Retail Marketing Planning: How to Get Started With Marketing Planning

Marketers struggle with marketing campaign planning for different reasons: incomplete or inaccessible historical data, new marketing channels with no obvious comparables, lack of expertise or understanding of what really matters. We’ll explore how to address more of these issues in upcoming blog posts.

Understand Your Channels – Differentiate between Marketing and Order Channels

Even the most sophisticated marketers create confusion by using the word “channel” interchangeably between Marketing and Order Channels.

Marketing Channels are those that you spend your marketing efforts in: direct mail, email, display/retargeting, natural and paid search, affiliate, social media, etc. Order Channels are ones in which a customer places an order: call center, ecommerce/internet, and retail. Mobile is unique in that it can be categorized either way – for example, if a company has a mobile app which serves as a marketing tool, and a customer can also order through, the channel can be classified as either a Marketing or Order Channel. Keep in mind that the categorization should be consistent.

Plan Marketing Channels, then Forecast by Order Channel

Since you have much more control over marketing campaigns than where a customer will choose to place an order, start by planning your marketing campaigns. Each company has its own set of terminology, but there are typically three levels of marketing planning, depending on the complexity and depth of each channel. I’ll define my definitions for clarity:

Campaign – Overall theme that the marketing supports. This can be a season (Winter, Summer, Holiday), event (webinar, concert), membership drive (wine club, subscription-based purchase), promotion (semi-annual sale, clearance). Crosses between Marketing Channel and Communication since both are instrumental in supporting the campaign.

Marketing Channel – direct mail, email, search, display, affiliate, social media (same as above)

Communication – individual marketing treatments such as an email, postcard, Facebook ad, mobile ad, SEM ad.

For some marketing channels, such as direct mail, marketers typically plan at the Communication level. Direct mail requires more advance planning since print orders need to be placed, customer lists modeled and hygiened, list rentals ordered, and postage costs calculated.

Other marketing channels need less rigor and can be planned at the channel level. For example, if your affiliate program is fairly even and predictable, it probably makes sense to plan at the channel level rather than have individual plans for each publisher.

Depending on your business, you may also plan by Campaign. An example of this is a large semi-annual sale promotion – you would plan communications in each of your channels to support the promotion. You may send a catalog or direct mail piece, a series of emails, a social media contest, and targeted display ads to reinforce your message.

Increases in Circulation: Need to Account for Growth and Lower Performance

The next step is to take historic data as the plan starting point. Response rates, average order, click through rates, and other relevant metrics are helpful for planning for communications targeted at similar audiences.

Two common mistakes that marketers make are:

  1. Not adjusting for audience growth/shrinkage (if the same quality audience has grown, you can assume a similar response rate even though your circulation size has changed).
  2. Increasing/decreasing the audience of a different quality without accounting for a difference in performance. This is important – by increasing circulation, the quality of the audience will decrease and the expected revenue per person for the incremental circulation will be lower.

One way to determine the revenue increase/decrease per person for different quality circulation is based on a loose rule of thumb (divide the % increase by three so that the larger the increase in circulation, the greater the drop-off in revenue per person).

Using historical data and trend, you can then forecast your sales curves by order channel. Most large companies that have multiple order channels typically forecast by fiscal week for both call center staffing and managing the revenue/inventory predictions. Smaller and more internet-based companies may choose to forecast on a monthly basis.

Why Your Small Business Needs a Professional Marketing Plan

Many small business owners know that they need to promote their businesses – in other words, they know they need to be doing marketing activities of some sort. Yet choosing the right mix of activities seems like an impossible task. Should they focus on building a new website? Running ads in the local newspaper? Sending out direct mail or email, or perhaps posting to social media?

Even if a business owner chooses a few activities to try, often they’re not sure when or how often to run those ads, send out the emails, or mail postcards. Understanding small business marketing and developing an action plan often feels overwhelming for a small business owner. Combine that overwhelm with time pressures and the limited budget of a typical small business and you suddenly understand why few actually have a written marketing plan in place.

What’s so important about having a written marketing plan in place? Why can’t you just sit down with your staff and come up with a few ideas, then go out and use them to promote your business?

