How to write a marketing plan, post 2/3

OK, so you have spent hours and hours thinking about your target audience, you are intimate with who they are, what they do in their spare time, and most importantly, what they need.

You have done some ‘business introspection’ and know exactly what you as a business are good at and what makes you, you. You would also have noticed that when you talk about these things it gets you a bit excited because it is the secret ingredient in your business that makes it amazing. You and all the people working on the business bring this to life and it is a shared belief that motivates everyone to come to work in the morning.

Finally, you also have a clear picture of what you want your marketing to deliver. Your objectives are crystal clear, tangible and measurable. It could be as simple as get another 5 clients on-board, or as complicated as transferring 60% of sales from eBay to your own branded website.

Now that you have done that, it is time to move to step four on how to write a marketing plan:

4. Positioning. This is where you want your brand to live in people’s minds. This position is relative to your competitors and is defined by what makes your business special (your USPs). As an example, when I consider three hot-sauce brands, Tabasco, Nando’s and a home brand offering, I think of Tabasco as a little more old-school, with traditional values (in my mind it even smells old). A Nando’s hot sauce is for younger more fun loving people, quite a bit hotter and probably best served with Portuguese style chicken. Home brand is just hot, without any flavour.

That’s positioning.

Deriving a positioning also takes time. I start with the benefits a company offers its target market (refer to who they are in the earlier part of your strategy). I then consider what a customer feels when interacting with a brand and it’s products or services. I then overlay this with the company’s USPs from which I derive a positioning statement. Please note that if you position yourself on factors that don’t matter to your target market they won’t notice your brand, or build any mental associations with your company.

A positioning statement is something that anyone who works in your business should know and look at every day. Traditionally a positioning statement isn’t shared with the public, but I think there are benefits in telling people what you aspire your brand to be in their minds. This is up to the company.

Now, it is worth mentioning that there is a traditional format for a positioning statement. Some people still live by this – and universities still teach this format (see here). Me? I think you can be flexible and go with anything that works for you. All you have to ensure is that it clearly states what you’re about, who’s lives you’re looking to improve and how your company makes those improvements. Your positioning is the litmus test against which you evaluate everything your organisation does and says when interacting with customers.

5. Evaluating your positioning. Having a positioning statement that copies everything your competitors do doesn’t make for a great strategy. At this point it is wise to research your competitors and then plot the way you feel they position themselves against what your brand stands for. I recommend doing this on a quadrant chart where the X and Y axis represent the foundations against which you derived your positioning. As an example, going back to hot-sauce; Nando’s hot-sauce two axis’ could be ‘Hot & fun’ and ‘Made for Portuguese style Chicken’.

Plot each of you competitors on this chart, including yourself. Be honest about where everyone sits. If your brand has free space around it, you have a pretty good chance of being noticed and being seen as offering something worthwhile to the market.

NB on positioning. Pricing. Bear in mind that pricing is a major component of your positioning. It shouldn’t have direct influence on the final statement, but where you price yourself relative to your competitors should be included in your thinking. I find that pricing heavily influences target audiences and what is important to them. This has direct implications on where brands I work on end up playing. I have also seen cases where a good positioning has influenced pricing, so it is worth reviewing your positioning with a few different stakeholders before setting it in stone.

In the next post I am going to go through all the options (that I can think of) that are available to a marketer when promoting their product or service. This is where I address the promotional elements of the strategy (the tactics). I will then also touch on financial projections and how I use these to help me decide what tactics within my strategy to implement first.


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