Create a Profit-Building Marketing Plan -- Part 1

"If you ask the right questions, you'll be able to discover the best solutions."

by Michael Cooney

Imagine spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars on advertising, without a highly focused plan of attack. Sounds preposterous, doesn't it! Yet it happens all too frequently.

Why do you need a detailed marketing plan? Because it is the roadmap that will lead you step-by-step to your destination of increased sales. Over time it will show you if you’re on target and meeting your goals, or need to revamp your approach. A well-thought-out plan is critical to both minimizing advertising waste and maximizing revenues.

Recently my partner and I completed a multi-tiered marketing plan for a project we're involved in. This project, by the way, centers on the marketing and sales of gourmet boxed chocolates. Investors will soon be sought, so the plan has to bear up to scrutiny from that point of view as well as from the perspective of practical implementation.

Since marketing plans deal with a myriad of different products and customers or clients, no brief article can explain all the aspects involved. However, a look into the thinking behind creating an effective plan can help you get off to a good beginning in making your own.

The solution to most every problem is the answer to a question. If you ask the right questions, you'll be able to discover the best solutions. The first question I ask before developing a marketing plan is, simply,

Who is the best market for this product or service?

This first step may take an hour, or run into days or weeks of research, but it is critical and forms the basis for everything that follows. Your marketing and advertising approach would be very different for people seeking legal services, for example, as opposed to those wanting to buy a new economy car. Your product or service probably best fits a certain demographic category, and you’ll want to come up with a clear description of that group. Example: "Married women homeowners aged 45 to 60 with household incomes above $75,000 annually."

Since your marketing and advertising will be customer centered, it makes sense to carefully describe in as much detail as possible who that customer is.

Next, you'll find several more questions to ask yourself so you can develop a marketing plan that best fits your company's abilities for implementation, while steadily building your profits. 

What research is available on my ideal customer group?

Now that you've identified your market, you'll want to learn as much as you can about them. There are various ways to learn about the lifestyle, buying habits and preferences of your market. Research groups such as Claritas and LexisNexis can be quite helpful. If there are organizations, associations, or clubs that serve your market, they can often provide a wealth of important data. You may want to join such an association and get into the mainstream of the information flow pertaining to your market.

What do they read or listen to?

You've learned a lot more about your market, but we're not done yet. Your research hopefully has identified some of the publications they read, and perhaps what type of programming, whether on radio or television, they listen to. If this information has not turned up in your research, there are sources to help you find out. One is the Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS) publication.

Many cities will have this resource in their main library’s reference section. Call first and ask if they have the SRDS. SRDS has consumer and business volumes, so choose the correct one for your market. Pick your topic, say, "automobiles," and you'll see practically every publication available in this country pertaining to automobiles.

Why is so important to learn what your market is tuned in to? Three reasons: First, you’ll want to read or listen to those sources too, to further understand your market. The more you understand them, the more you can fine-tune your offerings for them. Second, there's a good chance you’ll also find your competitors there. Now you can analyze their advertising, their approaches, offers, guarantees, and so on. Look at their strengths and weaknesses, and ask yourself how you can do better. Third, this will help you identify some of the media sources that might be used for advertising.

Next time we'll conclude with several more questions you should ask yourself to help create a dynamite marketing plan. In the meantime, you can start in on those already presented!