In the world of marketing, product competition is fierce, and consumer's attention spans are shorter than ever.
Something as simple as a walk through the grocery store, where there’s a new and seemingly improved product around every corner, can leave us simultaneously exhausted and over-stimulated.
With every product promising us the sun and the moon, how do we ever make a decision?
When you’re standing in front of a shelf, trying to decide between the dozen-plus brands of peanut butter in front of you, how do you choose?
Whether you know it or not, your choice has been significantly influenced by one thing more than anything else: marketing.
Behind the scenes, marketing professionals were working effortlessly to ensure you selected their product. Everything from the logo design to the TV commercials and even the price was carefully considered.
You see, marketing today is much more than just the billboard you pass on the highway or the flyer posted on your local coffee shop’s bulletin board. There are a lot of terms that go along with the topic of marketing – each one seemingly more complex than the last.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover marketing from start to finish.
We’ll go over what marketing actually is, its purpose, the most impactful marketing techniques, how to develop a marketing strategy, and much, much more.
Are you ready to become an expert on all things marketing?
As with most business terms, the definition of marketing varies depending on who you ask (and sometimes, it’ll even depend on when you ask them).
Since its inception, the word “marketing” has continued to evolve. However, the definitions we hear today likely stem from the original meaning, which is the process of taking your goods to market. In other words, it’s the steps sellers took to convince consumers to purchase their finished product.
While the marketing definitions today have gotten significantly more abstract, the basis remains the same. It’s all about getting a product or service from the manufacturer to the hands of the consumer.
To start, we’ll dive into the definition coined by the American Marketing Association (AMA), a community of marketers that establishes industry guidelines.
AMA describes marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
That means all of the steps involved with bringing a product from the manufacturing stage to the final sale. Yep – marketing is more than just that commercial that made you laugh out loud (although, that’s a part of marketing too).
Marketing includes product development, market research, identifying your target audience, promoting the offering, strategic sales support, and post-purchase customer service.
When you think about that, and the all-encompassing, variable nature of marketing, what it comes down to is this:
Marketing is about putting the right product in the right place in front of the right people at the right time.
What is marketing?
Talk about a loaded question.
Think about your daily life: the billboards you pass on your way to work, the Instagram influencers you just can’t unfollow, even the free pierogi samples an employee offers you at Costco!
Those are all examples of marketing, and that’s only scraping the surface.
In this chapter, we’ll get back to the basics. It’s time to answer the burning questions: What is marketing, and what is its purpose?
In its purest form, marketing is how companies show consumers that their products or services are better than their competitors’.
However, it’s much more than that. Marketing is anything that may influence the way your consumers think about your brand. That means it’s not just the way you present your product or service. It’s your advertising, your customer service, even the employees customers come across!
Since influencing consumers is what marketing is all about, having a comprehensive understanding of your audience is critical. But before we get into that more, let’s start with a little history.
As marketing has gained popularity, sellers, manufacturers, and service-providers have continued to emphasize the importance of their customers’ needs. In fact, the introduction of the marketing concept (which we’ll cover more in a bit) initiated a shift in the marketplace.
At one point, manufacturing was all about mass production. If they could produce it, they would try to sell it. A high-level of unfulfilled demand for basic necessities enabled this. With mass production, consumers could buy items they previously couldn’t afford for cheap.
However, eventually, those needs were fulfilled, and mass production just wouldn’t cut it (or turn a profit). At this point, sellers realized they needed to differentiate their offerings by highlighting their features and offering them as a solution to a consumer’s problem.
With that, marketing became commonplace.
Today, marketing means knowing your customer from the inside out. What problems are they facing, and how is your offering the best solution to solve those problems?
That’s why learning about your customer is of the utmost importance. And while their needs are important, we must ask this question first: Who are they?
Your perfect customer is dependent on the product or service you offer. When asked who your intended audience is, the answer should never be “Well, everybody!”
If that’s the case, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Individuals have specific wants and needs. When you’re bringing a new product or service to market, you should be as familiar with your ideal customer as you are with an old friend.
For example, say you’ve recently secured funding for your new organic, paleo, vegetarian baby foods.
Go through the usual demographic identifiers (age, sex, marital status, location, income, education, occupation, etc.) and determine the type of person who would be purchasing your baby food. In this case, likely a married mother, age 27-to-40, with a household income of $150,000 per year – and so on.
Once you’ve identified who your customers are, we start to dig in with research.
Where are they shopping? What channels, if any, would they use to communicate with your business? These questions are representative of the type of research marketers are conducting every day. They’ll analyze buying habits, send out surveys, conduct focus groups, and so much more – all to best understand their customers.
In fact, the amount of research required has shifted marketing’s reputation from a creative industry to a science. Its extensive use of psychology, sociology, mathematics, and more has made it a well-respected academic study.
In summary, marketing is about understanding the marketplace from your customer’s perspective, which means knowing your customer like the back of your hand.
The purpose of marketing
Similar to the definition of marketing, the purpose of marketing depends on who you ask. A marketing professional, sales professional, and consumer may very well all give you entirely different answers.
That said, various answers will likely all have a common factor.
Whether it’s a highway billboard, an individualized Facebook ad, or a skywriting airplane, marketing is about capturing the attention of your target market.
That is marketing’s purpose in its simplest form.
To dig deeper, we should focus on the prospect’s journey from first identifying their need to, ultimately, making a purchase.
Marketers are the professionals who facilitate a prospect’s purchasing decision. We live in a society with an abundance of options for anything you could ever want or need to purchase.
Picking out something as simple as a new blow dryer should be simple, right?
Usually, it’s not.
How am I supposed to choose a blow dryer when I have 15 options on the shelf right in front of me?
The purpose of marketing is to make that decision easy. Marketing professionals want to provide the potential customer with a low-risk, easy-to-take action, ultimately simplifying the purchasing process.
With a successful marketing campaign, the decision should, ideally, be simple. Sure, there may be a dozen-plus blow dryers in front of me, but due to the marketing efforts of one particular company, I know exactly which option I’m going for.
Marketing vs. Advertising
Many professionals consider marketing and advertising to be interchangeable.
I know I was guilty of this.
As a high school senior applying to colleges, I would apply as both a marketing major and an advertising major, depending on which one I thought would increase my chances of acceptance to a particular school (side note for high school seniors – I do not endorse this method).
I thought that, regardless of the title, I would be learning more-or-less the same expertise.
Little did I know, marketing and advertising are not the same things.
Think of it this way.
If marketing is a ladder, representing the stages of a buyer’s journey, advertising is one rung of the ladder.
Marketing starts with product development and ends, well, never. Even when a customer has made a purchase, marketers still nurture relationships to ensure a one-time customer becomes a lifelong advocate.
This means that marketing includes development, market research, distribution, decision-support, sales strategy, promotional efforts, public relations, customer support, and more.
Advertising is one component to marketing, heavily focused on strategic promotional tactics. In fact, advertising by the Oxford Dictionary’s definition is, “The activity or profession of producing advertisements for commercial products or services.”
Often a paid method, the goal of advertising is to spread awareness of a given product or service. It is a critical aspect of marketing. However, the two are not interchangeable.
Advertising and the promotional tactics involved are some of the most exciting details of a marketing strategy. Read on to learn more about the various methods marketers utilize to ensure their products end up in front of their ideal consumers.
The marketing concept, which originated in 1776 (no, really!), is the philosophy that organizations should defer to the needs of their customers when making decisions about their product, their pricing model, and their promotional efforts. Ultimately, they should make decisions that will satisfy their customers’ needs better than their competition can.
I know – duh, right? Shouldn’t products always be made to satisfy a need?
You’d think! And while that mindset is widely accepted today, it took nearly 200 years for this philosophy to catch on from its original inception.
So let’s go back to the beginning. Back in 1776, Adam Smith wrote a book called The Wealth of Nations. In this, he wrote that the needs of producers should be considered only with regard to meeting the needs of consumers. To satisfy your company’s goals, you should first anticipate the wants and the needs of your customers.
Adam Smith, more or less, coined the idea that the customer comes first.
In his opinion (and 200 years later, in a lot of professionals’ opinions), organizations had a social responsibility. It wasn’t all about turning a profit. While that’s important, it’s also essential that your product is cost-efficient, practical, and available to your target audience. The marketing concept incorporated all of those points.
So now that we have an understanding of the marketing concept, what does it actually do? Well, a lot.
This philosophy helps companies determine the tactics they’re going to use throughout their entire marketing mix (we’ll get to that in a bit). That means everything from the product they develop to the way the products are priced to where they’re sold to how they are promoted – yep! All of them.
The most confusing aspect of the marketing concept, in my opinion, is how simple it is. Of course organizations want to meet their customer’s needs. Isn’t this common sense?
Well, you’d think. Unfortunately, meeting consumers’ needs wasn’t always the goal. To dive into this topic a bit more, we’ll discuss the alternative concepts that were commonplace before the marketing concept became relevant, nearly 200 years after Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations.
First, we’ll explain some key terms we’ll be using throughout this next section. To understand the different philosophies, we first have to understand consumer needs, consumer wants, and demand.
