Developing a marketing strategy? hold a workshop

I am regularly asked to help companies develop a marketing plan. Some are for a new company, others for a new product. My first question is usually “do you have a marketing strategy and is your management aligned with it?”

Otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for failure. For those who need support, I usually recommend running a strategy workshop. The goal is to collect key data points, align the goals of the management team, and determine the next steps to create a go-to-market plan. Attendees should be assorted members of your management team (ie sales, marketing, finance, operations).

Although the workshop can be held in a single day, additional research will be needed if additional information is to be gained and strategic direction confirmed. This may include conversations with internal and external resources (ie customers, partners, target customers) and analysis using available tools.

The strategy workshop will provide you with the basic framework used to develop a marketing plan. The marketing plan will then focus on implementation.

The basic elements to be solved in a workshop are detailed below:

Market segmentation

Start by identifying your customers’ needs and then determine the best way to meet them. Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible for one company to meet every unique need. Instead, it is more efficient to allocate resources to specific customer groups. Because customer needs vary, marketers must identify common needs within similar customer groups and recognize distinctive needs among different customer groups. The first part of the workshop should be for

  • Identify or align market segments based on revenue potential and market size
  • Profile your ideal customer (size, location, capabilities) and identify target accounts by name
  • Create personas to identify who has the buying power at the base of your target company
  • Set market priorities to target with limited resources

Company and product positioning

Identify what you do best, what your target market wants, and why customers buy from you. Then, develop a basic set of messages that will allow your company to quickly differentiate itself. Areas to discuss should include who you are, what you stand for and what you want to stand for, your experience, and what you offer to the market).

Separate from the company is the positioning of the product portfolio itself. Key features, benefits, product names, order details, roadmap, technical and promotional details, and other data needed to develop products and web warranties.

Market analysis

Success depends on knowing your business inside and out. To do this, you should plan to conduct a SWOT analysis for:

  • Identify methods to address weaknesses and threats, and to take advantage of strengths and opportunities
  • Identify a list of major competitors and identify their differentiating characteristics
  • Barriers to entry to this market
  • Market trends, effects on economic prospects, available financing

Set sales and marketing goals

These goals should reflect what you think your business can achieve through marketing in the years to come:

  • revenue forecasts
  • The amount of new business vs. old or repeated business
  • Estimate average transaction size and order/sales cycle
  • Outline a strategy to attract and retain customers to identify and anticipate change
  • Identify marketing objectives based on resources and ability to meet forecasts

Sales channel and partners

Much of the marketing plan and budget will depend on the channels you will be selling on. The type of sales tools, campaign size, and customer retention methods all depend on determining the right mix of marketing and sales programs. Questions to address:

  • What are the short and long term plans to recruit distribution and sales channels?
  • What pricing structure is being offered at these levels?
  • Do you have a list of potential partners and distributors to target by industry type and by name?

Some additional points

Keep in mind that marketing strategies can vary in length and style depending on your business. However, in general, you should have a few additional items in mind before starting a marketing plan:

  • What is your marketing budget (i.e. a percentage of existing or future sales?)
  • How your spend will be allocated and tracked (printed material, web development, promotion, etc.)
  • What is your timing for a soft launch (internal and select customers) and a hard launch (public promotion)?
  • How will you measure success or failure? Leads, revenue, conversions, gross sales?

So what comes next?

Review the end results of your strategy and engage with your management team to ensure agreement on the strategy. Then move on to implementing your strategy using the information you’ve gathered to develop a marketing plan.

Need help creating a strategy or plan? Consult an expert who has worked in her area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise, who can extract information using interview techniques, and who has the network of vendors and tool providers to assemble reliable information.

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