The Marketing Planning Process: Four Steps to Success

Every business aims to increase its revenue, reduce its liabilities, and by doing so, become more profitable. Within this process, many variables can result in any one of the three increasing or falling. To ensure that the business continues to grow its customer base, increase sales and remain competitive, a strategic approach to growth must be devised and promoted. This is the goal of the marketing plan. 

By having a strong marketing plan, you will reach potential customers who are more likely to spend on your product or service, and in return, you increase sales, customer loyalty and grow revenue. To assist you in optimising your marketing plan, there are processes and strategies that we can implement to reach the optimal target audience, drive sales, increase brand awareness, and grow customer loyalty.

What are the four stages of the marketing planning process?

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Before we dive into the marketing planning process, let’s first understand what a marketing plan is. A marketing plan is the outline of how you will reach the target audience for a specific product or service, outlines the goals, assesses your current position and develops a strategy based on this.

Once the marketing strategy has been implemented, you measure the success or failure of the initiative through analysis and repeat the processes. The marketing planning process can be shortlisted as:

  1. Defining your goals
  2. Assessing your current position
  3. Developing a strategy
  4. Implementing the strategy

Step 1: Defining your goals

When you are defining your goals and objectives, you need to consider exactly what it is that you want to achieve. Think of where your business has shortcomings to that of your competitors and consider combating it. If you and a competitor share a target audience, how will you ensure that your product or service draws more attention? Here are eight marketing goals that you can use to help you determine the goal of your marketing plan:

Typical marketing plan goals and objectives are:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Grow online brand engagement 
  • Establish brand authority
  • Increase value for customers
  • Increase revenue
  • Generate leads
  • Gain more website traffic
  • Improve your search results ranking

It’s most likely that you won’t be able to address all of the above in a single marketing effort. Rather select the one or two that are most pressing and focus on getting it up to the standard that yields good results. It will be more worth the time, effort and money spent to focus on the core areas where your marketing plan currently has some shortcomings, thereafter you can start planning on the next set of objectives.

Step 2: Assess your current position

Before developing a strategy, you need to determine your starting point. Consider your goals and how well you and your team are equipped to take on the challenge. Instead of reaching out to third parties, consider restructuring your team. You can easily determine your shortcomings with a SWOT analysis. 

Once you’ve determined your team and business’ strengths and weaknesses, you need to determine in which market position your business lies. There are four market positions, which are:

  • Market leaders
  • Market challengers
  • Market followers
  • Market niches

To determine your business’s market position, consider the following:

  1. Review your business’ SWOT analysis
  2. Analyse and assess your competitors
  3. Conduct your independent market research
  4. Determine what sets your product or service apart from competitors
  5. Assess which product or service will draw customers

Step 3: Develop a marketing strategy

Where the business plan outlines broader goals and objectives for the organisation, the marketing plan supports the business’s financial goals. The main objective for any business is to increase its revenue, and therefore the marketing plan aims to identify key product – and service areas as well as markets where the business will be able to maximise revenue growth. 

The marketing strategy considers the business’ goals and objectives, as well as your current position, to develop a comprehensive plan of action. To develop an effective marketing strategy, you can employ the 4 Ps of marketing to determine the foundation that the strategy will be built upon. These are:

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place
  • Promotion

The aim is to determine through research and analysis, which Product you need to allocate a certain Price to, depending on the target audience (Place) and cost and routes of advertising (Promotion). Once you have determined them, you can use one of the four marketing strategies to optimise the marketing plan and match the business’ needs, requirements, capabilities, and goals.

The four main marketing strategies are:

  • Market penetration
  • Market development
  • Product development
  • Diversification

1. Market penetration

A market penetration strategy is used when a business focuses on selling its current products to its existing customers. Typically, this strategy aims to increase the loyalty of current customers, attract competitors’ customers, increase the frequency of product use, and convert nonusers into users will be at the core of the market penetration strategy.

2. Market development

A market development strategy refers to efforts aimed at increasing sales by selling existing products in new markets. Such efforts can also include expanding into new geographic markets, such as international markets. In the market development strategy, product awareness and distribution channel development are critical marketing activities. To better meet the needs of the targeted market, it’s also possible that the product will need to be adapted or modified to match the preferences of the target audience.

3. Product development

Product development, or the creation of new products to sell to existing customers, is a common marketing strategy used by businesses that can leverage their relationships with existing customers. 

This strategy emphasises research and development activities, and although developing and testing new products takes time, once a product is developed, creating awareness, interest, and availability should be relatively quick. This is because the company already has an established relationship with customers, and they have already established brand loyalty with those customers.

A product development strategy is riskier than a market penetration strategy because the required product may be difficult or impossible to develop at a cost acceptable to customers, or it might not meet customer needs.

4. Diversification

Diversification entails introducing new products into new markets. This is like the start-up of a completely new business because you face similar challenges such as introducing a new product and brand to a new market. This strategy is the riskiest, and it is likely to require the most active input as well as patience in terms of waiting for a return on investment. 

Step 4: Implement your marketing strategy

When you implement a marketing strategy, there are no shortcuts, and you need to be patient to see the fruits of your marketing efforts. Constantly analyse your progress and make sure that you follow these guidelines before you start:

  • Set an appropriate and realistic bar for your expectations: It can often take between 6-12 months to see a return on your marketing expenditure and strategy. 
  • Set up the right team and resources: The SWOT analysis you conducted to determine your business and team’s strengths and weaknesses can be useful here in establishing which members of your organisation should be responsible for the different elements of your marketing strategy. 
  • Communicate: Once you have the right team and resources in place to implement the marketing strategy, be sure that you communicate the strategy clearly with all team members to ensure maximum efficiency, limit mistakes and avoid conflict. 
  • Set a timeline and tasks: The marketing strategy implementation team needs to work in unison to ensure maximum efficiency, reach the goals and remain within budget. Tools such as Trello, Asana, Gantt Charts and good time management can be used. If you are in doubt, consider getting a project manager involved to help you. 
  • Set up trackers: You will only be able to determine the success or failure of your marketing strategy if you can measure it. This is why setting up a dashboard to obtain key performance metrics is essential to your marketing success. 
  • Monitoring: The tracking dashboard that you set up is essential in this step. The websites and funnels that your business uses to implement the marketing strategy can be linked to the tracking dashboard. This will give you the capability to check in on your marketing progress daily, as well as measure your key performance indicators (KPIs), such as email signups, ebook downloads and other website visits.
  • Adapt: No marketing strategy will work forever. You will need to constantly and objectively assess whether the marketing strategy is working or whether it needs to be adapted. Maybe you’ve reached your marketing objective and it’s time to review them to create a new marketing plan.

Marketing planning directs the team toward achieving meaningful results that support both specific marketing initiatives and overall company goals. It also informs and aligns the organisation so that all customer-facing teams are on the same page. By linking programs and campaigns to the marketing strategy, you can ensure that activities are aligned with the larger goals of the business.