Consumer needs and wants
Needs are pretty self-explanatory. These are the things necessary for humans to live healthy, stable, and safe lives. I’m sure these won’t come as a surprise to you, but think of the basics – food, water, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. In reality, that’s it. We’re talking basic human survival, people. As much as I’m guilty of claiming I “need” my coffee in the morning, it’s actually just a (powerful) desire.
Which brings us to our next concept: wants. While wants aren’t essential for basic survival, desire is ingrained into human nature (which is why, sometimes, wants feel like needs). Wants are something we wish for, hope for, aspire to – you get the drill. Culture or peer groups often shape an individual’s wants.
A big part of why people confuse wants and needs is because sometimes needs are disguised as wants. You need food, but you want a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s (same). You need shelter, but you want a high-rise condo overlooking the ocean (also same). You need clothing but, you want – okay, you get the point.
What it comes down to is this: Needs are essential whereas wants are not.
Now, let’s talk about demand. When needs and wants are backed by a consumer’s ability to pay, there’s a potential for them to become economic demands. Demand refers to how much of a product or service is desired by consumers. However, it also involves their willingness to pay for that good or service.
Let’s think about this in terms we all understand.
Every Friday night, I order pizza for dinner (don’t judge – we all have our vices). I place the same order from the same restaurant, and the total comes to around $15. If one Friday night, I ordered my usual and it cost $25, well, I probably wouldn’t be ordering pizza that night (unless I had a rough week, in which case, no promises).
The takeaway here is that price went up, and my desire for pizza (the demand) went down. If I called and they said it would cost $5, then heck! My demand goes up, and I’m ordering three pizzas.
But enough about pizza.
Now that we have an understanding of needs, wants, and demand, we can start to discuss the alternative philosophies that ultimately lead us to the marketing concept.
The production concept
The start of the industrial revolution in the mid 1700s meant a significant shift in the purchasing process. For the first time, companies could produce goods at a rapid pace for cheap. With this newfound technology came the production concept. The production concept gave little attention to the needs of the consumer. Rather, it focused on the products it could produce most efficiently and at the lowest cost. Ideally, producing a plethora of goods for dirt cheap would, in and of itself, create a demand.
With the production concept, companies focused on two central questions. The first of which being, “Can we produce it?” And the second, “Can we produce enough of it?”
What that means is that if a company could produce it, they would produce it. Nobody was manufacturing goods based on what their customers were asking for. Rather, they were producing what they could and expecting the consumer to buy it regardless.
While this method likely wouldn’t be successful today, it thrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The early industrial revolution was the first time necessities could be produced at an affordable price. For consumers who hadn’t been able to afford these items before, this was an exciting change.
Because consumers were able to afford these products for the first time, demand skyrocketed, with little-to-no effort from the companies themselves. The previous lack of access resulted in a high level of unfulfilled demand. Whether or not the goods companies produced were of high quality, consumers purchased them. The goal was not to meet the needs of customers, but rather to make a profit.
Luckily (for customers, at least), the 1920s brought another shift to the purchasing process. Now, we’ll discuss the sales concept.
The selling concept
By the 1920s, mass production had become commonplace. No longer was an abundance of goods sold at a low price something to be desired. The demand had been fulfilled, consumers had acquired their basic needs, and the production concept was no more.
Mass-production continued, but now, it was less about necessities, as consumers had acquired their most basic needs. Because of this, competition increased. Companies began to focus not on whether or not they could produce a good, but whether or not they could sell it. More importantly, could they sell it for a price that would cover their overhead costs?
The selling concept was exactly what it sounds like; it was all about making the sale. Companies paid little attention to consumers’ needs. They weren’t producing products to offer a solution. They manufactured the product regardless, with the primary goal of making the sale and beating out their competition.
Marketing was a process that came after the product was developed. Today, the marketing mix involves product development, pricing, distribution, and promotion. With the selling concept, the product was manufactured, priced, and distributed before a company ever implemented a marketing strategy.
Unfortunately, that led to an association between marketing and hard selling. The association with hard selling, which typically employs a more direct, or even aggressive, sales message likely contributed to the “skeevy” reputation that is occasionally still affiliated by some with marketing today.
Luckily, the selling concept also did not prevail. As World War II came to an end, a new philosophy gained relevance.
The marketing concept
As World War II came to an end, many consumers found themselves in a new (but exciting) position. For the first time, shoppers had disposable income.
This isn’t to say that everybody had the means to go out and buy a new home, or even a new car, but consumers could certainly afford to be more selective about the products they were spending money on.
For the first time, consumers were an authority in the marketplace. Companies were no longer able to produce whatever they wanted with the expectation that consumers would purchase it. Instead, for the first time, they had to be receptive to their customers’ needs.
For consumers, this was a significant win. Goods and services increased in variety and improved in quality. Hard selling was no longer reliable, and even major brands became hyper-focused on their audiences’ needs.
The marketing concept evolved around three central questions.
- First, manufacturers had to ask themselves what their consumers wanted.
- Then, they had to determine if they were able to produce it while they still wanted it.
- The third question was, and still may be, the most important – how can they keep customers satisfied?
For the first time, organizations focused on customer needs before they developed their products. All functions of a company shifted their focus from making a profit to satisfying the needs of their ideal customer. Ultimately, they realized that putting the customer first would fulfill their organization's goals in the long run.
Today, the marketing concept remains the norm. However, a final philosophy, the product concept, has gained popularity within particular industries.
The product concept
The product concept revolves around the idea that consumers favor products that offer the highest quality, best performance, and most innovative features.
As a society that’s always chasing after the latest iPhone, this doesn’t come as a surprise. In fact, it’s tech companies like Apple that are heavily embracing this concept.
As opposed to responding to customers’ needs, the product concept is all about anticipating them. Organizations believe that consumers will be more loyal if they offer them a plethora of options. Ideally, if consumers can “choose their own destiny” and reap the benefits of their choices, they’ll become repeat customers – and, eventually, advocates.
Organizations that utilize the product concept have to continually ask themselves two questions.
- How can they improve their product?
- How can they make products that outperform the products of their competitors?
This philosophy has proved to be incredibly successful for some organizations. If you haven’t noticed, Apple is kind of a big deal.
However, that often isn’t the case. Organizations that follow the product concept need to ensure they’re still giving their customers priority. Sometimes, leaders get so caught up in providing the next feature that they lose sight of the customer’s wants and needs. It’s vital they remember only to offer the innovations that their audience is looking for.
As tech companies begin to emerge and products become even more innovative, I predict organizations will attempt to combine the marketing concept and the product concept.
That said, for now, the marketing concept is the norm. Adam Smith would likely be happy that, 200 years later, the philosophy he coined is the outline for how the majority of companies run their marketing strategies.
But if I were him, I might be a little bitter that it took so long.
In the previous section, we covered the prolonged transition of the purchasing process from a brand-focused affair to a consumer-focused one.
As marketers realized that marketing was all about the customer, developing an understanding of their target markets became a critical step.
A key part of understanding your target market is market segmentation. Market segmentation is the process of dividing your broad consumer market into sub-groups (known as segments) that have similar needs, wants, or a common demographic trait.
Developing segments enables marketers to see where their greatest opportunities lie, and therefore, on which groups they should focus their attention.
Today, market segmentation typically involves significant spent time conducting in-depth research. While the process itself has evolved in recent years, market segmentation is nothing new.
The following is a brief history of market segmentation as coined by business historian Richard S. Tedlow.
History of market segmentation
Market segmentation dates back to as early as the mid-1800s.
Before factories and fast-paced assembly lines, goods were manufactured in small batches. This was before the emergence of major corporations, so the majority of goods and services were offered by small, regional suppliers.
In these cases, market segmentation wasn’t so much a process as much as it was something that came naturally.
With little room to stray, suppliers sold goods and provided services to their local communities, occasionally expanding to a regional level if they had the resources to do so. This process remained intact until the 1880s.
At this time, manufacturers were no longer limited to their own towns or cities. With innovations in transportation and the emergence of factories and the assembly line, companies were able to manufacture goods by the masses and distribute them across the country.
The potential audience was massive and, as we mentioned, the large majority of consumers had unfulfilled basic needs.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that those needs were mostly met and manufacturers had to produce different models geared toward more specific audiences.
At this point, market segmentation began to look a bit more like the segmentation we know today.
However, it has continued to evolve with markets getting smaller and more narrowly defined as marketers look to hyper-personalize their campaigns and initiatives.
Market segmentation for marketers
It’s easy to overlook market segmentation – you want to serve everybody, right?
Unfortunately, that’s a dangerous mindset. Regardless of how functional your product is, your audience should never be “everybody.”
When determining your audience, it’s important to remember that everybody is different. No two consumers will respond to your marketing efforts in the same way. They consume media in different places, spend their hours on various social media platforms, and react to messages distinctly.
So why would you treat them all the same?
Market segmentation allows you to personalize (to an extent) each marketing campaign. It also enables you to find your greatest potential opportunity, ultimately leading to your best possible return on investment.
Overall, market segmentation will mean a more efficient use of your time and your marketing budget.
4 types of market segmentation
As we mentioned earlier, market segmentation requires research.