You can certainly sit around the table and brainstorm ideas, but without a written plan, how many of those ideas will actually be carried through to completion? And if you do have several ideas you need to choose among for your activities, how do you sort and weigh them to understand which promotional idea can potentially yield the best return on investment? Who is going to actually create the promotion, make sure it is placed or mailed on time, and then follow up to count the responses to see whether or not it was worth it?

As you can see, there’s a lot to know and remember when you’re planning your small business marketing. That’s where a marketing plan and a professional marketing consultant can help.

A marketing plan created by a professional marketing consultant who knows and understands the unique challenges that your small business faces may focus on several key areas. These areas may include goal setting for your business, understanding the business and competitive environment, defining the products you’re selling and the messages to share about them, and then creating a marketing strategy and action plan (tactical plan or marketing mix) to direct your activities in a focused and measurable way.

I’ve seen some great marketing plans that were detailed and creative, but they sat on a shelf and gathered dust. Why? Because they weren’t focused on action! A marketing plan without an action plan and clearly defined tactical steps is like a scientific research report; rich with information but offering little practical value. Small businesses don’t need a research report – they need a focused, clear action plan.

There’s a balance between the background information that informs the action steps a small business should take and a tactical-only plan that focuses solely on the promotional methods. As a business owner, you have to know and understand the marketplace forces, your customers, what you’re selling and the advantages you have before you roll out any promotional campaigns. Yet most business owners focus solely on the promotional aspect because it makes them feel like they’re finally taking action and getting some marketing steps accomplished. Action without strategy, planning and forethought, however, can lead to missed opportunities and wasteful spending as you put money into marketing activities that may not reach your customers nor communicate the messages that will resonate with them. And marketing activities without some sort of assessment or tracking can lead to wasteful spending. If you don’t know how many new customers you have reached or how many sales you achieved from your promotion, how do you know it was worthwhile?

Before spending more money on your current marketing activities, take a moment and consider what it would take to have a professional create a marketing plan for your business. With a professional marketing plan in place and someone to coach you through the activity steps, you may have a better chance at achieving your goals, attracting new customers, and selling more. And in the end, isn’t that the result you want from your marketing programs?

Seven Questions That Every Business Owner Needs To Answer To Create A Truly Great Marketing Plan

Have you ever spent time and effort creating a Marketing Plan to then experience disappointment and frustration because it made zero difference in your business performance?

If so it’s probably because you fell into one or more of the following traps:

1. You may have followed a template that’s been designed for a large corporate entity instead of one that’s proven effective for a smaller business

2. Possibly you bought a Marketing Plan training course from a charlatan who knew that the course they were selling was useless but who continued to sell it regardless

3. Or perhaps you followed the advice of a well-meaning business coach or consultant (who probably didn’t actually own their own business) that relied on out-dated theories. And if that’s the case then you probably noticed that after several months and many thousands of dollars later you had no new clients to show for your time, effort and money

4. Or possibly you fell into the very common trap of starting with tactics and not paying deep attention to strategy first

If any of the above describes you then you need to know that it’s probably not your fault: there are simply too many confident-sounding, smooth-talking crooks and simpletons out there who are selling half-baked theories that don’t actually work.

And on the subject of putting strategy before tactics, the latter are the important details of a Marketing Plan and include the creation of testimonials, guarantees, websites, advertisements, email or direct mail campaigns and so on but whilst that’s all very important you’ll soon see that it’s a big mistake to start with tactics before you’ve got yourself an effective marketing strategy.

This article in an introduction to seven strategic questions you need to answer when putting together an effective Marketing Plan.

Strategic Question #1: What’s your PEG? PEG stands for Personal End Game and while it’s technically an objective and not a strategy as such, I include it here because it’s critically important as a source of motivation for when you hit the inevitable obstacles along the road to growing your business: “reasons are the fuel in the furnace of motivation”.

The PEG question is normally the easiest of the strategic questions to answer. All you need to do is identify two numbers and three things.

The two numbers are: how much income do you want each year and how many weeks off work do you want each year?

Then you add three things that you will use that money and time for – three burning motivators. These can include your family but don’t keep it completely pure! If big sea side houses and fast cars really spin your “whizzer” then add them to your list.

