Four Steps for Effective Market Planning
If your business isn't growing, it's dying. While some companies folded in the last two years, many others are remaining hopeful, and many are also thriving.
In 2021, a record-breaking 5.4 million new business applications were filed.1 In April 2022, another 423,153 were filed.2 American businesspeople are optimistic about the future. But growing or expanding a company – even launching a new product or service – can be daunting, especially in times of economic uncertainty.
While we can’t predict the future, careful planning can help facilitate growth, while mitigating risk.
Develop a cohesive plan to successfully market your business.
Market planning is intended to help draw conclusions about demand, trends, potential, saturation, competition, target channels and even pricing. It’s important to conduct research, evaluate a variety of scenarios, carefully prepare a business case, and be prepared to pivot if needed.
Every new idea isn’t necessarily a good one. New Coke and Google Glass were market extensions that flopped despite good intentions. But market planning will illuminate what is most likely to work for your company and may inspire new and different ideas that succeed.
Perform a marketing opportunity analysis.
A market analysis will provide an in-depth view of intended markets, customers, and competitors. Its goal is to help you determine whether your product or service is viable, identify how to competitively position it in the marketplace, and pinpoint opportunities for growth. There are specific focus areas.
- Target audience
Who do you want to sell to and what problem will your product help solve? Client data and market research helps identify specific customer – and prospect – segments based on revenue potential, as well as lays the foundation for determining potential market share. Demographic data provides an additional layer of insight to further refine segmentation and marketing strategy.
- Product research
This step will help you determine the need for your product or service, what will be required to fully develop and sell the product, as well as how it should be priced, packaged, and distributed. You’ll also need to consider how you’ll fund development and set a timeline for when the product/service will be self-sustaining financially. Industry and trade research can help with facts and figures, but you may need to do custom research for specifics relative to your product or service.
- Competitive analysis
How does your idea rate against competitors’ offerings? What are they doing right and where are they missing the mark? If your product or service isn’t easy to differentiate on performance, features, quality, service, or price, you’ll want to regroup and redefine to give yourself the competitive advantage.
- Target audience
Conduct a SWOT analysis.
One of the most common approaches to evaluating a new idea is a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. The goal of a SWOT analysis is to assess the potential for your idea, with an overview of where your expansion idea stands today relative to internal and external factors that will influence success.
The SWOT analysis will tell you how your new business idea could meet unfulfilled needs (strengths), where it falls short (weaknesses), how you can disrupt the status quo with something better (opportunities) and what factors could torpedo your success (threats).
Establish actionable objectives and measurements.
A plan is just a dream without goals. In addition, goals for every aspect of the plan should be SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. You’ll want to include:
Establish average sales goals that you need to be profitable. Also specify per-unit sales goals detailing how many items you need to sell and at what price.
Define how much you intend to earn with monthly, quarterly, or annual time frames. Of course, this is heavily dependent on pricing and sales plans.
Document how many customers or prospects you want to acquire from each segment. How many do you want to add per month or quarter? Again, be specific about time frames.
- Market Share
What percentage of the market do you want to own? Outline reasonable target dates for when incremental increases can be achieved in each intended region.
Using the SMART framework keeps you on track for growth. It’s essential to periodically follow up with customers and sales representatives to assess how your offering is received. If you’re meeting your goals, keep at it. If you’re not, it will be easy to see why and take steps to correct course.
Create a marketing plan.
The marketing plan outlines how you’ll promote your product. Marketing plans are comprehensive, so it’s important to start work early. The STP (segmentation, targeting, positioning) model is an efficient way to develop a plan for marketing new services and products. This approach involves choosing valuable segments (identified from your marketing opportunity analysis) and developing a positioning strategy and marketing mix for each segment.3 The marketing plan should include goals and measurements, as well as budgets and timelines.
- Write a positioning statement.
What is your product or service and why is it needed? Positioning statements define the product, what it will do for customers and how it is different from other offerings. Communicate this positioning to your entire employee base – not just sales – so that everyone knows how to effectively promote your product.
- Consider pilots and soft launches.
Depending on the nature of your product and revenue goals, a pilot or soft launch might be appropriate to test the market response prior to a broader release. The reason for testing is not to see if buyers will buy — this was addressed in the market analysis — but rather to address any unforeseen technical, sales or support issues that might arise during a larger rollout. Pilots and soft launches also provide opportunities for product reviews and case studies, which are valuable in communicating the benefits of the product.
- Define the marketing mix.
The marketing plan is how you’ll introduce your product to the world. The market analysis should’ve provided details about your target audiences, including the types of media they rely on for information. Is it digital, radio, newspaper? Will they require 1:1 communication and product demos? An agency can help develop a plan that includes the right messaging and marketing mix to reach the various segments you are targeting, as well as executing creative that reflects your company’s brand.
- Think big when budgeting.
Marketing can be expensive. Establish a cost for launch activities, agency fees, and each element of the marketing mix but remain flexible as you will likely need to make adjustments. Include a cushion for cost overruns and unexpected expenses.
- Create a detailed schedule.
Decide on an overall launch date. Work backwards from that timeline, detailing critical dates for every launch activity. Be sure to confirm timelines with team members who share launch responsibilities (e.g., sales, product management, compliance, etc.)
- Measure and refine campaigns.
Regularly track and document campaign performance, with an analysis of related spend. This will help to determine return on investment. Frequently reviewing performance will also provide an opportunity to adjust the campaigns as needed.
- Write a positioning statement.
Business success requires creativity, flexibility, and discipline. Our Treasury Management Consultants or Relationship Managers can provide targeted financial insights and assist with marketing planning for successful business expansion.
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