That said, it’s not quite as complicated as it sounds. In fact, the majority of businesses utilize similar methods. The four types of market segmentation are standard, well-known ways to divide your audience.
Demographic segmentation is the most common and widely used type of market segmentation. In fact, it’s probably already familiar to you. Demographic segmentation is just what it sounds like – dividing your audience based on factors like age, gender, race, occupation, income, marital status, and more. As these factors are typically clear-cut answers, this type of segmentation is always a good starting off point.
Behavioral segmentation bears in mind a consumer’s previous buying habits, product usage, and brand loyalty and determines the segments based on those factors. The product is then marketed based on the behavior of each segment.
For example, people love to argue that millennials are killing chain restaurants. To look at this from a behavioral segmentation point of view, we would say that adults ages 22-to-37 prefer eating at independently owned restaurants based on their previous dining habits.
Geographic segmentation divides an audience based on where they live. As we know, needs tend to vary based on physical location. For example, an individual living in Miami likely won’t be in the market for a parka, just as a customer in Alaska won’t be shopping for a new pool-filtration system.
Similar to demographic segmentation, this method is quite straightforward. Many companies utilize geographic segmentation as the starting point for the market segmentation strategy.
Psychographic segmentation divides your audience based on personality traits, lifestyle, and interests. Of the four types, psychographic segmentation is the least straightforward and will likely require the most research and analysis.
While psychographic segmentation is similar to behavioral segmentation, it takes into account the why. This method asks not just what decision a consumer has made, but why they made that decision in particular. Often, these answers are reflective of the consumer’s opinions and lifestyle.
In the next chapter, we will dive even deeper into target audiences and the role your ideal customers play in your marketing mix.
If you’ve ever been in a Marketing 101 class, you’re probably well-versed on the marketing mix. Combine this concept and the “4 Ps of marketing,” and you’d have almost the entire intro to marketing course I took my sophomore year of college.
However, these topics are often misconstrued, so some of us may need a refresher (I know I did). In this section, we’ll cover the basics of the marketing mix, the 4 Ps of marketing, and how they relate.
The marketing mix came from the 1950s when the American Marketing Association coined the term. By its definition, it’s the set of marketing tools that a firm uses to pursue its marketing objectives – basically, a marketer’s starting point.
If you’re a marketer and you want to bring a new product to market successfully, you’ll start by assembling your marketing mix. From this point on, these will be the strategies and tactics that you and your team use to promote your brand.
That all said, we have to clear something up: The marketing mix and the four P’s of marketing are not the same thing. The marketing mix is a general phrase that refers to the choices marketers make throughout the process of bringing their offering to market.
The 4 Ps of marketing are a more narrowly focused take on the marketing mix. The concept is actually just one way of structuring it – albeit, certainly the most well-known.
The 4 Ps of marketing were first introduced in the book Basic Marketing: A Managerial Approach, by E. Jerome McCarthy. Since the concept’s development in the 1960s, they’ve become the gold standard that marketers turned to while composing their strategies.
The 4 Ps, which refer to product, price, place, and promotion, have become the most popular factors that teams choose to implement today. Their extreme popularity explains why so many professionals use marketing mix and 4 Ps of marketing interchangeably.
The 4 Ps of marketing have maintained relevance even as the marketing industry itself has evolved. Now, we’ll take a deeper dive into the product, price, place, and promotion, but more importantly, what they mean for your marketing strategy.
If your goal is to bring a product or service to market, then the offering itself is the place to start.
This phase is about more than just what you’re physically selling. In the product stage, you have to determine your audience, test your product, decide which product category it goes into, and so much more.
Before you begin to think about marketing your product, you’ll have to have a comprehensive understanding of what the product is.
I know – it’s your product! You probably know it like the back of your hand. That said, it’s easy to overlook simple questions like, Who uses it? How and where will the customer experience it? How will it be differentiated from your competitors? Before you dive in any deeper, you’ll want to be sure you’re well-versed on the above.
When you’re sure about your product’s qualities and customer experience, ask yourself this: “Is my offering a new product or an existing product?” This question is critical to the early stages of your promotional plan.
If your offering is an existing product you’ve revamped, you’ll need to do competitive analysis. What makes your product stand out from others of its kind? Is it cheaper? Is it of higher quality? Is it better for the environment? The answers to these questions will help you determine the features you’ll highlight throughout your marketing messages.
For example, if you were taking the S’wellⓇ water bottle to market for the first time, you’d likely highlight its ability to keep both hot and cold drinks at temperature for more than 12 hours. That trait is one of the features that enable this particular brand to stand out among their competitors.
Similarly, you’ll need to decide into which product category your offering fits. Is your offering a convenience, shopping, specialty, or unsought good? Below, we’ll give a brief explanation of each category.
A convenience good is something consumers regularly purchase while out shopping or running errands. These products are typically low-priced and readily available. The consumer likely won’t do much product comparison for a few reasons. First of all, there usually isn’t much of a price difference between similar products. Generic products may be slightly cheaper, and “specialty” convenience goods will be a bit pricier, but usually, they’re relatively similar across the board.
Additionally, most shoppers have some sort of brand loyalty on convenience goods, minimizing comparisons and ensuring the goods are especially easy to grab and go. For example, my mom exclusively buys JifⓇ peanut butter and BrownberryⓇ bread, making our quick runs into the grocery store relatively thoughtless.
Examples: Laundry detergent, paper towels, yogurt, toothpaste
A shopping good isn’t purchased as frequently as a convenience good and often entails a comparison of products. In fact, it’s called a shopping good because it requires just that! Consumers will browse, shop around, read reviews, and compare brands before ultimately making their purchases. Compared to convenience goods, these purchases are usually pre-planned – for example, having to buy a new suit for a wedding you’re attending. Additionally, they are more durable or longer-lasting than convenience goods.
Examples: Clothing, kitchen appliances, electronics
Specialty goods are infrequently purchased luxury items. These costly purchases have a limited demand due to their price. For many, they simply aren’t an affordable or viable option. Because of that, they’re also sold in limited quantities and only available in a few locations. Due to their low demand, these goods may require extensive promotional efforts.
Examples: Luxury vehicles, diamonds, designer brands
An unsought good is something a consumer doesn’t particularly want. In fact, they may not even think about this until they realize they need it. The actual purchase may stem from that need being realized. Sometimes, the fear that they’ll need this in the future is motivation enough.
Examples: Life insurance, fire extinguisher, coffin
Determining which category your offering falls under is key when beginning to plan your marketing strategy. You wouldn’t market toilet paper in the same way that you’d promote a diamond bracelet, and vice versa, so this step is crucial.
Now that you’ve identified whether your offering is new or existing, and whether it’s a convenience, shopping, luxury, or unsought good, you can continue building your product strategy.
At this point, you’ll want to perform market research to identify and locate your target audience. Not just who is your audience, but where are they? Is there a market fit with your product? What messaging will increase sales?
In this stage, a focus group could provide invaluable feedback. Offer consumers who fit your target demographic the chance to use and experience your product. Their insights could be critical when you’re deciding the next P: price.
At this stage of your marketing mix, you’ll need to determine how much your offering costs.
This isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. Properly pricing a product is critical. If you do this step correctly, you can optimize your sales, enhance your offering, and, ultimately, lay the foundation for a successful business.
Unfortunately, pricing your product too high or too low may have an irreversible effect.
Pricing your product too low is a genuine threat. Unfortunately, too many have made this mistake thinking consumers would see it as the best value on the market. While this may work in some instances, more often than not it’ll be considered cheap and lower quality than its competitors. Not exactly what we were going for, is it?
However, pricing your product too high can be just as detrimental. Especially with a new product, it’s easy to overprice, thinking you have to “keep the lights on.” And while that’s true, you won’t be able to pay anybody if nobody is willing to spend the money for your product! When all is said and done, a fair and competitive price will get you much further along in your business goals.
To determine what a fair and competitive price may be, do your research! Exploring your competitor’s offerings, conducting surveys, and conducting general industry research can help you gauge what may be an appropriate price range. Simply asking your target consumer what they’re willing and able to pay can be enlightening.
In addition to these factors, consider your own cost of development, overhead costs, and desired profit.
With the help of your findings, you’ll be able to establish a price that will set your product up for success.
When talking about product, we stressed the importance of finding out not just who your customers are, but where they are. Knowing that location comes in handy now.
However, in these terms, “place” doesn’t have to refer to a physical location. What this stage is really about is selecting a distribution channel that will allow you to reach your customers, whether it’s an actual store or not.
When determining place, consider multiple factors. Will you sell directly to consumers? Or will you rely on a retailer to distribute your product? If you opt for a retailer, will you use big chain stores or small boutiques? Out of your options, where are you most likely to find your audience?
As we mentioned, place doesn’t have to be a physical location at all. Sometimes, place can be the e-commerce website where you sell your product or the catalog in which you’re featured.
Ultimately, what’s important is ensuring that however you opt to distribute and sell your product, it’s a good fit with your ideal customer. The market research you previously conducted about your customer’s shopping habits and methods is critical in determining the distribution channel that will work for you.
