Step 1: Market Research
Regardless of how much you plan on investing in your marketing strategy, you should always build a pool of intelligence and useful data that will aid you in developing your strategy. This is called market research. You can implement market research in a number of ways, but there two general overviews of ways that you can research:
This type of research includes gathering preexisting data and conducting your own internal studies. You can use several resources including the World Wide Web, your local library and your peers to conduct passive research. Many companies offer market research reports that may be useful to your own market and you can usually find these online through various sources. Some of these sources include:
- Gartner Group (gartner.com)
- Hoovers (hoovers.com)
- Dunn and Bradstreet (dnb.com)
- Marketing Research Association (mra-net.org)
- Factiva (factiva.com)
- You can also use your library’s resources for more localized information.
Active research includes actively polling or studying a group to learn real-time and informative data pertinent to your strategy. You can hire third party marketing companies to conduct these research studies; as it can be quite time-consuming to conduct even a small campaign. This data has an advantage over passive research because it can be customized towards your specific needs and the data is more current. You can also apply the data directly by building a prospect list out of your research. There are various ways to conduct active research; some of them include online surveys, telemarketing surveys, focus groups and market studies. The raw data you collect (usually answers to closed or open-ended questions) will then need to be quantified and formatted to allow you to make educated guesses when developing your strategy.
This first step in developing a marketing plan is often skipped. By conducting the right kind of market research, you can give your organization the competitive edge.
Step 2: Interpreting Strategic Objectives into Marketing Tactics
After conducting market research, you now have the intelligence to forge your overall business objectives into marketing tactics. The SMART goals that you developed earlier should be detailed enough to be your marketing objectives. Remember, make sure your goals contain the basic elements of a SMART goal; they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Tangible.
Step 3: Define Primary and Secondary Audience
This is where your prospecting and market research come to full term. Defining a target market is an educated guess (with market research) of who would most likely purchase your product. Combine the data collected from your market research and your prospect list and map out the commonalities and characteristics of your target market.
Your next step is to take this information a bit further by trying to answer the questions that relate to eliminating barriers to impulse to action. Use the following questions as a guide:
- What key characteristics do your target market have in common?
- What demographic statistics do your target market have in common?
- What are the barriers that prevent impulse to action?
- What would encourage your prospects to purchase your products or services?
- What types of marketing vehicles have historically worked on this group?
These questions can be further developed to better understand your target audience. The more you understand about your audience; the stronger your marketing strategy will be.
Once you clearly understand your target audience, you must develop a clear and concise message and value proposition to communicate to them. You must understand how your target audience will benefit from your product or service and clearly establish what your company can offer.
A good exercise is to develop a list of features, attributes, benefits and tie in for your product. Often called the FABT (Features, Attributes, Benefits and Tie-in) method, this will force you into understanding your offerings inside and out.
- Features: The direct statement of the object you are describing. Example: This is a Pen.
- Attributes: A description of the product, service, or business. Example: This pen is made of metal, is about three inches long and has an ink-dispensing tip.
- Benefits: How this product, service, or business can be applied. Example: This pen can be used to write down ideas and thoughts to store information on paper.
- Tie-In: How this product, service, or business can directly apply to your target market Example: This pen can be used for businesses to write down and store information that can later be retrieved by a business.
Write down all of the features of your business and then try to fill out the rest. It’s often useful to develop a spreadsheet with the headings: features, attributes, benefits, and tie-ins.
You should also develop and craft your niche. Long gone are the days when you can successfully be everything to everybody. This is a recipe for business failure. Find and list the characteristics that define your company. Is it economy? Quality? Exclusivity? Know your niche, define how you want to be labeled and incorporate it into your overall marketing message.