Marketing Plan Checklist
You’d be surprised how many large brands rely on institutional memory and copying past behaviors to plan their marketing efforts. (It has surprised us, too!) Everyone knows better, but reality strikes when teams change, management overturns, and the historical knowledge gets lost or patch-worked together over time.
We’ve gone down this road a few times with our clients, so we pulled together a handy reference tool for creating a marketing plan. This document has specific steps to help you gather key information about your brand and your business plan.
We’ve divided these steps into general categories so that the information can be tackled in segments:
- WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER?
- WHY WOULD YOUR CUSTOMER CHOOSE YOUR BRAND?
- REACHING YOUR CUSTOMER
- MAKING THE SALE
- GROWING YOUR SALES
If you don’t have a formal marketing plan in place, our best advice is to go through the document in two or three passes, recording your “gut reactions” the first time, and refining the information with each successive round of review.
As you follow the steps, it is also helpful to record your programs on a calendar. Creating a timeline will give you a good picture of how and when you are spending your marketing budget over the course of a typical year.
WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER?
It’s important to realize that you have more than one audience for your brand story. Most brands spend time and energy only identifying the end consumer. There are scores of market studies on the American shopper, and a good product development team will have Mary HomeOwner front and center every day. For most consumer goods, a brand message has to pass through many hands before Mary hears the story, and what motivates Mary to make a purchase is NOT what drives a Merchant or a Distributor Sales Rep to perform well at their job.
Our checklist starts with defining all of the audiences that a brand encounters. Creating personas is a first step, and it’s not a frivolous exercise. The goal of creating these personas is to understand what motivates each one individually. Tailoring a brand message to each audience ensures that every component of a marketing strategy is focused on pushing the right buttons to get each group to take action. It’ll also help the brand team to understand how to can better serve your audience’s needs.
Our checklist includes a short list of items to consider when developing personas. Use them as a starting point and add or edit details to fit the product category.
WHY WOULD YOUR CUSTOMER CHOOSE YOUR BRAND?
Creating personas for product marketing is a large undertaking, but the level of understanding that comes out of the process is well worth your while. You’ll begin to see the unique dilemmas and pain points that lie within each group; you’ll also grow to understand their constraints, their problems and who they have to answer to in the corporate world. And you’ll also see ways in which your products work for the people in each group - ways that can’t be touched by the competition. Your job as a marketer is to find scenarios in which your products solve the problems of your audience members. You don’t want to just blindly sell - you truly want to show people that your product will resolve their pain points far better than any competing product.
The section of the Marketing Plan Checklist serves to help organize your research. Again, every item should be covered for each persona. These attributes are all about what your product brings to your customer.
- DIFFERENTIATION What are the ways your brand stands out from the competition? Look beyond pricing. Example: innovations, authenticity, exclusivity, location, customized options, etc.
- KEY VALUES List any values or benefits that your products bring to your customers. Example: quality, nourishment, local support, sustainability
- CUSTOMER RESPONSE How will customers feel after consuming your products? Example: their breath will be fresher, their meal was prepared quickly, they will be less frustrated, they will have more money, etc.
- CUSTOMER PERCEPTION How would you like customers to think about your business? Example: a trusted company, the most affordable choice, etc.
- SWOT PROFILE How does your brand compare to the rest of the market? List all of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
BRAND ATTRIBUTES (BRAND EXPERIENCE)
These seven key attributes are different from the above items in that this section is focused on what your customer experiences when using your brand. For this exercise, briefly summarize these key attributes of your product/service through the eyes of your customer.
- FORM: Describe the style of your product. (creamy, luscious, crunchy, spicy)
- FUNCTION: Describe how your product works for your client. (fast, convenient, comforting, satisfying)
- BENEFITS: How does your product add to your customer’s experience? (healthy eating in a hurry, fine dining on a budget, great meals with little planning)
- FEELINGS: After using your product, how does your customer feel? (healthy and smart, a trendsetter, confident parent)
- VALUES: What does your product represent to your customer? (smart shopper, wholesome food, easy to prepare)
- METAPHORS: Challenges, life events, lessons, or aspirations connected to your product/service. (creating a welcoming table, providing a healthy start to the day, connecting to family)
- EXTENSIONS: Describe unexpected or illogical feelings your product/service inspires. (because I feed my family healthy food, I am a great mom; because this food is popular, I throw great parties; because I serve gorgeous food, I’m a gracious host)
REACHING YOUR CUSTOMER
Invariably a marketing campaign will start with someone walking into the Marketing Department and saying, “We need a brochure, how quickly can you get this done?” Sometimes a request comes from Product Development, ex: “We’ve got this new idea. Give us a logo to put on it.” The Brand Manager’s job in this scenario is to ask “Why?”
A list of tactics is not a strategy, and a large portion of the marketing budget can get tied up in making “stuff” instead of investing in communication that can demonstrate a clear ROI. The Brand Message, the Brand Mission, and Audience Personas are the tools that inform a marketing plan. Smart marketers should use this checklist as a reminder tool. For every item, consider what you already have and what you really need for this campaign. The goal here is only to use tools that lead to the sale, and every communication piece you develop should be targeted to each step along the sales channel.
MAKING THE SALE
The Pricing and Positioning Strategy is the other part of the marketing plan that most manufacturers have in place. The margin is included here because money spent on marketing can eat away at the margin if you are caught in a tactical trap.
We’ve also included Distribution methods because they can impact how a message is delivered. Does your distribution partner offer homepage takeovers? Maybe marketing dollars are better spent there instead of on a large print run for brochures that have a 6-month shelf life. Perhaps their outside sales team typically sends PDFs along to their B2B customers.
GROWING YOUR SALES
An annual Marketing Plan should include funds to nurture customer relationships. Spending time investigating Customer Retention and Joint Venture strategies can have an exponential return on your marketing spend. You may find ways to add a small percentage to each product launch to feed these two key areas of a well-rounded marketing plan.
It’s also important to keep an eye on ways to increase the revenue on every sale. Is your new product an item that could be part of a system-sell or a complete the collection? Are there ways to convince an opening-price-point customer to purchase an upgrade or product improvement?
Remember that this list isn’t just for the end consumer. Every one of these checklist items should be considered at each selling points from your corporate office to the shelf. Even your own sales team will want to know how your tools will help them meet their sales goals, so it is essential to have some buy-in from them as you develop tools. There is nothing more frustrating than unveiling your new campaign at a sales meeting and hearing, “But you forgot to address the challenges we hear every day from our customers!”
NEED SOME HELP?
We cover a lot of ground in this 12-Step checklist, and it can seem overwhelming when faced with tight deadlines. If you start the process and run into questions, remember we are only a phone call away. We are happy to jump on a quick 30-minute free consultation if you need a hand.