Sunday, February 1, 2009

Top Five Ways to Doom Your Marketing Plan

Whether you've got the greatest product since sliced bread or the best tagline on earth, you can still screw things up with a misguided marketing plan. Here are the top five ways marketers can doom their marketing plans:
  1. Assume that your customers think, feel, and act the way you do. If you write your marketing plan with YOU in mind, you might end up as your only customer. People are not all alike--that's why you need to do your homework to understand the market, identify and select promising segments, then target the most profitable. Research the attitudes and feelings of target-market members toward your brand and its competitors; find out how market members approach decision-making in your product or service category; and learn how market members actually behave toward your product or service.
  2. Start with tactics. Got an idea for a killer ad or clever pricing promo? Great--just don't start with your tactics and work backward to your marketing strategy. Use your situation analysis to see the big picture first, set your goals, and then develop a full-blown strategy to drive your tactics and timing.
  3. Touch up last year's plan and change the numbers. This is so tempting--and such a trap. The entire world can change in just a few months (or even weeks), as our recent economic crisis has shown. Instead, start from scratch every year (call it zero-based marketing planning) when you examine the external environment, look at the competition, assess channel possibilities.
  4. Take sales for granted. Ever see a marketing plan where sales projections didn't move higher and higher over time? That's the way it usually works--on paper, anyway. In the real world, product trial doesn't necessarily happen on your desired schedule nor does it automatically lead to long-term product adoption and loyalty. You've got to win customers over one by one, starting with a value proposition that meets their needs, then earn their loyalty with every purchase.
  5. Underestimate the competition. While you're eyeing that big competitor's every move, a little competitor could very well sideswipe you. In fact, the nimble little nobody might become a hot somebody by the time you notice. Watch what's happening at the fringes of your industry and give serious thought to how, where, and when new competitors might nibble at your market. Redo your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on a regular basis, especially when it's not your normal marketing planning season. Your smartest competitors will spot your weaknesses and go after good opportunities when you're not looking.

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