The final phase, promotion, is what we think of when we think “marketing.” In this stage of your marketing mix, you’ll develop and implement any promotional strategies that will help kick off your product launch.
The tactics you choose to implement at this stage are dependent on your product, price, and place. For example, if you’re offering a convenience good at various grocery and corner stores, clippable coupons could be a successful promotional effort.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to market a luxury vehicle, coupons likely won’t cut it. Instead, major companies will opt for a smooth commercial – that one, in particular, refers to Mercedes Benz consumers as buying “the best, or nothing.”
When it comes to luxury goods, sentiments similar to that one aren’t unusual. These companies succeed based on the idea that their goods are of the highest quality and the lowest supply – more than likely, their promotional efforts will reflect that.
What’s essential in promotion is to remember your audience. Marketing is about the customer – reaching them, connecting with them, and influencing them. Your promotional efforts should be the best possible match for the audience you’re trying to attract.
Using the 4 Ps of Marketing
The 4 Ps are a tried and true way of taking a new product to market and getting your marketing strategy up and rolling.
That said, they’re even more versatile than that! The 4 Ps of marketing are also a simple and useful way to define and improve your existing marketing strategy. If you previously brought a product to market without a well-defined marketing mix, or even if you think your strategy could use a little tuning up, the 4 Ps are an excellent tool to utilize.
First, you’ll have to identify the product or service that you would like to analyze. If you only have one offering, then this should be easy! If you’re a brand with a variety of products or services, you’ll want to go through each one by one.
To define your strategy, go through the 4 Ps of marketing from your ideal customer’s perspective.
Again, we will start with the product. Your ultimate goal in this stage is to determine whether or not your product or service meets the customer’s needs. Is it user-friendly, well-designed, and of overall high quality? If not, you may want to discuss potential changes with your product team. On the other hand, if you’ve answered yes to those questions, you’re ready to move on to the next stage.
To examine your pricing model, put yourself in the shoes of your customer. For example, say you’re marketing a stainless steel, four-slot toaster. If you were shopping for a four-slot toaster, would you consider this to be well-priced? If it’s slightly more expensive than its competition, ask yourself why?
If the quality can’t justify the price, then you may want to consider charging less. If you find your product is competitively priced, then you can continue with your placement strategy.
Once you’ve analyzed your product and pricing model, you’ll move on to the third P: place. The question at this step is quite simple: Is your ideal customer able to find your product? Think about your audience’s shopping habits. Is your offering easily accessible to them? If not, you may want to reconsider your distribution model. If you decide that it is an appropriate channel, then it’s time to move on to the fourth and final P: promotion.
It’s a simple fact – you won’t see any results from your promotional efforts if your audience doesn’t see them. When revisiting your promotion plan, ask yourself one question: Do your marketing communications reach your target audience?
Let’s look at an extreme example. Say you’re marketing a hair-loss solution for men over the age of 50. If you’re spending your marketing budget on Instagram ads, where 68 percent of the users are female, you’re probably not reaching your audience.
Similarly, if you’re trying to sell a trendy new shoe to millennials, snagging a full-page newspaper ad won’t do you much good. Think about how your audience spends its time – whether it’s scrolling through social media or waiting at a bus stop – and make sure your promotional tactics are aligned.
The good thing about your marketing mix is that it’s adaptable. When you go through your 4 Ps, you can review and alter your marketing mix until you’re satisfied. Doing a yearly, or even quarterly “check-in” can help you ensure your marketing strategy remains optimized and relevant.
The 7 Ps of Marketing
We’re not done yet! Although the 4 Ps of marketing have long been considered the “gold standard” for marketing mixes, they’ve still had their criticisms.
Professionals have continued to adapt and alter the original 4 Ps of marketing since their inception. The 7 Ps of marketing consist of the original four, plus an additional three that were introduced in the 1980s.
The 7 Ps of marketing were established by Bernard H. Booms and Mary J. Bitner. The two marketers determined that the 4 Ps ignored customer service, which they considered to be an essential aspect of marketing initiatives.
The three Ps that they added were physical evidence, people, and process. Below, we’ll give a brief overview of what each means and how they fit into the greater process.
Physical evidence refers to the environment in which service occurs. That said, it’s much more than just “place.” In this case, it’s not just where the product is distributed to customers, but also the space where customers and service personnel connect and interact.
If you distribute your product via an e-commerce site, this could be as simple as a chatbot. Or, it could refer to an in-person interaction at the shopping mall. Whichever way you look at it, physical evidence and the quality of service received can have a massive impact on the way your customer views your brand.
The term people refers to all parties present throughout the purchasing process and the interactions they have. This can mean the employees who deliver the service, the shop clerks working the register – essentially, anybody who represents the company.
However, these interactions aren’t restricted to employees. This term can also refer to the interactions customers have with one another. To help ensure those interactions are positive, providing stellar customer service is critical. Anybody representing your product should be well-versed in your company’s vision and message.
The process phase is representative of the flow of activities in which service is delivered. If you’re selling your product in a retail store, this process begins as soon as your customer steps foot into the shop, and ends at their last interaction. That may be their purchase, but it also could be a potential return or a future shopping trip.
Again, this is heavily focused on their experiences while shopping for the product and interacting with service professionals, rather than the product itself.
To continue with the customer-focused approach, we’ll dive into the 4 Cs of marketing – another adaptation of the 4 Ps that has sprouted and flourished.
The 4 Cs of Marketing
The last modification we’ll cover, the 4 Cs of marketing, were developed by Robert F. Lauterborn in 1990. Each of the four aspects – consumer wants and needs, cost, convenience, and communication – are an adaptation of their respective “P.”
Robert F. Lauterborn comprised this method as a customer-focused alternative to the 4 Ps of marketing. He insisted that, since marketing is about the customer, the marketing mix shouldn’t focus on the brand, but rather the consumers. This brings us to our first C – consumer wants and needs.
Consumer wants and needs
Consumer wants and needs are very similar to the product itself. However, it argues that when bringing a new product to market (or even an existing product revamped), there should be extensive research done to ensure it will address consumer demand.
That means that marketers and product developers should become well-versed in the wants and needs of their customers. If their product doesn’t meet those wants or needs, they should continue to adapt it until it does.
Lauterborn opted for the word “cost” over price, insisting that the dollar amount isn’t the only cost a consumer incurs when making a purchase. Cost is not just the price of the item, but also the opportunity cost, or the loss of a potential gain from an alternative.
For example, if you’re shopping for a toaster, you may have opted for the slightly cheaper option. That said, if the more expensive one would have lasted for two more years, that two years of use would be your opportunity cost.
Choosing the word “convenience” to replace “place” further emphasizes Lauterborn’s commitment to the customer. Instead of just deciding the distribution channel, marketers need to ensure that the product is readily available and accessible to the consumer. In other words, marketers should strategically place products so that there are several points of visibility. The effort required by the consumer should be minimized to best serve them.
In Lauterborn’s opinion, promotion is manipulative while communication is cooperative. He encouraged an open dialogue between brand and consumer, as opposed to traditional marketing efforts that highlighted only a product’s best qualities. This open dialogue encouraged consumer questions, feedback, and, you guessed it, user reviews.
Whichever method you choose to develop your marketing mix – the 4 Ps, the 7 Ps, the 4 Cs, or one of the various others – it’s a critical starting point when bringing your offering to market. In the next section, we’ll cover marketing objectives, their purpose, and how to measure them.
Whether it’s regarding our career, financials, athletics, academics (or any other aspect of life, for that matter), the importance of setting goals has been hammered into our heads since we were young. While I was never thrilled about spending the first day of every class writing down what I hoped to achieve by the end of the semester, I do see the merit in goal setting.
For businesses, goal setting is especially important. Clear objectives can influence the way a business spends money, hires employees, and, ultimately, operates every single day. In this section, we’ll do a deep dive into marketing objectives in particular – what they are, their purpose, how to set them, and more.
What is a marketing objective?
First things first – just what is a marketing objective?
Marketing objectives are the goals marketing teams set and refer to over a given period. These goals are comprehensive, overarching, and directly impact outcomes of the business as a whole. In fact, they are likely going to be the heart and soul of your marketing plan, ultimately driving the future of your business. Your marketing objectives will cover the “promotion” phase of your marketing mix so that they can have a handful of different outcomes, depending on your ideal results.
Often, marketing objectives will aim to increase product awareness, provide additional knowledge on your offering, and, overall, get your target audience excited about making a purchase. As with all well-thought out goals, they should be strategic and specific. A good marketing objective – one that will set up your campaign for success – is personalized, timely, and measurable. In other words, these goals should be SMART!
Did you just have a flashback to the sixth grade? Because I did.
That’s right – the lessons you learned about goal setting as a 12-year-old are coming back. Let’s face the facts, our middle school teachers were right. Ensuring your goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound – is a vital part of utilizing marketing objectives to set up your business for success.
The purpose of marketing objectives
Take it from me – setting goals doesn’t always come easy. As a self-proclaimed fan of “winging it,” I would always struggle to put down what I hoped to achieve on paper.
Luckily, I had teachers and parents that were big on goal setting. At the beginning of each year, my parents would have me write down not just academic goals, but also what I hoped to achieve in my personal life and (short-lived) competitive dance career.