Strategic Question #2: What is your Ideal Client Profile and what is their Specific Unmet Need? You need to develop a simple description of your Ideal Client and what they want. And ideally the “what they want” part is a need that they can’t get met someplace else.

This is not rocket science so keep it simple!

Include any generally applicable characteristics such as gender, religion, location, age bracket, occupation, company size, income and also a little bit about their buying motivators. Anything that you think is relevant is fair game for your list.

For example here’s my Ideal Client Profile: English speaking business owners who are comfortable with the internet and who want a marketing plan that is designed specifically for small business and that’s actually proven effective to bring in new clients.

Another example from a client: Fast food restaurant owners in the Asia Pacific region who want to increase their sales and profits through smarter sales software analysis.

And another client: Mothers in Australia, New Zealand and North America who want delicious but healthy Greek style yoghurt for themselves and their families and are prepared to pay a slight premium for healthier and more nutritious food

Note: in the last example we’ve excluded women without children to feed and we’ve excluded men despite being fully aware that some of those two categories will buy the product. However we want to create a marketing message (see below) that reflects their Specific Unmet Need and we can’t do that if we try to appeal to everyone. The message that’s designed for everyone is a message the no one is interested in.

Have you noticed that I haven’t asked you yet about your product/service yet? That’s because your product/service features are irrelevant at this point.

It’s not until you figure out what your market place wants that you are in a position to know if your product/service can be effectively marketed.

That may sound like bad news but it’s probably not. There’s a fair chance that your product/service, with a few tweaks, is fine. But you can’t assume that. If your product/service features are not well matched to market place needs, then getting people to buy will be very hard work.

An effective Marketing Plan always, always, always answers questions regarding market place needs before addressing the issue of product.

Strategic Question #3: What’s your Bold Promise? Another way of asking this question is “what does my Ideal Client have to hear in order for them to want to buy my product/service?”

There are a number of elements that combine to create successful marketing results but let me be explicitly clear: the two most critical factors are who you put your offer in front of (Ideal Client Profile) and what you actually offer; your “value proposition” as I call it.

The best offer in front of the wrong person is dead in the water. For example if you were a teetotaller and I offered you a great deal on a case of fine wine, even if I discounted it by 90%, would you buy? Probably not. That’s a great offer in front of the wrong person.

So now let’s assume that we’ve got the right audience let’s look at some different ways of presenting the offer.

For example: as a business owner which of the follow value propositions would you find more motivating?

“We show you how to grow your business” Versus “Increase your sales and profits by 50% within six months – or you don’t pay”

The second one is the hands down winner because it’s a bold promise, it includes a specific numerical benefit and it adds a guarantee. That combination is one Kick-Butt formula so take note.

Here’s another set of contrasting offers to further illustrate the point

“Your Building Consent Experts” Versus “Your Building Permit Approved In 14 Days Or Less – Guaranteed”

Do NOT skip this. I know your brain may hurt but this is critical. If you can come up with a bold promise like the ones above then you’ll achieve better marketing results and you’ll get those results faster and easier.

Your Ideal Client is bombarded with literally hundreds of marketing messages every day. You need to do something dramatic to make your message stand out.

Strategic Question #4: Where do my Ideal Clients hang out? So far you’ve figured out what motivates you, who is your Ideal Client, what their Specific Unmet Need is and what they need to hear in order to want to make an inquiry or to buy.

Now you need to figure out what they watch, who they listen to, what they read, which meetings they go to, which clubs or associations they are members of, which other businesses have them in their network, which websites they visit and what they search for on Google when they are looking for your type of products or services.

The reason is obvious: once you know where your Ideal Clients hang out then you can direct your bold promise to them with direct offer.

And you don’t have to spend much money on this. I’ve built multi-million dollar businesses on what I call my “Godfather” offers (an offer that you can’t refuse).

I identify the owner of a database that contains a lot of my Ideal Clients. I prepare a great offer for their network and then I offer the owner as much as 100% commission on the sales.

Why would I give away 100% of the sale? Simple: I want people in my database who are buyers, not tire-kickers. And the purpose of a sale is to get a client (most people think it’s the other way around).

Once I have a client, I can then nurture the relationship until they are ready to buy again… and again… and again.

(Bear in mind that most of my product offers are in digital format so I can afford to give away a lot because value delivery costs are zero.)

