The How and Why of a Strong Marketing Plan

Developing a strong, objective marketing plan is an essential step every company must take when planning its future. Just as the captain of a boat charts their course before leaving the shore, so must the corporate executive determine a company's direction before embarking on its marketing effort.

In doing so, there are several important reasons why hiring an outside consultant can help insure the effectiveness of the corporate marketing plan.

Agencies Provide Objectivity
One of the most valuable assets an outside agency can bring to the development of your marketing plan is objectivity. Seeing a company for what it is and identifying how it fits within the context of its own industry and within the marketplace in general - be it local, national or global - is more practically done from outside the organization.

The objective agency can examine, clarify and even help change a company's identity to better reflect its product or services, its culture and its competition. Establishing an accurate corporate identity is paramount because a company - like an individual - cannot decide where it is going until it knows who and where it is.

Setting Goals and Objectives
Deciding where to go, of course, leads to setting goals. When establishing goals, it's essential to bear in mind that, by their very nature, goals should be open ended, acting as beacons that light the way for future success. A viable goal could be to have a consistently large and expanding client base.

Objectives, on the other hand, should be specific and measurable and targeted at quantifiable results - such as increasing sales by 53% over the next year by obtaining five new clients. Another marketing objective could be to retain the existing number of clients while increasing their level of business by 23%.

Strategic Action
Implementing the marketing plan requires strategic action. The professional marketing agency, with a broad background in strategic planning for a diverse roster of clients, is uniquely qualified to strategize the company's course of action.

The first step is a competitive and market analysis to help you determine your company's strengths and weaknesses and compare them to the competition. The analysis will focus on the benefits you offer and whether your company fills a particular niche or provides a unique service. If so, it might be one of your greatest strengths and should be emphasized.

Your strategy should address how your stated objectives will be attained. This can range from hiring new employees and providing a new service or product to implementing a new publicity, direct mail and advertising campaign.

Targeting the Audience
The agency will target the appropriate audiences for the marketing thrust, ensuring that the company's efforts will reach those who are most interested and qualified to respond. Are you selling to businesses or to individual customers? The agency can help you identify your prospects and their changing needs and use a focused marketing effort to reach them with a worthwhile message.

Any campaign directed at your target audience will need a message that is both compelling and audience specific - to elicit a positive response and to meet your objectives. It should inform your audience who you are, what you do and how they'll benefit from doing business with you - the very strengths already identified by the competitive and market analysis.

Marketing activities and materials will be determined. Activities might include direct marketing, telemarketing, sales presentations, proposal writing and client entertainment. Indirect selling activities would incorporate your efforts in media relations, promotion and advertising.

A full service agency can also produce high quality marketing materials, including printed and electronic brochures, direct mail letters, and presentation packages that incorporate printed materials and a corporate video.

Resources and Evaluation
Before proceeding with any of the above activities, it's essential to set a budget and estimate the coast and timetable for each activity. Priorities will have to be set, with the most cost effective activities leading your efforts and less practical activities relegated to a long-term schedule. These decisions will vary from company to company.

How are the results of these marketing efforts measured? One way is to determine if there has been an increase in sales or in the number of clients. The results should be a direct reflection of your objectives - if they've been met, that's a reliable measure of success. The more specific you are when setting objectives, the more easily you can gauge their success.

Creating a strong, effective marketing plan with the help of an outside agency can save time and money in the future and lead to the ongoing success of your company.