A Winning Marketing Plan: 9 Questions Every Marketer Should Be Able To Answer

What does it take to write a winning marketing plan? Every marketer writes a marketing or business plan each year don’t they, so how difficult can it be, right?

Well, writing a marketing plan isn’t hard at all, but writing a winning marketing plan is very difficult. And time-consuming. And getting it approved by your executive board is perhaps the most challenging part of all.

And it’s not only in the formal marketing plan presentation that you need your “A” game. Management is renowned in most organisations for “innocently” posing questions when passing marketers in the corridor or while socialising at a company event.

Answer the CEO’s questions to their satisfaction and you will stand out from the crowd. Provide an incomplete or, worse still, no answer at all, and they might just wonder if it isn’t time to restructure the marketing group!

So here are my 9 actionable tips on how to write a winning marketing plan, so you can answer any question your CEO or boss throws at you – EVERY time.

The simple rule is to NEVER say you don’t know, but also to never drown them in a long-winded answer. Neither will win you brownie points. Make sure you have an answer like those proposed below and your name might just be on the next list of promotions. (Do I congratulate you now?!?)

 

1. WHO ARE OUR BRAND’S CUSTOMERS?

There is far more information needed than just age and gender, to answer this question. Prepare a short description (often called a persona or avatar) of a typical user, in the same way as you would describe a friend. See 13 Things your Boss Expects you to Know about your Customers for further details on what you should already know about your customer.

Once you’ve checked out the above article, why not also download our 4W™ template? It will help you put everything in one place so it is always handy and more importantly makes it easy to update it whenever you learn something new about them.

GOOD ANSWER: “Our customers are middle-aged women, whose children are in their late teens or early twenties. She shops in local supermarkets and gets advice from friends on Facebook, about the best brands to buy and what’s on offer.”

If the CEO / your boss looks interested or asks for more, then continue with “She’s been buying our brand for over two years because it satisfies her children’s hunger when they get in from playing sports. That makes them happy and she then feels proud of being a good Mum. We call her Patty.”

With this answer, you will have given them a short summary of the most important elements of your persona. By adding the name you have given the avatar, you might get them to also refer to her in your next meeting. That’s when you know they listened to you and that you won an important step up in their estimation.

A brand persona like the @C3Centricity 4W™ template, will not only keep everything in one place, it, more importantly, makes it easy to update it whenever you learn something new about your customers. #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity… Click To Tweet

 

2. HOW MUCH ARE OUR CUSTOMERS WORTH TO US?

Besides having an average lifetime value of your customer in your head, you should also be able to provide information about your customers’ perceived value of your brand.

This information will come from certain attributes in your brand image study, such as “worth the price”, “more valuable than other brands” or “is worth paying more for.” The summary results of your brand image study should always be included in your winning marketing plan.

Just make sure that when you quote such statistics, that you compare them to the competition. Rather than saying “56% of category users think we offer great value for money”, say “more than a half of category users think we provide better value than the competition.” Your boss will always ask for more detailed information if needed.

GOOD ANSWERS: On average each customer spends about XXX (Dollars, Euros, Renminbi, Rupee, Real …) a year on our brand, which is about YYY over ten years (lifetime value is rarely calculated further out than this).

Our current average price in-store is ZZZ, but 70% of our customers thinks we’re actually worth more than that. This compares to AAA for the category leader / our main competitor.

In addition to having an average lifetime value of your customer, you should have information about your customers’ perceived value of your brand. #LifetimeValue #Value #ValuePerception Click To Tweet

 

9. PLANNING FOR MARKETING PLANNING

Mark Ritson's Tasty diagram
Source: Mark Ritson

My last question is one that perhaps will surprise you; it is “Did you read Mark Ritson’s recent article about marketing planning?” The post is called “14 steps to an effective presentation” and complements well my own article.

I have been a fan of Mark’s cheeky wit and solid marketing suggestions for years. Even if I don’t always agree with everything he writes, every one of his articles makes me think and reconsider what I do for my own business and that of my clients. And that is the objective of my own blog postings, to make the reader reconsider what they’re doing, specifically in the area of how they treat their customers and adopting a customer-first strategy.

Here is the summary diagram on the right, of his structure of a 12-month marketing plan, which I am sure will make you click on the image or the link above to read the article. I would highly recommend you do so, if you missed it when it was first published.

So there you have them. Eight of the most common questions top management asks of marketers – and an extra ninth one from me. As you can see, the answers I’ve suggested to the eight are short and simple.

Especially when the question is posed outside the formal marketing plan presentation, the executive is probably looking not only for the information requested but also to check that you have an excellent understanding of your brand. He wants to be assured that his business is in good hands. Prove it to him and also show your respect for his time, by giving short, precise answers whenever possible.

 

Do you frequently get asked other questions not mentioned here? Then please add them in the comments below. Also, if you have a better way of responding to any of the above questions, I’d love to read those too. Thanks a lot.

 

If you’d like your team to be better prepared for “awkward” questions from management, why not ask for one of our short, sharp 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions (both virtual and in-person)? They are fun, informative, motivating and above all actionable.

 

This post is adapted from an article that first appeared on C3Centricity in 2014 and is regularly updated. See the original.

 

7 Essential Steps to Successful Business Projects (A Useful Roadmap)

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Although there is no magic bullet to transform your business into a successful powerhouse, I have witnessed similarities amongst those that grow more profitably. And what they have in common is the process steps of their business projects. Why not compare your own to the elements below and see how good yours really are?

