With the Superbowl behind us (congrats to the Chiefs and Andy Reid, who’s planning finally paid off) and spring around the corner, it’s a great time to start your planning process. You may have heard the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” or maybe, “Plan your work and work your plan”. But what does this really mean? My guess is that most of the people reading this don’t have a plan. Planning does not ensure success, but it does greatly improve your odds of being in business for a long time.
There are many different ways of doing marketing planning. The model that I use, regardless of the size or type of business, is as follows:
The first step in the planning process is to analyze the external environment. These are the things that are outside of your control, but can significantly impact your business, in both a positive and negative way. Typically, we start with a lengthy discussion of the following areas and work with our clients to identify to what extent they impact their business.
What is happening in the political arena? Does a particular party or person help or hurt what you are trying to do? Think about what happened four years ago during the presidential election. If we have a new President or shift in the senate/house majority in 2020, what will happen to your business?
Are there any legal rulings on the horizon? This could be specific to alcohol or things like zoning, parking and lawsuits that impact retailers, distributors and restaurants.
Is the economy improving or declining? How does your company perform in either situation? Do you think the trend will continue?
What are the social trends? We live in a digital world (social media, texting, group chats, sharing (Uber/Lyft, Airbnb etc.) eat-in versus takeout, buying local, food trucks, BYOB, hanging out with friends, cans vs. bottles vs. draught, drinking with friends or drinking alone.
How does technology impact your business? Think smart phones, e-commerce, user generated content, POS systems, self-checkout, tablets, equipment, delivery trucks, GPS, self-driving cars & trucks.
Competitive analysis comes next. We guide our clients through an exercise to identify and evaluate direct and indirect competitors. Don’t just think about the ones that look and act like you do. Think about how our business has changed with Uber Eats, Grub Hub, Go Puff, Amazon, Home Delivery etc. How do they compete? Where are they strong? Do they have a weakness?
Next, we turn our focus to the internal environment. These are controllable factors.
- What is your company all about? (Brands, categories, services offered).
- How is your management team set up?
- Who are your current heavy users/buyers?
- Who is your primary target market? (For example, Boomers/Gen X may be your current heavy users/buyers but Millennials/Gen Z may be your target).
- How is your product/brand currently positioned to each target market?
- Evaluate your current strategy and marketing mix. Be critical!
- Will the same mix work for both your current users and target market?
This helps identify what your company/product has to offer. It should also identify if your company is successful and/or has fluctuations in demand, which might require promotional assistance, new products, packaging, etc.
Finally, you should perform a SWOT analysis. This identifies the strengths/weaknesses and opportunities/threats that come out of external, internal and competitive analysis. If you can put one of your strengths against a competitor’s weakness, you will generally be very successful. Similarly, if you can improve or eliminate a weakness, that gives your competition one less way to attack you.
At this point you have the framework or outline for a marketing plan. You can develop your product, price, promotion & distribution strategies and tactics and start the game. This is something you can do yourself, if you have the time and expertise, or have someone help with this process. “Plan your work and work your plan!”
And remember, marketing is a race with no finish line.
George Latella teaches Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Food Marketing which is the largest major at Saint Joseph’s University recently celebrated its 57th anniversary. George is also a partner in Beacon Marketing group which provides Marketing planning, research, and e-commerce/direct marketing communications for food and beverage companies. George can be reached at email@example.com or 610-660-2254.