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8 Steps to Marketing Planning

by in +marketing, +strategy

8 Steps to Marketing Planning Blog Ready

Many companies, large and small, young and old, approach marketing agencies all the time needing a trendy website for the new year or they need some updated brochures for a trade show coming up.

All of this is great, but what many don’t consider is that while it is easy to make something look nice and modern, the hard part is figuring out how to get the message across more clearly to the target consumers.

Everyone and their mother creates the most innovative product for their industry that’s of the highest quality and/or best service. The trouble is, people hear this all the time. So instead, take some time and get a little more strategic with the approach.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll cover 8 steps towards successful marketing strategy and planning.

This week’s post discusses the Competitive Analysis.

Step 1: Competitive Analysis – How Are the Competitors Talking To Your Customers?

Doing a thorough competitive analysis looks at many different aspects of competitors. Some companies might be direct competitors while others might just compete with you on one specific product or service. Even then, do the research.

Messaging – Start by looking at their messaging. What’s their tagline? How are they communicating their value to customers and prospects?

Services Offered – What are all the services that they offer? Learn what exactly your competitors offer. It will drive what you learn for the market concentration for each service.

Marketing Concentration – Another aspect to consider when planning is the market concentration. Figure out which competitor is dominating the various segments within a market. You might find segments to dominate and others to steer clear from because the segment might be saturated.

Advertising – Where are they advertising? Are they getting their name in relevant mediums? General advertising won’t always work, so find out where your competitors can be found. Later in the process, the Marketing Influencer Identification will be able to tell you if they are advertising in the right places or if you will have the leg up.

Branding – Do they have an outdated brand? As the VP of Red Caffeine, Julie Poulos, likes to say, “take off the leg warmers!” In B2B, modern brands aren’t as common as one might think. A brand says a lot about a company, and it should grow and develop along with the company. A competitor’s brand could be misleading in regards to what they actually do nowadays.

User Experience – How easy is it to use their website? Does a competitor offer something in their website that’s a unique tool in the industry? How hard is it to find your way through the website? Use this knowledge to differentiate your online property from the competitors.

Search Engine Optimization – Is their website well optimized for search engines? Search engines do a really good job of actually reading content on websites, and making the website easy to read for search engines goes a long way. Use tools like SpyFu to see how your competitors are faring in the digital world.

Search Engine Marketing – Are they utilizing Pay-Per-Click advertising? Get an idea on how they are using paid advertising and dig around to see how competitive those keywords are. Later in the strategy phase, you’ll find out for yourself from stakeholders if this will be a good route to take or not.

Call to Action – Do they make it easy to contact them? Websites have different goals, and it should be geared towards achieving that goal. Is your competitor’s website geared towards getting in contact with them or making a sale?

Social Media – Are they utilizing social media? What kind of social media reach are they hitting? Meaning, how big of an audience do they have? One might think, on first glance, the number of followers on Twitter is as far as the reach goes, but the reality of the situation is, if they get retweeted, they have exposure to that retweeter’s audience as well. Keep track of the audiences they reach and the kinds of content they are putting out to reach those audiences. Try tools like bitly.Pro to track a link through the online stratosphere.

Keep a look out for all of the other steps in successful marketing planning. Here’s a rough roadmap on all the topics I’ll cover that are essential to be more strategic in the thought process. There are, of course, more options and tactics out there. These are just the essentials.

Step 2: Stakeholder Research – Talk to the People

Step 3: Buyer Profile Development – Who Are We Really Talking To?

Step 4: Influencer Identification – Who Do Your Customers Really Lister To?

Step 5: Online Audit – What Does Google Have to Say?

Step 6: Benchmarks – “Best Practices” can be Beaten

Step 7: Positioning: What will Give Us that Competitive Advantage?

Step 8: Plan: Get it Down on Paper and Set the Guiding Light

Think I’m missing something important to strategic planning that you would like to see covered? Comment below and let me know!

About The Author

Francois du Toit
Francois du Toit - View more articles

Francois is a strategist who loves piecing the puzzle together for a creative big picture. Aside from skateboarding and running marathons, he loves learning about new renewable tech constantly hitting the market. His creative juices get flowing when he has Netflix running as white noise and is surrounded by natural light. Connect with Francois on LinkedIn or Twitter.