Here are my 7 secrets to managing a successful business project. At first view, you might think that they are rather basic, but can you confirm that you have them for every project you run? If not, then they are well worth checking out. And they will be useful to you, whether you are just starting out or are looking to take your business to the next level.

 

1. A Support Team

As is often said to motivate us into exercising more:

“Change is more fun when there’s more than one.”

Business Project ProcessBut this is relevant in business too. No-one ever changed a company, let alone its culture, by working alone.

Therefore start by gathering together a group of like-minded people as your support team.

If you are a solopreneur, like myself, then this is even more important, if not vital to your success.

If you are a solopreneur, getting support is vital to your success. #business #businessprojects #entrepreneur Click To Tweet

You must have a sounding board to share ideas and get differing perspectives. People you can meet for a coffee or lunch so you don’t spend your days in your (home) office, behind your desk and in front of your computer.

Social media and Facebook groups are great for daily connections, but nothing beats the more intimate face-to-face discussions a personal meeting provides. So make sure you include two or three of them in your weekly agenda.

If you work in a corporation, no matter its size, choosing the right group of team members will ensure that you have support to bring about the required improvements. Internal change is more a cultural than a process challenge so a team made up of members across the different departments will provide you with the necessary support.

And what I said about face-to-face meetings applies to you corporate slaves too. Don’t always take a coffee or go to lunch with your team or the same group of people. Take the opportunity to discuss with people you don’t normally come into contact with. They are likely to be in different departments and have new ideas and perspectives to share.

Don't always take coffee or lunch with the same people. Get new #ideas #perspectives #business Click To Tweet

 

2. A Plan

I know, most of us don’t like planning, we like action! I’m with you there! But it is a necessary evil, even vital, for success. As Alan Lakein, the writer of several self-help books on time management, is famously quoted as saying:

“Failing to plan is planning to fail”

The content of a plan will obviously depend upon the objectives, but at a minimum, it should include details about:

  • The problem
  • The objectives and desired outcome / changes
  • Team members and their needed experience
  • Others who need to be involved and / or informed
  • The suggested approach
  • The information needed in order to make the change
  • External support needed, if any, and why
  • Time and budget resources available
  • Any barriers or risks that could impact or restrict implementation

If any of these components are lacking or incomplete, then the project should not be started, nor any changes implemented. Insufficient execution and support is one of the main reasons why projects fail.

 

3. Management Support

Management supportThe success of business projects is always dependent upon gaining buy-in in one way or another, whether from management, key stakeholders or even the whole organisation.

This will only be possible if the project is seen as a company rather than a departmental or individual initiative. That is why all the components of the plan, as detailed above, are so important.

Any change is likely to meet with some resistance, that’s only human. We are creatures of habit who prefer to stay in our comfort zones. In fact, the brain actively avoids anything, which could destabilise our current position, whether good or bad. The #brain actively avoids anything which could destabilise our current position, whether good or bad. Click To Tweet

We will only change when we are either forced to – not good – or agree to – good – because we see the outcome as positive, ideally for ourselves. Therefore management must explain what benefits are in the project for each employee, not just for themselves, the team or even worse, the shareholders!

 

4. A Project Management System

In line with creating a plan, you must have a way to identify milestones and follow the progression of your business projects. Therefore you need some sort of system to record and share progress with everyone concerned.

The platform you use can be as simple or as complex as you like, but should be appropriate for the complexity of the project itself. No point in buying a sophisticated project management system if it could be summarised in a simple spread sheet, Gantt chart or with a free online tool. (Microsoft Project, Zoho Projects, GanttProject, Asana) “Horses for courses” is what is important. In other words match the system to the project and not the other way around. Match the system to the project and not the other way around. #business #planning Click To Tweet

Whatever you choose, it should be easily accessible, visual, informative, user friendly and as intuitive as possible. If it isn’t, it won’t get used, it’s as simple as that!

 

5. Launch Following

Launch followingSince most business projects will have an end or launch date when it goes live, it is a good idea to make everyone aware of it. A celebration of some sort is useful for gaining both awareness and excitement around the project launch.

If you have not been very successful at getting company-wide support for your project, then this becomes even more important. The event will give you the opportunity to improve understanding and encourage everyone to get behind the launch.

Hopefully you will have already developed a logo and catchy phrase for the project and can now use them under your email signature or on posters and newsletters to announce the launch.

And don’t think that a single go-live event is sufficient. To gain maximum awareness and support it needs to be followed up with further occasions to celebrate additional milestones such as meeting different targets for adoption, distribution etc.

One added benefit of such follow-up events is that they remind all employees that this project is on-going and warrants their attention, if only to ensure they understand what it is about should anyone ask. It also enables people to use their own language and vocabulary to integrate it into their own projects, which is essential for long-lasting impact.

 

6. Best-Practice Improvements

As well as regular follow-up events, it is important to frequently track the current situation of the roll-out of each of your business projects. This ensures that any deviation from the plan is quickly identified and corrective actions taken.

This helps in improving the original plan by pinpointing any areas that need additional steps or enhancements. It will also guarantee continued involvement by everyone since they will see that they have the chance to suggest changes.

In this way employees who were not involved in the original project do not feel it mandatory to execute as specified, when they know things could be improved. They will also feel concerned about the project’s success rather than excluded and will be more likely to give their ongoing support.

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