of products; they think in terms of benefits and solutions. Your marketing plan should clearly identify benefits; think in terms of what customers receive instead of what you offer. That way marketing efforts like Mass Market Advertising, Building Market Awareness with Promotions, and Partnering with the Media will be more likely to pay off.
  • Think Differentiation. Your products and services must stand out from other offerings. How will you compete on a product and service level? Make sure you consider Pricing for Sales and also how to Sell More Before Customers Leave the Store.
  • Evaluate the Results. Always seek the greatest possible return on your marketing spending. Evaluate the results of each element of your marketing program. Measuring Advertising Effectiveness provides a simple way to objectively analyze your results. Don't simply throw dollars at advertising. Find out what works and constantly seek to improve your returns.

If developing an overall marketing program seems complicated or too time-consuming, it's easy to get outside help. Look for a firm that can advise you on a broad range of initiatives. Explain your objectives, share the results of your market analysis and customer profiles, and let a professional help you determine how to implement the right marketing program.