As stubborn as I was then, I’ve got to hand it to them: Goals are fundamental.
Marketing objectives are no different. In fact, I’d strongly recommend against bringing a product to market without first clearly identifying your objectives. Without defined goals, companies struggle – it’s as simple as that. If you don’t have outlined steps, your team won’t know what they’re trying to achieve, much less how to achieve it.
Primarily, the purpose of marketing objectives is to provide clear direction for the marketing team. These objectives will outline the intentions of your team and business as a whole, which assists in solidifying expectations for the individual.
On a higher level, objectives offer executives, board members, investors, and other stakeholders an overview of what to expect. Receiving objectives enables them to review the plans, refer back to them throughout the year, and offer support when necessary.
As we mentioned (a lot), marketing objectives should be SMART goals. There’s a reason for this, too. Individuals and companies alike are far more likely to reach goals that are clearly defined. By compiling a list of objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound, marketing teams are one step closer to reaching their goals.
How to choose marketing objectives
In case I haven’t said it enough, I think setting goals is an excellent strategy. However, we all know the potential pitfalls that come with having “too much of a good thing.”
Well-defined objectives are awesome. Chocolate milkshakes are also awesome. But other than being awesome, what do these two things have in common?
Too many of either, and they aren’t so awesome anymore.
When it comes to marketing objectives, having too many gets messy. That’s why being selective when formulating goals is critical. Marketers are ambitious, and it’s easy to want to achieve a lot. That said, having too many goals decreases the likelihood that you’ll achieve any of them.
At this stage, you’ll want to focus on quality over quantity. Instead of a compiling a laundry list of objectives, select three-to-five to which you’ll devote your efforts. To determine these, consider the stage of your brand. Are you a new company bringing a product to market? Or are you an existing organization looking to expand your audience?
A comprehensive understanding of your organization’s current positioning will offer you the insights you need to establish your objectives.
To give you a head start, we’ll cover some common marketing objectives and what they mean for a business.
Okay – time to face the facts. We all want to make more money, right? Organizations are no different. In fact, their financial goals are probably more aggressive than any consumers. That’s why increasing sales is such a common marketing objective. For marketers to prove that their efforts have paid off, they need to see a good return on investment (ROI). To do this, they’ll need to ensure that revenue from sales significantly exceeds any of their marketing costs. However, it’s not enough to just say the goal is to “increase sales.” When it comes to profitability objectives, the more specific you can get, the better. An example of a “smart” profitability objective would be to increase sales among women over 40 by 15 percent.
Promotional objectives are all about increasing awareness. Often, these objectives are implemented by organizations that offer a product that’s been on the market for a while. These tactics can take a relatively “boring” offering and create excitement, bringing it to life yet again. The most well-known example of this is likely the famous “Got Milk?” campaign. Advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners was able to take an everyday good and invigorate interest through celebrity endorsements a memorable slogan.
For companies looking to establish themselves within their industries, a market share objective could be an excellent choice. These objectives aim to acquire market share – something especially difficult for emerging companies in popular industries. One of the most successful instances of a company looking to acquire market share would be Dollar Shave Club’s viral video. The video enabled the company to cut through the noise of an already-cluttered industry. Today, the monthly-razor club boasts more than 2 million subscribers.
Brand management objectives are often utilized by well-established brands looking to maintain their images and reiterate key messages to the public. Often, these companies will opt for ads that promote their brands themselves, as opposed to a particular product or service they offer. For example, consider the following Nike advertisement. While Nike offers a variety of products, from shoes to clothing to sports equipment, the commercial doesn’t focus on any one product in particular. Instead, it reinforces what Nike is genuinely about: athletes going after their dreams.
If your brand has yet to establish its online footprint, an excellent objective could be to grow your digital market. This can be done in a variety of ways. If you’d like to increase visibility in search engine rankings on Google, consider bringing on an SEO specialist. Similarly, a social media expert can help you grow your audience and connect with customers over various platforms. An example of an objective here would be to grow Twitter followers by 20 percent before the end of the half through social media marketing.
Build industry authority
We’d all like to be considered an expert in our respective niches. Objectives that revolve around building industry authority can do just that. These goals focus on establishing your brand as an authority through valuable content, keynote speaker spots, and more. An example of an objective that builds industry authority would be to secure five keynote speaker spots for executives in 2018.
Customer reviews and ratings
As user reviews become an invaluable part of a business strategy, marketers have realized the need to continually receive feedback on their offering. Today, objectives surrounding customer reviews and ratings are commonplace, as they allow marketers to connect with their customers, make changes based on their feedback, and discover brand advocates. An example of a customer review objective would be to increase buyer net promoter score (NPS) by two points before the start of 2019.
This piece from our friends at Dimelo explains further the importance of NPS and customer care.
How to measure marketing objectives
As we mentioned, marketing objectives have to be measurable. Without developing key performance indicators (KPIs) in the form of deadlines, numbers, followers, and more, marketers wouldn’t be able to evaluate progress along the way and, ultimately, analyze results.
As you compile your list of objectives, be certain to assign a KPI to each goal. This way, you’ll have benchmarks that enable you to see clearly whether or not your campaign was a success.
If you’re having trouble getting started, fear not! We’ve compiled a list of example KPIs that you can use as a blueprint.
When looking at sales growth, consider evaluating your objective based on new revenue secured or an increase in units sold.
To determine market share, consider the total revenue of your industry. Then, divide your revenue by the total revenue of the industry. This answer should paint a picture of your percentage of market share. Use this percentage to set a realistic growth goal.
We can think of lead generation in a couple of ways. Consider tracking the number of leads, the percentage increase in lead, the change in cost per lead, the conversion rate, and more.
New customer acquisition
New customer acquisition can refer to the number of new customers acquired or the cost per new customer.
Social media engagement
For a company looking to establish its online footprints, social media objectives can be invaluable. To keep track of your progress, consider tracking new followers, new shares, the amount of social engagement, and more.
In the next section, we’ll cover the basics of a marketing strategy: what it is, how it differs from a marketing plan, and how to build one.
Ask any football coach you come across and they’ll tell you the same thing: You can’t go into a game without a strategy.
Okay, admittedly, I don’t really like sports. I also can’t say I talk to too many football coaches. But if I did, I feel like that’s probably something they’d say.
Anyway, business, and marketing, in particular, is no different. To be successful, you need a strategy.
Alright, enough sports talk.
What is a marketing strategy?
A marketing strategy is a company’s overall game plan for reaching its target audience and turning those people into customers. It likely contains the company’s value proposition, its key marketing messages, a comprehensive overview of its target audience, and other high-level elements.
So let’s go through each of those pieces separately. We’ll start with the value proposition.
When an organization releases a new product or service, it has a value proposition that goes along with it. Basically, this states the competitive advantage this particular offering has in its market.
The value proposition then informs the key marketing messages. As we mentioned, it’s the aspects of your offering that make it superior to its competitors. Those are the key features you’d like to highlight in your promotional tactics, right? Correct. In fact, every marketing message (and corresponding asset) should be judged based on how well it embodies the value proposition.
For example, consider diet food. Rarely will a brand focus entirely on the quality of its offering, because that’s not its competitive advantage (let’s be real – nobody is eating a 35-calorie slice of bread expecting it to taste like Grandma’s). What makes it superior in a consumer’s eyes is that it typically has a lower calorie count or fat content. That is the value proposition, and it’s almost always reflected in the marketing messages and promotions.
Following the key marketing messages is a comprehensive look at an organization’s target audience. Typically, a brand will describe its deal customer based on demographic – gender, age, level of education, income, marital status, and more.
Other high-level elements may include long-term goals, consumer analysis, and your most popular past campaigns.
Regardless of the additional elements that your marketing strategy includes, readers should be able to walk away with answers to a few critical questions.
By which values does the organization operate?
- How does the organization plan to position itself against competitors?
- Who is its target market?
- What does it offer?
- How much does it charge for its products or services?
When you think you’ve finalized your marketing strategy, revisit the document and ensure that any reader could walk away with the answers to those five questions. If you’re missing key answers, continue to adapt your strategy until the information is there.
Marketing strategy vs. marketing plan
A marketing strategy is often confused with a marketing plan (which we’ll explore more comprehensively in the next section).
While they contain similar components, they are not interchangeable. Additionally, it’s not enough to consider either a marketing plan or a marketing strategy. Since they feed off of one another, you’ll need both. Even though they are two separate entities, businesses will often include them as two sections in a single document, as they are closely related.
The marketing strategy is a long-term document that acts as a component of the organization’s broader strategy. The marketing plan, on the other hand, stretches over a given period, whether it’s by the quarter, the half, or the year. This is because the value proposition and key messages aren’t likely to change over time, but the tactics used to execute them will, depending on their success (or lack thereof).
The value proposition and marketing messages that make up the marketing strategy are the aspects that primarily inform the marketing plan. A marketing plan is the document that lays out the tactics and timing of marketing activities. In plain language, it’s the different initiatives and campaigns a marketing team will execute, with a tentative schedule of when they’re going to execute them.
