You are a superstar sales person and have excelled in everything you have done in the field. Now as a product manager and member of the marketing team, you have to learn new skills and adapt to a new set of requirements and expectations.
One of those expectations is to create a great marketing plan in a short time frame—one that takes into account the dynamic and fluid marketplace in which your brand lives. How do you manage creating a comprehensive blueprint that outlines absolutely everything involved in accomplishing aggressive marketing objectives over the course of a year, or even three to five years, in a landscape that is constantly changing—and do it in just weeks? That can be a daunting task for anyone, even for a seasoned professional. But it doesn’t need to be so intimidating.
So what are the new must-haves in a marketing plan? Truth be told, the basic tenets of a great marketing plan haven’t changed all that much over time. Even the most disruptive companies in the new economy (think Airbnb, Lyft, and Amazon), work within the construct of a formal marketing plan. The difference is that these companies have built-in flexibility to leverage opportunities as they go, even if they aren’t always part of the original plan. The idea is if you look at your marketing plan like a roadmap, when the landscape of opportunity changes, you don’t have to throw out the whole map, just change the direction.
With that in mind, this is a guide that product managers (and even more seasoned marketers) can use to the assemble the elements necessary to build a better marketing plan roadmap for today—and into the future.
1. Invest in Landscape and Competitive Assessment
It’s important to hear directly from customers before mapping out and finalizing any marketing plan. What we find important as stakeholders may vary drastically from those who may consider or engage with a brand, and this perspective will determine your success. By assessing the competitive landscape with past, current, and future products or services, you will collect intelligence, shape insights, and drive strategy. Budgets aside, this analysis needs to occur whether formally (IDIs, TDIs, web-assisted interviews) or informally (ad boards, surveys, polls), as it will inform and ultimately guide a confident and more robust marketing plan.
TIP: Listen to your customers and move forward confidently with a solution-oriented approach.
2. Create Customer Personas and Brand Journey Maps
Having a map for the journey is key. Target audiences and customer personas are two tiers of the map that absolutely need to be considered and included. Understanding whom to focus on and how they behave will establish a foundation for your brand journey and inform your marketing plan. Understanding goals, behaviors, attitudes, and demographics of your target audience will help you prioritize and elevate opportunities and identify any potentially “low hanging fruit”—customers who will be on board right away.
Others will have to move along the brand journey and have the respective engagement points and interactions to propel them to the finish line as a trial user and later, hopefully, as a loyal buyer. With the creation of these marketing tools, you can begin to envision the content and materials needed for each stage and develop a robust brand story and offering.
TIP: Clearly define customer personas to better understand what resonates most.
3. Integrate Channel Planning
Critical success factors should be mapped out in parallel with strategy to serve as a guiding light for brand and channel planning. Knowing the needs of customers and how they prefer to digest content will be integral to the planning process and help determine the right mix, reach, and frequency. Depending on the therapeutic class and the evolution of customer behavior, some brands may lean more heavily to one channel versus another.
For example, non-personal promotion (NPP) has seen considerable uptake when organizations have resource limitations, budget constraints, or a CRM vision for the brand. Whatever the channel, content should be tailored to an audience segment, pulsed out with metrics tracked and analyzed for optimization—all to support the sales model and generate trial and advocacy for the brand.
TIP: Establish the right channel mix based on customer preference and market evolution.
4. Drive Ownable Positioning and a Differentiating Brand Campaign
By utilizing insight mining, stakeholders can land on a unique selling proposition that resonates and is viewed as ownable in the market. If you can replace your brand with your competitors in your positioning statement, then you have not landed on the hook. Options are key at this stage to identify ways in, but you will ultimately land on one angle or approach before embarking on creative development and supporting collateral for your brand campaign. Having a layer of emotion integrated into your brand campaign and promise can provide additional stopping power and curiosity that will give you a leg up on the competition.
TIP: Spend the time needed to best articulate your positioning.
5. Plan for Measurement and Optimization
Once your plan is complete and your marketing program is out in the marketplace, be sure to take the opportunity to strengthen it based on feedback, data, or utilization. Very rarely is a project untouched or unscathed from this analysis. Step one is to accept the data and put a plan in place to address updates. Evolving a plan that truly meets the needs of the market is paramount to strengthening your brand and ensuring customers commit to your brand. Initial acceptance of your brand is good, but when members of the target audience become brand advocates, speak on behalf of your brand with confidence to patients and peers, and can summarize your brand promise and supporting messages, then you have really optimized your marketing program.
TIP: Break down your measurement goals and optimize for greater uptake.
Following each of these “five commandments”—the must-haves of a marketing plan—can help create an environment for success for both you and your brand. Use them as a guide or template, but make sure to leave room in your plan to move beyond the basics and build in next-level thinking that gives the plan flexibility, sustainability, and creativity.