"Marketing the universe, one planet at a time."

Planning for Marketing Success

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Planning is essential to successful marketing. As they say, "If you don't know where you are going, any road'll take you there."

But planning is hard. And time consuming. We used to sit down once a year and git 'er done. But today, it seems we are constantly tweaking our plans. Or worse, we set the planning document aside and do ad hoc projects that kidnap the budget and fizzle into oblivion.

Make no mistake. Planning a successful marketing program requires the discipline of Lance Armstrong and the wisdom of Solomon. This means we can only part of it right. But good planning means that we get more of right than wrong. 

So let's get real. You need a simple (as simple and manageable as we can find) format that can act as a roadmap for your work and keep you on track.

Marketing Strategy

First, you need a marketing strategy. If you are in one of those industries that sells everything it produces, maybe you think you don't need to plan. Perhaps that is true for a while. The problem with being successful is that copy-cats and low-end knock-offs appear overnight and can quickly steal your thunder. Plan for world dominance from the beginning, always seeking to make the best product possible for the money.

Employees are an essential element of Brand building

I've always believed in the sheer power of "living the brand" internally, which is where effective employee communications can play such a powerful role. Recently I asked my communications colleagues on LinkedIn what they thought the role of employee communications was in the context of brand-building. My belief is that companies often overlook the role that employee communications plays.

The feedback from my colleagues was pretty much supported my thinking—that internal audiences are absolutely critical when building a brand. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that...     READ MORE

The marketing strategy is based on long-term goal for your business. It engages the marketing tools at your disposal to attack the problem from several directions. Your product will warrant top-end placement and pricing, or it may be the bargain favorite. Whatever your strategy, its a long term proposition to which you make a commitment.

Weighing the competition is a major part of this effort. See a great article to get your juices flowing here


Your brand is important as you build your plan. Without the iPhone and Apple reputation as an innovator of amazing devices, it would have been much tougher to market the iPad. Ask Microsoft, who introduced the tablet computer in 2000. More on branding is here.

The Marketing Plan

Like I said earlier, the today's marketing plan is being constantly revised so it should be in a format that begs to be seriously reviewed and edited. Skip the flowery language and the "dressed to impress" document layout and use a realistic, achievable outline.

Your format must be clear and simple, but contain details, timetable, and budget.

Here's a good way to start the marketing planning process. It should include the following:

  1. Realistic description of the product or service, including unique features that make it special
  2. A realistic marketing budget
  3. Description of your company's realistic ability to distribute the product or service (Targeting will prevent your having to deal with inquiries that you cannot possibly fulfill or markets that you cannot serve)
  4. A pricing strategy, being very savvy about setting a price point and discount strategy
  5. Market segmentation so that can realistically target available audiences (see point 3)

Throughout this discussion, you should list your competitors, direct and indirect, in detail, so that you have a clear idea of what obstacles you face.

Marketing Mix

Remember the Four Ps? Actually, they never were all Ps. Anyway, a current mix encompasses more like seven Ps:

  • Product - of course, including its design, tactile operation, and ease-of-use
  • Price - the right price is crucial
  • Promotion - including advertising, product reviews, articles, public relations, trade shows, etc.
  • Place - or more accurately, placement, or even more accurately distribution
  • People - Duh. Sales, customer service, product managers, bosses, dealers, They are the face of your product or service.
  • (Physical) Environment - the field, the competition, the legal, social, and cultural considerations
  • Process - including user interface, training, and post-sales support 

Monitoring Your Brand

Just this past week, another strong brand was caught in the midst of an online controversy. The brand victim, Starbucks. Employees at a Miami Starbucks posted inappropriate photos of Starbucks customers online using the social media tool Flickr. Now, Starbucks is well known in the social media space, they have several followers on Twitter, so how did this happen?

A few months back... READ MORE

Here is an outline from Wikipedia that could be useful. Obviously you need to tailor this to your organization.

This may look ominous, but remember that you can make it as detailed or loose as you like. Remember, too, that you should keep the sections in outline form, where inevitable changes can be realistically made and communicated. Also, this reference has plenty of additional links to help with the process.

Measuring and monitoring

There is nothing quite so debilitating as having an third quarter brilliant idea that can't be activated because you overspent all this year's marketing budget on lackluster or runaway programs earlier. You need to keep your powder dry. The way to do that is knowing where you are throughout the year. Of course, you don't want to change your marketing plan every time some new thought comes into your head. Good marketing takes discipline to stick to the knitting but know when to adjust your tactics to meet your goals.

This is done by establishing clear and measurable targets so that you can monitor progress and spending throughout the process. "Be the best" is not a measurable objective. "Increase sales by 20 percent by August 1" is a clear objective.


Of course, to measure your progress, you need a good picture of where you are today so that you will know how far you have come. This is done through market research and benchmarks. There is expensive research, done by professionals, of course, and then there is back-of-the-envelope research, which can be quite useful. You must be wise enough to know when to depend on either.

Getting buy-in

Key to all of this is having a commitment from your top management and your product managers that they agree with and support your (oops, our) program. Not only are they giving you permission to go forward with the implementation of this plan but they are agreeing to become part of your team, doing what is necessary to achieve success. You cannot do this in a vacuum, nor can you do this by yourself. You can be a hero by take the leadership role, corralling your resources, and sharing successes to make this plan happen.

Let me know if I can help with this.


The marketing audit is a complicated and time-consuming research device that can be useful, particularly if you are embarking on a new product initiatives in a new market. But that's for later.

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