The True Value of a Marketing Plan
In a market flooded with so many brands, today’s consumer is presented with an ever-changing array of options along with an increased sense of discernment about what and where to spend their resources. To be successful, a brand must find ways to distinguish itself and stand out amongst the clutter.
The process begins with a business strategy and marketing plan. It has a clear point of view and maps out a direction for future activities. This written plan describes the business, outlines goals and defines a sustainable competitive advantage. It is a document that will grow and evolve. A strong plan is an essential foundation documenting specific strategies and tactics to guarantee objectives are met. Furthermore, it helps businesses make decisions quickly and manages capital and promotional opportunities effectively throughout the year; allowing for the right investments in the right places always with an eye towards the “big picture.”
Businesses who operate without a marketing plan often find themselves evaluating each marketing and business opportunity on a case-by-case basis and spend much time reacting to market conditions and at worst, “fighting fires.” This method often produces “feast or famine” marketing. Entire marketing budgets can be spent on one or two promotional tools, leaving a lack of funding to support any further efforts, including critical follow-up. Worse yet, companies lose sight of why each project should be included in the business and promotional cycle in the first place and how it relates to the greater purpose. With a marketing plan in place, businesses can then execute with a consistent focus on their overall goals. Included will be a definition of the target customers for each program and the specific calls-to-action being deployed at each stage in the sales cycle.
For smaller brands seeking new or additional distribution, a marketing plan and its effective execution is an essential tool to igniting confidence and securing key retailer partnerships. Retailers want to know that you have specific plans in place to inform consumers of your offering and ultimately create the desire that drives them into their stores. As one set of eyes and ears to your consumer, they can be critical partners in this process and a vital help in revisiting your plan and evaluating its performance to determine future actions.
Research and knowledge of consumer behavior indicates that fashion and beauty purchases are often made because of certain intangible and emotional aspects of the experience. It is those brands that show a profound understanding of this special relationship with their consumer and knowledge of how to tap into certain triggers that prove to have the most longevity and impact. Every customer wants to be associated with a brand they can relate to, that makes them feel good and delivers on a particular promise. The way that we go about communicating that message is through a combination of methods that targets all senses. This is where the marketing vision and creative expression of the brand intersect. The clarity of this vision identifies how the brand is different than its competitors and establishes a certain intrigue and romance. Ultimately, this vision will result in the delivery of a consistent message through all the brand’s touch points. Brands need marketing to be seen, to be found and to create that interaction that will lead to the desired goal of any enterprise– making money.
Often we will see amazing ideas spring out of the marketing planning process. The key is that it be successfully executed with the resources available. The answer lies in making an appropriate assessment of those resources to determine what is actually realistic then setting appropriate targets and expectations. The success of this process will be in the ability to combine the pragmatic with the creative. Ideally, this entails a highly collaborative process between all stakeholders, driven primarily by the marketing and creative teams. Marketing charts the course and design creates the vehicles that bring it to life. This strong alliance is essential to communicating the clear and distinctive message defined by your marketing plan and helps differentiate the brand so it rises above the competition.
We all recognize the value of great creative but it will lack meaning if it does not connect to the brand’s overall positioning. We suggest that the design team be part of some of the initial ideation meetings to ensure their buy-in. The results can be incredibly powerful.
Gloria Luna is an independent marketing consultant who has recently partnered with MSLK