Strategic Question #5: What’s your Black Jellybean? If there is a jar of jellybeans at a counter I’ll be the guy standing there picking out the black ones. There is no such thing as liking black jellybeans. You either love them or you hate them.

Similarly, you need to figure out that what you offer, your Ideal Client will love and create/adjust/refine a product/service accordingly. And in creating something that your Ideal Client will love, probably means that there’s a whole bunch of people who hate it.

For example: in my business I work with clients almost exclusively on-line. My clients love the fact that they don’t have to travel to meet with me, that they are one click away from being straight back to work and that they don’t have to have me in their offices or factories.

Naturally, there are others who would work with me if only I would visit them face to face, three dimensionally.

And so my on-line strategy is a Black Jellybean, in that people either love it or hate it.

Another example: the Quick Beauty House offers 10 minute haircuts for $20… for women! For every 8 women who hate that idea there are 2 who love it. And in a city of fifteen million people that 2 out of 10 adds up to a whole lot of women!

Strategic Question #6: What will your Funnel look like? Imagine a Funnel, wide at the top and becoming narrower as is goes downward. A Funnel represents a series of product/service offerings that are free at the top and then increases in price as you descend down the Funnel and its design is a critical part of any effective Marketing Plan.

a Funnel starts at the top with free stuff and as people descend down the funnel there are less of them but they are spending more with you.

Let’s assume that whatever “Core Offering Product” you currently have it good or even great.

All too often business owners are trying to sell that Core Offering Product without romancing, seducing and engaging prospects with great added value free stuff first.

I got married three years ago. The millisecond I first saw my wife I was in love. Gone, smitten, out for the count!

Imagine I simply walked up to her and invited her to marry me on the spot. Or worse still, how do you think it would have gone if I’d asked her to join me in bed? Of course that’s a ridiculous idea but how often have you put your Core Offering Product in front of an Inquiring prospect and popped the question “So, you want to buy it or not?” (or words to that effect).

You need to ask yourself what you can offer for free, that if a person grabbed at it, they would be qualifying themselves as a likely client.

For example: I offer a free Marketing Plan training course. It runs over 30 days and contains a complete step by step training system for putting together a truly effective Marketing Plan for a business owner.

I offer the training course for free because the prospect can get great value from me without having to risk anything more than a few hours.

I know that most people who get my free course will never pay me even a cent, ever.

I also know that enough of the people who do that course will descend down to the next level of my Funnel and (wisely) accept my two month free trial offer for my Killer Marketing Club which is a great example of the “Easy Entry Level” product from the chart above.

And enough of the people who join the Killer Marketing Club will go on to invest in something else and so on.

And so the Funnel represents a game of patience and romance. It also says to a potential new client “you may have been burnt before so let me prove to you that I’m different and that I can add great value to you before you trust me with your money”.

Other examples and ideas for Free Added Value option: free trial period, free sample, free demonstration, free class, free added-value newsletters or Ezines, free check-up, free in-store tasting.

Patience + Free = Millions

Never underestimate the power of free!

Strategic Question #7: Which Streams will you tap into? A Stream refers to a source of prospects. I’ve identified well over sixty different places that most businesses can get qualified leads from. These include the traditional sources such as media advertising (don’t start here, you’ll burn too much money!), referral systems, Search Engine Optimization, banner adverts, direct mail or email campaigns, Joint Ventures, Host Beneficiaries, Social Media Marketing, Adwords, events, word of mouth and many more.

Your Marketing Plan needs to start off by listing at least ten different lead generation sources that you will start work on initially.

You take the one place that you think it will be easiest, cheapest and fastest to get leads and you put a system in place for getting your message out to that place and you then measure the results and when necessary, you refine the offer until you have a proven marketing system that brings in a predictable stream of new clients.

And then you do the same for the next system and so on until you have layered ten proven marketing systems on top of each other.

At that point you’ll have a flow of new leads and new clients.

Conclusion: Creating a truly effective Marketing Plan that gives you a flow of high quality new clients, predictably and systematically, is both critically important to the health of your business as well as pivotal to your success in life financially and personally.

For free training on creating a marketing plan visit: www.8020Center.com/FreeMarketingPlan/