Let’s think of it this way:
The marketing strategy is the why and the what.
With a marketing strategy, you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of why your company exists. You’ll learn the values on which your organization was founded, the way your employees are expected to uphold them, and more. The why represents the motivation behind your brand, and the reasons it lives by the values that it does.
The what is all about your marketing mix (or in most cases, your 4 Ps of marketing). This section of your marketing strategy is all about what you’re offering. It will clearly describe your product or service, including everything from its function to its look to its price, and much, much more. It’ll also be how you intend to distribute your product or deliver your service, as well as the messaging that comes along with it.
The marketing plan, on the other hand, is the how.
The marketing plan describes how you plan to achieve the goals set by the company. This is the execution phase of all the brainstorming that went into the marketing strategy. We’ll cover this in more detail in just a bit, but for now, understand that the marketing plan includes actionable measures that’ll bring the marketing strategy to life.
Building a marketing strategy
Now that we’ve covered the details of a marketing strategy and how to differentiate it from a marketing plan, we can discuss how to build one.
Building a marketing strategy is more straightforward than it sounds – it just requires a little research!
To build a marketing strategy, it’s critical that you know your target audience. This doesn’t mean just being able to rattle off the basics: age, gender, location, etc. That’s not going to cut it.
You’ll need to understand your ideal customer as well as you understand a good friend. Consider how they spend their time, their shopping habits, and more to paint the necessary picture.
Similarly, understanding your competitors and their offerings is essential. To compile this information, conduct competitive research, analyze the market, and more. You’ll want to consider not just your competitors’ offerings, but their prices and promotional tactics, as well.
Finally (and this one may go without saying), know your organization. As we mentioned before, the marketing strategy covers the “why.” To compile your strategy successfully, be certain that you have a deep understanding of your organization’s values and motivation.
Marketing strategies may sound like a lot of work – and that’s not to say they aren’t – but documenting your organization’s values, goals, and objectives is critical.
Your strategy will be a document you can review and refer to regularly. An in-depth look at your organization will help you ensure that your tactics and strategies reflect your company’s goals.
In the previous section, we discussed the marketing strategy or, in other words, the why and the what.
Now, it’s time to talk about the marketing plan: the how.
What is a marketing plan?
The marketing plan is the physical document that outlines your tactics. This will act as your marketing team’s game plan, with details on the actions you’ll take to achieve your objectives.
As we mentioned above, your marketing plan is all about your tactics. That means it should give the reader a comprehensive understanding of related details, such as specific goals, costs associated, and, of course, action steps. This written document should be your source of truth for all of your marketing and advertising efforts for a given amount of time.
This may sound similar to your marketing objectives. That’s because it is! The primary difference between the two is that your marketing plan is better documented and provides more details on specific action items.
Unlike the marketing strategy, which is more evergreen, the marketing plan focuses on a specific timeframe. Whether your plan covers one year, one half, or even just one quarter, you’ll want to refer to it regularly to ensure the campaigns and initiatives you’re running are in line with your original intentions.
That said, while the marketing plan is a formal document with a designated structure, the plan itself is flexible. If you’ve had a last-minute change in budget, had a team member resign, or simply realized a tactic won’t lead to the desired result, the marketing plan should be updated to reflect that. A marketing plan shouldn’t be static – rather, you should update it as necessary.
In the previous section, we mentioned that when it comes to marketing strategies and marketing plans, it’s not a “one or the other” situation.
Similar to the marketing strategy, a marketing plan is absolutely necessary. Creating and utilizing this document has clear benefits.
As we mentioned above, your marketing plan is your “source of truth.” Having this written documentation is critical. Not only will it give your current marketing team, as well as executives and stakeholders, a place to refer to throughout your designated time period, but it also will be profoundly helpful to new marketing hires.
Having everybody on the same page with goals is critical to the success of those goals. Your marketing plan will ensure everybody, from new hires to your C-suite, is well-versed on the actions your team will be taking.
Similarly, your marketing plan will act as your road map. When comprehensively written, it will read like a set of instructions that will guide your actions throughout the year. More importantly, it provides critical details on the budget and resources necessary to meet your goals.
With a transparent view of where your budget is allocated, you can more easily measure your return on investment (ROI) when all is said and done. And if you’re fighting for more budget, well, sometimes a marketing plan can help. We’re not making any promises, but your detailed plans for the extra cash and the results it can produce certainly wouldn’t hurt your chances.
Now that we’ve stressed the importance of a marketing plan, we should probably tell you how to create one.
Creating a marketing plan
Creating a marketing plan is a group effort.
While it may be called a marketing plan, its creation will employ coworkers from all areas of your company including finance, product, sales, and your executives.
While it’s up to the marketing team to compile your objectives and brainstorm your tactics, team members from various departments can provide valuable insight.
Your product team may tell you whether or not an idea is realistic, while your sales professionals can help you discover unrealized opportunities. And since your finance department likely holds the purse strings; you’ll want their feedback, too.
A good marketing plan should feature five sections: a situation analysis, an outline of your target market, your marketing goals, your strategies and tactics, and the breakdown of budget. To start you off in the right direction, we’ll go through the five parts and what you should include in each.
Section 1: Situation analysis
Your situation analysis is just that: a section to examine your organization’s situation as it currently exists.
This section should offer a brief description of your current offering, your competitive advantages, and any threats in the marketplace. In other words, this should contain your SWOT analysis.
Are you having flashbacks to your Marketing 101 course again?
In case you need a refresher, your SWOT analysis is an overview of your offerings Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses exist within your company. For example, a strength may be your experienced chief marketing officer, or an innovative demand generation strategy. A weakness could be anything from an understaffed team to a lack of funding.
Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, are external factors. Perhaps a competitor of yours recently went out of business – that gap in market share would be an opportunity. On the other hand, if a new company with a similar offering recently emerged, that would be a threat.
A SWOT analysis provides an understanding of what you’re doing that’s working, as well as which areas you could afford to improve on. This can act as a benchmark as your marketing plan is adjusted in the future.
Section 2: Target market
This section should contain a detailed description of your target market, as well as an overview of their wants, needs, and demands.
To define your audience, start by looking at your product. What problems does it solve? How does your product or service help people? Then, consider which groups of people are in need of that solution.
For example, let’s say you’re selling a new product – heated gloves specifically for arthritis pain. Consider who may need that solution.
Okay – this is an easy one. Your target audience would be adults, age 50 and up, who have arthritis in one or both of their hands.
When you have a good idea of your market, you’ll want to describe their its based on demographics like age, gender, and more.
However, if you’re a B2B marketer, you may opt to list your target market by industry or job title. For example, you could be targeting doctors, lawyers, restaurant managers – you get the drill.
For this section, a simple, bulleted list of your audience’s characteristics will do the trick.
Once you’ve determined your target market, you can create specific messaging that will appeal to it and place the messaging strategically. We’ll cover messaging and placement a bit more in section four.
Section 3: Your marketing goals
Your third section is where you’ll list and describe your marketing goals.
These goals should stem from the marketing objectives we discussed earlier. As we mentioned previously, specificity is key. That means these goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, results-driven, and time-bound. That’s right; they should be SMART.
You didn’t think we’d forgotten about SMART, did you?
Listing your marketing goals is important as they serve as a preview to the next section, which we’ll get to in a bit. However, you should only list the goals that are effective. The examples below will help you identify whether your goals are ineffective, and could use some work, or effective, in which case you’re good to go.
- Increase revenue
- Gain more social media followers
- Gather more product reviews
Luckily, just a few small changes will turn these goals from sad to SMART. Following are the same three goals but optimized for maximum results.
- Increase marketing-qualified revenue by 15 percent before January 1, 2019
- Gain 400 new Twitter followers before the end of the half
- Acquire 20 percent more product reviews on G2 Crowd before third quarter
The more details you add to the ineffective goals (in this case, we added metrics and time restraints), the more likely your team is to achieve them.
Section 4: Strategies and tactics
Your marketing plan is all about the tactical measures you’ll be taking to achieve your goals.
That said, it should come as no surprise that your strategies and tactics section will make up the bulk of your marketing plan.
In this section, you’ll reiterate the marketing objectives outlined in section three, and provide an inclusive list of the tactics you’ll employ to execute them.
However, to do this you’ll first have to determine the tactics you’ll use.
Your tactics are all the actionable steps you intend to execute. This can include paid advertising, public relations efforts, direct mail, trade show attendance, and much, much more.
To identify the methods that will work best for your team, consider where your audience lives. And no, we don’t mean the city the people live in or the street their house on which their house sits.
What media do they consume? Do they spend their days on Facebook or Twitter? Are they commuting to work in the car on the highway or sitting on a train?
Your messages and tactics have to reach your prospects. That means you have to find out where they’ll be most receptive to your efforts.
If you’re targeting middle-aged men who work office jobs, then maybe a highway billboard or ad on the subway would be your best bet. If you’re targeting 14-to-18-year-old girls, a paid Instagram ad could get you the exposure you’re looking for.
Once you’ve determined the tactics that you’ll use, write them down below their corresponding objective. Remember, if you realize a tactic won’t be successful or decide to change directions, your marketing plan is flexible. You can always come back and refine this section to better fit your goals.
