Understanding your Markets and Customers

Good Morning and welcome back!  This week, I will offer you a short video uploaded by Mastermind Solutions, LLC.   Remember last week we talked about researching and analyzing the current market situation, this brief video provides great information about understanding your markets and customers, which is the next step to developing a strong marketing plan.

I hope you found this short video helpful, see you next week when we talk about Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning.

Do you Have a 2014 Plan for Success?

Success ImageWelcome to PlansForSuccess, a blog applicable to the start-up, seasoned or just need to know entrepreneur.  The purpose of this blog is to take you on an in-depth journey into the world of Marketing Planning…Why?  Well, per Winston Churchill “failing to plan is planning to fail’…right?  Of course it is:)  No really,  according to the Small Business Administration,  “a sound and well thought-out marketing plan is an essential part of a firm’s ability to compete in today’s marketplace” http://www.sba.gov/content/value-marketing-plan.  However, failure to understand marketing, market planning or industry markets for that matter, can and does contribute to small business failure!  Did you know that about 75% (if not more) of the small businesses started today, will NOT be around in 2019.  That means you need to pull out that business plan and make sure it includes a detailed marketing plan that is sound and relevant,  if you expect to achieve measurable business growth in 2014 and beyond. Go ahead….I’ll wait:)

Before we begin, I need to first point out that there is a distinct difference in marketing planning and marketing. Although they are interconnected…which means one “should not, could not, would not” exist without each other,(well they can, but they shouldn’t)-they are  completely different activities.  In fact, it is my suggestion that not another penny is spent toward marketing activities until you sit down and write, type or Dragon:), a solid marketing plan…ok, ok, maybe that’s a little extreme, but you get the point.

In order to clarify the difference between the above activities, this week’s blog will focus primarily on defining the concepts and terms that will become pertinent to future discussions.

To get started, let’s become familiar with  a few term definitions below:

  • Marketing-The activity, set of institution’s, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
  • Marketing Objectives– Targets for performance in managing specific marketing relationships and activities.
  • Marketing Planning-The process of determining how to provide value to customers , the organization, and key stakeholders by researching and analyzing the market, the situation; developing and documenting marketing objectives, strategies, and programs; and implementing, evaluating, and controlling marketing activities to achieve the objectives.
  • Marketing Plan-A document that summarizes marketplace knowledge and the strategies and steps to be taken in achieving the objectives set by marketing managers for a particular period.           “The Marketing Plan Handbook 5th Edition”,  Marian Burk Wood

For the most part this blog series will follow A to Z the details of a marketing plan,  and through a series of Blog Post’s, Video’s, Tutorial’s, Link’s and on and on, it is my goal to aid you in understanding the intricate details of your firm’s marketing plan and why it’s essential…no it is imperative to the success of your business.

Thank you for tuning in this week, come back next week as I begin discussing in detail, the Purpose of a Marketing Plan.

Understanding Your Markets and Customer with a few Questions

Market ShareHello and welcome back!

I hope you found that short video on the fundamentals of understanding your “Markets and Customers”last week helpful,  this week I will list a series of questions that you should consider when you are searching for your Customer and your Market, so it basically adds on to the video that was presented last week.

Understanding your Market and Market Share:

  • How can your market be described in terms of product, customer need, and geographic location? For instance, a market can be described as “walking shoes for the active urban professional” (Of course, your description should be more in detail and the example being used here is a general breakdown of a market description) You would then break down each segment by describing the walking shoes-product; defining “active professional”, and geographically placing “urban”, i.e. Chicago, Illinois.
  • What is your industry definition and the activities defined within that industry?  If you are unfamiliar with your industry involves, look up your NAICS code via the Small Business Administration website at www.sba.gov.
  • What are the demographics, characteristics, behaviors, needs, and preferences related to your product or service in this market? Are the demographics changing? If so, how often? For example, does your “working class” market include a large share of individuals who plan on retiring within the next five years?
  • What is the market share for your product or service and how can you monitor your share?  Additionally, how is your market share changing compared to the market share of your competitor?
  • How can you use your marketing plan to make the most of the identified by market opportunities, while minimizing threats that are result of the market’s characteristics?

Understanding your Customers, B2B and B2C:

  • What are the customer needs that can be efficiently and profitably satisfied? Are your customers B2B or B2C?  Do they need a service like marketing, or a product like paper?
  • How do your customers perceive the value of products and services, similar to yours? Does your competitor offer a similar product at a better price?  For instance, have you ever had to replace an Apple I-Phone charger?
  • Who are your customers in each market, what are their buying habits? Additionally, you should always know who makes the buying decisions for your targets, in addition to how they prefer their sales pitches.  For instance, a baby-boomer might be fine with an hour long in person sales appointment; whereas, a millennial may prefer that you email the information first, and a sales contact will be made if they are interested.
  •  Are there any cultural practices or societal issues that should be taken into consideration?Market animation

Of course this is not a one size fits all list, it is just some of the essential areas that should be taken into consideration when you are researching your customer behavior and most profitable market.  Come back next week as I discuss “Plan Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning” and we get one step closer to finalizing your marketing plan!

