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MARKETING IN THE TRENCHES

The decision: conquer your fear and believe

Developing a marketing plan is not easy. It sends many of us into a cold sweat just thinking about it. But it's critical, and you must conquer that initial fear and carry it out, because it forms the foundation for the long-term goal of any brand or product.
The core of any marketing plan is the marketing objective and strategy statements. These are critical business decisions which follow from the situation analysis and set the stage for formulating plans.
Your marketing objectives are numerical goals which should be specific (you know exactly where you are going), measurable (you know when you have arrived) and achievable (you know you can get there). It can refer to any of a host of management categories, such as sales volume, market share, profitability, etc.

Developing a marketing plan is not easy. It sends many of us into a cold sweat just thinking about it. But it's critical, and you must conquer that initial fear and carry it out, because it forms the foundation for the long-term goal of any brand or product.

The core of any marketing plan is the marketing objective and strategy statements. These are critical business decisions which follow from the situation analysis and set the stage for formulating plans.

Your marketing objectives are numerical goals which should be specific (you know exactly where you are going), measurable (you know when you have arrived) and achievable (you know you can get there). It can refer to any of a host of management categories, such as sales volume, market share, profitability, etc.

The marketing strategy is a statement of how a brand or product will meet its long-term objectives. It consists of fundamental decisions about a brand's or product's positioning that are not subject to change and which should guide all related marketing planning and activities. Areas to choose from can include: product benefits, brand image, product heritage, credibility from the brand or product's name or reputation, price or value, packaging, etc. The secret to a good strategy is to pick only those few factors fundamental to a brand's long-term viability.

Once you have decided your strategy, don't deviate from it. Your marketing strategy should be revised only as a last resort, since major changes to it forfeit the equity a brand or product has built up with its consumers and customers over time.

So take a deep breath and get on with it. Here's your road map.

1. Do a pretest. Long-term decisions become more acceptable (and you'll have confidence in what you're presenting) once you test them.

A real-life example from sales (the principles also apply to marketing): one major consumer products company had some ideas for sales objectives and strategies. One reason this firm was successful was because it did a practice sales presentation the morning of a big afternoon pitch to a major account. The morning sales call was to the smallest grocery on the road to the big client. All key company players were there: directors, sales and marketing people. Their objective was to get feedback, so they could adjust their approach when it really mattered in the afternoon. While personnel at the small grocery store were delighted to see the company's test, the firm's managers were even more delighted to learn that their hard work paid off. The company landed a huge sales orders from its client at the afternoon presentation.

The morale to this story is simple enough. After enough repetitions of this morning/afternoon testing, the company was confident when it came time to present its long-term sales objective and strategy.

2. Go for consensus in decision-making. Working together with peers to decide on long-term issues often results in sharper decisions.

An example from Central Europe: a company whose director wanted to enter the food and beverage segment. Knowing that a major decision like that is way more for one person to handle, the marketing person formed a team consisting of one key person from each department (marketing, sales, finance, production, product development, market research). After dividing up the situation analysis, the team met frequently to review and challenge each finding before coming up with joint conclusions: oils - didn't make sense, 2 major players already; coffee - the firm's tasted too weak for local consumers' tastes; 100 percent fruit juices - commodity price swings hurt profits; dilute juices - YES - a category where the firm could use its experience in a growing market while making money. Management agreedwith the decision, and the business was staffed. Sure, there were different viewpoints at the beginning, but by working to get consensus at each step, the project succeeded.

3. Join forces with the Sales Division: If you believe, you can achieve...even in marketing.

This is a solid example. Not too long ago, home-made baking goods in the USA was a dying industry. While past generations owned and managed bakeries, waking up at 3:00 am to start churning out the goodies for the next day, their children were not so eager to take over the business. Business slumped as a result, to the point where a manufacturing plant closed and management was on the verge of abandoning the business. What to do? Simple. Turn the business around from decline to at least +15 percent annual growth. Strategy? Figure out a market that is growing. Where? Supermarket in-store deli-bakeries. As we all know, people like baked goods, but they were just buying it elsewhere.

Unfortunately, management had already given up on the business, so the marketing and sales divisions teamed up to make it happen. Result? It worked! The salespeople believed...and assisted. Ultimately, the business reversed course enough so that a separate sales unit was established just to handle this growing market. Same product, in new dress, yielded improved results.

How do you conquer the fear? Test, Talk to others, Team up whenever possible, and Trust yourself that you're making the right decision.


"Marketing in the Trenches" appears monthly. Next month's column will focus on "Planning: proper planning prevents poor performance." Stewart Glickman is an international consultant currently based in Moscow. Tel: 007-095-265-4745. Fax: 007-095-265-4754.

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