Unfortunately, most marketing efforts require a bit of money to get them up and running. This brings us to our fifth and final section, the budget breakdown.
Section 5: Budget breakdown
Alright, budgets are never fun. I mean, crunching the numbers and allocating the funds and – woah, is it really that expensive to make a viral video?
Yeah, budgets are downright stressful. But stay with me here.
If you want your finance department to fund your marketing efforts, you’ll have to give them an approximate amount that it’s going to cost. And that means determining the costs associated with every one of the tactics you listed in section four.
First, you’ll need to work with other teams to determine the marketing team budget. Usually, this comes from a percentage of projected gross sales. Depending on the type of organization you work in, you may need to advocate for your team a bit.
Come prepared with the data. Be sure you’re able to show the impact marketing had on revenue in previous years. Ultimately, be sure to remember that marketing is an essential part of a business that is absolutely worthy of funds.
Hopefully, it won’t be an issue, and you’ll receive your marketing budget without a single bump in the road.
Once you know how much money you have to spend, you’ll need to break the budget down by goal, and then break it down again by tactic.
If you take this approach and find the tactics you’ve chosen are too costly, you have a few options. You can either identify your most critical tactics and devote your budget to just a few or revisit all of the tactics and select a cheaper method.
Whichever way you choose, your budget breakdown is a critical final section of your marketing plan.
By referencing the sections above, you’ll be able to formulate your marketing plan. This relatively simple document will improve communication and ensure your marketing team has a roadmap to achieving your goals.
To download our free marketing plan template, click on the link below"
Marketing is a massive industry.
Every year, it seems there is a new buzzword taking the marketing world by storm.
Typically, these buzzwords revolve around the latest marketing trends. Professionals will argue about the best techniques to achieve this or solve that, but really, the best marketing technique is the one that works for you and your business.
Below, we’ve highlighted the marketing techniques that have proved they’re not simply a trend. From word of mouth marketing to a PR plan and everything in between, the marketing techniques below are more than just buzzwords.
Word of mouth marketing
Word of mouth marketing is an unpaid form of promotion that relies on satisfied customers to spread the word about your business. The hope for businesses is that their happiest customers will reach out to their networks on their own and talk about how much they enjoyed their product, service, or experience, without any prompting from the company itself.
For businesses, word of mouth marketing is invaluable. Due to its nature – unpaid and unrequested – it’s seen as extremely credible. In fact, word of mouth marketing is like the original social media. When a consumer’s satisfaction for your company is so great that it’s reflected in their normal dialogues, companies can have confidence in their offering.
In a society where competition is fierce, and attention spans are short, having brand advocates is crucial. Word of mouth marketing is a clear example of how advocacy can help a business succeed.
That said, it isn’t entirely reliant on the consumers. While word of mouth marketing itself is unpaid, it typically has to be triggered by an above-average experience. For most companies, providing a stellar encounter isn’t free.
For example, on my last birthday, the restaurant I dined at had a birthday card waiting for me at my table and gave me a free glass of champagne to celebrate. The food was great, and the service was nice, but those small gestures simply exceeded my expectations.
While it’s likely not cheap to offer a glass of bubbles to every birthday or anniversary that walks through the door, the accolades they receive pay off. Today, when somebody asks me where they should dine in Chicago for a special occasion, I always recommend Tortoise Supper Club.
Organizations have begun to actively encourage word of mouth marketing due to its credibility. Referral programs empower consumers to discuss with one another. Similarly, customer review sites like Amazon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and. of course, G2 Crowd, give consumers platforms on which to discuss their experiences.
Affiliate marketing is likely something you’re familiar with but may have been unable to put a name on it. At least, that was the case for me!
I’m an avid reader of blogs – food blogs, travel blogs, lifestyle blogs, you name it. Needless to say, I’m very familiar with bloggers advertising a product and then adding a note that says, “By the way – if you click that link, I might make a little money.”
That, in a nutshell, is affiliate marketing.
In more complex terms, affiliate marketing is when a third party recommends a product to a potential customer, prompting a sale and earning a bit of money, or a commission, in return.
Affiliate marketing generally involves three parties: the advertiser, the publisher, and the consumer.
The advertiser is the company that sells the product or service in reference. They’ll reach out to relevant publishers (for example, a company that makes specialty cake mixes will reach out to a blogger who writes primarily on baking) and offer payment in exchange for a favorable review. They’ll place a link on the publisher’s site and track which purchases come through that link.
The publisher is any website that publishes a link from an advertiser. I’ve been using the common example of bloggers, but it can be anybody! The publisher is the party that receives the commission when a visitor to their site clicks on the advertiser’s link and makes a purchase.
Finally, the third party is the consumer. The consumer is the everyday person who visits the publisher’s website, sees the ad, clicks the ad, and makes the purchase. When those steps are completed, it’s called a conversion (they’re converted from a potential consumer to a customer).
While affiliate marketing is advantageous for the advertiser (if it weren’t, this method would have died out), the real benefits are for the publisher. If the publisher has a high-traffic website and/or loyal readers, affiliate marketing could be a source of passive income.
Here is an example of affiliate marketing in the daily email newsletter The SkimmⓇ.
You’ll notice it disclosed its partnership with the the advertiser. Not only is this in good taste, but it’s actually required by the Federal Trade Commission! Ensuring the consumer is aware of the paid partnership provides transparency to your site’s visitors and levels the playing field for marketers.
While content marketing may have started as a trendy marketing buzzword, its value has spoken for itself, and it’s now a popular marketing technique that’s here to stay.
Content marketing is an approach that focuses on creating educational, authoritative content to attract and convert potential customers. This method enables brands to position themselves as a resource on a variety of subjects.
Distributing relevant and valuable content increases visibility, increasing the chances a prospect will find the brand. With the right content, companies can turn a first-time site visitor into a consistent reader, a consistent reader into a customer, and a customer into an advocate.
Content marketing is also seen as credible due to its nature; the method opts for education over promotion. It’s not a technique used to promote your own brand, service, or offer. Rather, it aims to build an online community that associates your brand with the value your content offers.
Content marketing tactics can include educational articles, eBooks, videos, webinars, infographics and more (hint, hint – it’s what you’re reading right now).
This cost-efficient method boasts two primary benefits: increased sales and more loyal customers. It’s also incredibly popular due to its simple integration into other marketing techniques such as social media, inbound, and account-based marketing.
For a long time, marketers relied on the “spray and pray” method: essentially, attempting to market to the masses with the hope that some of them would bite.
However, mass marketing is expensive, and when you serve a niche audience to begin with (as many B2B marketers do), it’s not terribly efficient.
ABM is an alternative to mass marketing. With this method, marketing and sales teams work together to identify target accounts – the prospects that will bring you those six-figure deals – and collaborate on efforts to move these particular accounts through the purchasing process.
When marketers target these key accounts, they do so with hyper-personalized campaigns. These campaigns can be something as simple as a targeted social media approach to something as complex and extravagant as an all-inclusive executive dinner.
A tactic often used by account-based marketers is direct mail, where they’ll send the decision-makers at their target accounts gifts. Similar to the campaigns we mentioned above, these gifts can be as simple or as extravagant as a company can afford. They may come in the form of personalized sales decks, branded cupcakes, or even an expensive pair of headphones.
These personalized campaigns pave the way for one-to-one, well-timed sales conversations. Instead of spending their days cold-calling, sales teams can make a connection with a prospect that’s already been nurtured and is likely more open to making a deal.
Account-based marketing revolves around the idea that the customer comes first. Listening to their needs and building valuable connections can lead to a loyal and happy customer in the future.
Inbound marketing is a concept coined by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan in 2005. However, after a slow start, it’s taken off considerably since 2016.
Inbound marketing revolves around empowering customers. Instead of reaching out to prospects and using pushy marketing tactics, inbound marketers hope consumers will find them organically through high-quality content such as blogs, social media posts, and webinars.
In other words, inbound marketing aims to earn a consumer’s attention, not forcibly take it.
While it sounds similar to content marketing, it’s a bit broader. However, content marketing is a tactic used within the inbound method.
Inbound marketing consists of four stages: attract, convert, close, and delight.
The attract stage is about turning strangers into site visitors. If readers find your contact organically and begin to view it as a resource, your site will turn into a destination the next time they conduct research.
The primary goal of the convert stage is to turn those regular readers into marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). Often, marketers achieve this through gated content. If a reader is aware of the value your content provides, they likely won’t have a problem with entering their email address to access your latest eBook. When they provide you with contact information, your marketing team can continue to nurture the lead.
The close stage is all about closing the deal and turning those leads into customers. After the marketing team nurtures the prospect (likely through sending more valuable and personalized content), they’ll pass the MQL onto the sales team. If a salesperson can convert this MQL into a customer, then they’ve succeeded. If not, the MQL will likely remain in this stage until your salesperson closes the deal.
The final stage, delight, is about turning customers into advocates through stellar customer service. In this final phase, user feedback is critical. Customer reviews allow you to identify your happiest customers and those whose relationships could use some work. By making a sub-par experience great, or a great experience excellent, you can delight your customers and, ideally, they’ll begin to do your marketing for you.