What Does it Look Like? Understanding your Current Market Situation

Hello and welcome back! Now that we have went over the preliminary details of marketing planning and developing a marketing plan, now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Survey 5This week’s topic will focus solely on the 1st step to developing a marketing plan: “Analyzing the Current Market Situation.”  Before you can understand where you need to invest your marketing resources, you must, I repeat MUST understand your current market situation. Studying the environmental trends to stay aware of any political, economic, social-cultural, technological or ecological changes in advance, will help you avoid negative consequences of marketing decisions later.  Completing this process thoroughly, sets the foundation for a marketing plan that provides value to your stakeholders and makes a difference to your community.

To analyze your market for planning purposes, consider these factors:

Internal Factors-What are the internal factors within the organization, that could potentially positively or negatively affect the marketing plan and subsequently the organization?

  • Mission of the Organization
  • Human, Financial and Informational Resources
  • Product or Service Offering(s)
  • Previous Results (Sales and Marketing)
  • Business Relationships (Suppliers, Customers, Strategic Partners)
  • Key Success Factors

External Factors- What are the external factors outside the organization, that could potentially positively or negatively affect the marketing plan and subsequently the organization?

  • Political-Legal Trends
  • Economic Trends (Remember the 2008 Recession)
  • Social-Cultural Trends (I-phone user vs. Galaxy user)
  • Technological Trends (Mobile Ready Websites vs HTML)
  • Ecological Trends
  • Competitive Trends (What is my Competitors doing)
  • Industry Success Factors (What are the Key Success Factors for the Industry I am in)

Competitor Analysis-What is my competitor doing?Blog 5

  • Who are my competitors?
  • What are my competitor’s Key Success Factors?
  • What is my competitor’s market share, objectives, resources, and strengths and weaknesses?

Armed with this information, you will find out pertinent information about your current situation, this will help you either prepare or refine your SWOT, which we will discuss in detail next week!  Again, thank you for returning this week, I hope that this information is helpful to you as you revise your marketing plan for 2014 and beyond.  Please feel free to comment for suggestions or share with others!

What’s All in the Plan? The Contents of a Marketing Plan

Planning and ImplementationWelcome back!  By now you must be used to my off brand sense of writing and humor.   I will assume that you somewhat enjoy it, which is why you keep coming back, yaaaay thank you!  At this point we have went over the intent of this blog; the comparison of a marketing plan vs. marketing planning; the purpose of a marketing plan and marketing planning, and my sense of humor, NOW let’s discuss the CONTENTS of a firm marketing plan…this is the time to get a pen and some paper.

This weeks post will primarily focus on the main content topics of a marketing plan.  As we move forward, I will use future posts to discuss each topic more in detail.  It is my suggestion that as the topics are discussed, take the information that you have learned and apply this knowledge to your current business strategy and marketing plan. Also, if you have any questions please post them below or feel free to email me at kendrea@ethosservicesllc.com,  I will be happy to assist you.

Below is a brief summary of the sections that should be included in your marketing plan. (P.S. this is where you apply the information that you found during your marketing planning and research processes, you know, the one we talked about on January 16).

The Executive Summary-WRITE THIS LAST! This is an abstract of your marketing plan, it will be a brief overview that highlights the overall marketing objectives and strategies and shows how the marketing strategies will link to the higher goals and objectives of the organization.

Current Marketing Situation-This is a review and analysis of the current marketing events and trends that could positively or negatively affect your marketing activities, and most importantly the organization.  For instance, the recent rise in social media use means that someone in the organization must, I repeat MUST, have some social media knowledge. Not having that knowledge internally could negatively affect your marketing plan and ultimately the organization.  Unless, you would like to hire me and I can manage the social media for you, lol!! (humblebrag)Whts the plan

Target Market, Customer Analysis and Positioning– This section of the marketing plan will discuss your idea customer in addition to their buying habits.  Also, this is where you will show how you will place your product or service in front of the ideal customer.  For instance, if you were in the business of selling customized dog treats, your ideal customer would be dog owners who took extreme care of their pets. You will most likely find this type customer at a local dog park.  Yep, it’s that simple!

Objectives and Issues-This area explains the organization’s financial objectives, marketing objectives and societal objectives, and how the marketing plan will contribute to achieving them, in addition to any issues which many influence whether those objectives are met.

Marketing Strategy-This will be a summation of the overall marketing strategy, i.e. “The How of the Plan”, it should include the marketing programs, platforms and specific scheduled activities. The marketing strategy should be developed with the 4 P’s in mind, Product, Pricing, Place (channels of distribution), and Promotion (marketing communication). This is also where you must determine your marketing budget.

Financial and Operational Plan-This section should include the financial and organizational support that will be required to successfully carry out the marketing strategies.  You must, again I repeat, YOU MUST have a budget set for marketing.  Marketing is an investment and if you want to expect a profitable return, you must invest in it.

Metrics and Implementation Control-This area will show how the marketing strategies will be periodically evaluated and adjusted if required.  By keeping detailed marketing records, you will be able to measure your channels for success performance, before you have invested too many of your valuable resources. Microsoft Excel becomes your best friend when it comes to keeping organized records.  Again, if you need some help in setting up systems of measurement, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Purpose Puzzle PictureNow that we understand the contents of a marketing plan, we will begin to discuss each section more in detail, including real examples to help you better apply the knowledge.  See you next week as I discuss “Current Market Situation” analysis in detail, be sure to bring your marketing plan!