Unlike inbound or account-based marketing, which were both recently developed, field marketing is more of a traditional discipline.
In fact, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Before TV commercials, Instagram ads, and targeted social media, marketers were “out in the field” at shopping malls and college campuses to get their products in front of their target audiences.
Today, field marketing is still relevant. Have you ever walked down a city block and been handed a card that will get you a free Lyft ride? Product demos, promotions, and direct sales are all aspects of field marketing that remain today.
Field marketers work toward a variety of goals, such as increased brand awareness and increased engagement. Through this method, they hope to personally connect with their target audience and ultimately, drive sales.
For B2B marketers, field marketing often takes place at industry events. Shelling out thousands of dollars for a booth at a SaaS conference is field marketing, as are all of the product demos that take place while you’re there.
While field marketing is one of the more traditional disciplines, it has evolved to include more than just handing out flyers on a street corner. Today, field marketing includes extravagant events, sought-after direct mail campaigns, and elaborate guerrilla marketing campaigns.
Brand marketing and public relations
While brand marketing and public relations aren’t the exact same thing, they often go hand in hand.
The primary goal of both methods is to increase brand awareness and visibility and boost brand recognition. A successful brand marketing campaign will increase name and logo-recognition and ensure that consumers have a favorable opinion of your organization.
However, brand marketing and public relations are more than just promotional and advertising efforts.
A company’s brand is its identity. Consumers shouldn’t just know what you offer, but why you offer it. They should understand your mission, your core values, and the reasons you operate as you do.
Ensuring that level of understanding is what brand marketing and public relations are all about.
Brand marketers and public relations professionals also manage media relations, corporate and internal relationships, events, social media, and branding campaigns.
There are a variety of different techniques used throughout the marketing industry. However, you’re never limited to just one! Often, a combination of these methods is necessary to achieve your organizational goals. Consider your objectives and determine which techniques will best fit your needs.
As we’ve hammered home throughout this guide, marketing is all around us.
With different techniques, tactics, and strategies, marketers use a variety of different channels to best reach their audiences.
While professionals are still utilizing traditional marketing channels, like billboards and radio ads, the emergence of smartphones, social media, and user reviews have allowed marketers even more flexibility. For the last decade especially, this new technology has revolutionized the marketing industry and granted professionals opportunities that had never before been available.
In this section, we’ll highlight the various marketing channels that we see harnessed today and the benefits they bring to the marketers who employ them.
Offline marketing channels
Advertising (Magazines, Billboards, TV, Print, Radio, etc.)
More than likely, advertising tactics are what come to your mind when you first hear the word “marketing.” These strategies, also known as “traditional marketing” efforts, have been used by professionals for decades and beyond.
In fact, the very first radio commercial dates back to 1922 – nearly 100 years ago.
Today, radio advertisements are commonplace, with professionals leveraging the different stations to reach niche audiences.
For marketing teams looking to appeal to a wider market, billboards provide a massive canvas on which to practice creativity. Canva’s list of 50 brilliant billboard ads reinforces the idea that billboards, as “old-fashioned” as they may be, are still a marketing force to be reckoned with.
While advertising efforts aren’t cheap (a 30-second commercial during an episode of The Big Bang Theory will come in at a steep $344,827), the exposure that comes along with it can be massive.
For small businesses looking to get their name out, a newspaper ad or short commercial on a local TV station can be a viable option – and still give you results.
With traditional marketing, it’s all about locating your ideal audience and opting for the medium that will best reach them.
I’m a firm believer in leveraging your organization’s employees. By empowering your colleagues to advocate for your business, they’ll become your best recruiters and marketers, regardless of their department.
Utilizing your sales team in your marketing efforts can be an invaluable strategy. First of all, they know your product or service like the back of their hand. They can tell you any benefit, shortcoming, or competitive advantage.
Leverage this knowledge by ensuring they’re well-versed in your key marketing messages.
Knowing the product itself is an excellent start. That said, keeping them up-to-date on features you’re highlighting, promotions you’re running, and more will make sure they’re going into every sales pitch as prepared as possible.
On a similar note, be sure to regularly communicate the content and tools that can help them be successful. If your marketing team recently published an eBook about the health benefits of your service, it should be easily accessible to account executives who may want to share it with a prospect.
Here at G2 Crowd, we send out a weekly “smarketing” newsletter that ensures our sales team is well-versed in marketing updates, events, and more.
Additionally, it’s always worth it to remind your sales team that the sale doesn’t end when the contract is signed. Arm them with best practices to build connections with their customers and nurture the relationships until they’re ready to upsell.
Public relations (PR)
Your company’s brand is an extension of itself.
Public relations is much more than learning how to write a press release and hosting press conferences.
Your public relations team (or in many cases, your sole PR professional) will be responsible for telling your organization’s story.
Sometimes, these are day-to-day tasks. Other times, they can be major initiatives that require a lot of people, efforts, and budget. Whether it’s writing the founding story and ensuring the executives’ bios are up to dates, or major “guerrilla marketing” brand campaigns like viral videos and flash mobs, your PR team will work to ensure your brand is well-received by its ideal audience.
Additionally, PR professionals often work to build relationships with media professionals and publications. When these journalists write a favorable story about your organization, your brand’s reputation will reap the rewards.
Many companies will utilize a PR firm to supplement their internal resources. These firms employ hard-working professionals with bright ideas and typically have already-established relationships with journalists and media outlets.
Online Marketing Channels
Did you know your own website may be your largest untapped marketing resource?
Learning how to make a website and then tailoring it to prospects, in addition to customers, is a simple (and free!) way to optimize your marketing strategy.
If you’re looking to revamp your website, a good place to start would be with a content marketing strategy.
Creating valuable and educational content enables your marketing team to position your brand as an authoritative resource. When you compile these resources into one place on your website, whether it’s a blog, a learning hub, or any particular web page, you can become a research destination (whether or not these researchers actually know about your product).
When first-time visitors become repeat readers or even advocates, they’ll begin to associate your brand with a positive experience. When they find themselves in need of a solution that your product or service offers, they’ll be more likely to opt for a brand they know and love as opposed to your competitor they’ve never interacted with.
Social media marketing has rapidly gained popularity in recent years – and with good reason.
Marketers have been hesitant about implementing a social media strategy. When we think of social media, we often think of millennials posting memes and Instagram influencer marketing.
If you’re a marketer who thinks your audience isn’t on social media, you may want to think again.
As of 2017, 81 percent of United States citizens are utilizing social media.
That’s right. If you’re not on social media yet, what are you waiting for?
Utilizing a variety of social media platforms is a simple and cheap way to increase brand awareness. As with all marketing tactics, consider your audience and where they may spend their online time.
If you’re targeting professionals in their 30s, perhaps LinkedIn is the place to start. On the other hand, you’ll find teenagers and young adults on Instagram. If you're looking to target a range of audiences and hit the biggest targets, perhaps Facebook marketing is your best bet.
Social media is also a successful tactic in increasing brand loyalty. Consumers love to feel special. When their favorite brand tweets at them or throws them a “like” on Instagram, it strengthens that bond.
In addition to reaching your customers and building relationships, social media marketing has one clear benefit: It is incredibly cost-effective.
In most cases, signing up for a social media account is entirely free. If you do decide to utilize paid social media ads, you can start small and run tests on various platforms to ensure you’ll receive the greatest ROI.
Even simple actions like learning how to pin a tweet on a brand's Twitter is an easy first step to social media marketing.
You didn’t think we’d forget, did you?
Last, but certainly not least, we have our personal favorite: user reviews.
If you’re a marketing professional and have yet to utilizes your product’s or service’s reviews in your marketing strategy, you are seriously missing out.
Customer reviews are an invaluable tool in any marketer’s toolbox. They provide in-depth insight on the best (and worst) features of your offering, enabling you to identify your happiest customers, as well as possible areas for improvement.
Additionally, reviews are a form of word of mouth marketing, which, as we mentioned earlier, is especially credible. In fact, a Nielsen study found that online customer reviews are the second most-trusted source of brand information and messaging. Notably, the only information that beat out online customer reviews were recommendations from the consumer’s friends and family.
To use the content of reviews in your marketing strategy, consider the features your most-positive reviews mention. Then, be sure to include those particular features as a highlight in your marketing messages.
Additionally, be sure to build relationships with those happy reviewers. In addition to potentially becoming a brand advocate, these customers are excellent candidates to partner with for a case study.
Responding to reviews, both positive and negative, can establish your brand as one that truly values customer feedback and relationships. This is a simple, free step that can make your brand stand out in the eyes of consumers.
The exciting part of selecting which marketing channels to utilize is that there’s no right or wrong answer. Typically, a combination of the few that work best for your particular team will enable you to optimize your strategy.
Conclusion - Marketing is everywhere
This has been a lot of information. If you have been with us from the introduction, you'll be well-versed in marketing and its purpose, industry techniques, creating a marketing strategy, and much more.
As we've mentioned, marketing as an industry is ever-changing. We invite you to bookmark this pace and refer back to it, or share it with your network!
As the marketing industry continues to evolve, we'll update this guide with new findings and best practices.