With most companies feeling the impact of challenging economic and
market conditions, it’s more important than ever to have a good
marketing plan going into 2009 — one that can produce results, even if
you are working with finite resources.
Below are ten questions to ask and answer to help develop an effective and efficient marketing plan for 2009. Many of the questions require you to evaluate current and past marketing programs while considering what changes you should make for next year.
- Do you have a clear definition of your target market?
Going into any marketing planning session, it’s always smart to define your target market. Maybe it hasn’t changed, but that’s not always the case. Perhaps in 2009 you will broaden your definition of target market in terms of industry, customer needs or other criteria. This way, you might be able to close deals that otherwise would not have come your way. On the other hand, you might narrow your definition of a target market, putting all of your energy on those prospects most likely to become customers, perhaps in a specific niche where your company has good market share. Either way, the definition of your target market will drive your other marketing decisions.
- Is your current marketing mix delivering results?
Most companies measure results by the number of qualified leads generated and the amount of visibility gained for their company, brand and products. For example, rented e-mail or postal mail lists tend to score low on both lead generation and visibility because they push your message out at a single moment in time to people who may be unfamiliar with your company and may not be interested at that moment. Conversely, specialized search engines and banner ads on targeted Web sites provide consistent presence and draw in motivated prospects who are actively searching for products and services like yours.
- Are you fishing where the fish are?
Research shows that more than 80 percent of engineering, technical and industrial professionals use the Internet to search for products and services. How visible are you to customers and prospects who use the Internet for work-related purposes? While having a robust Web site is essential, it isn’t enough. Your audience uses multiple search engines and online resources to locate products and suppliers. Specialized search engines such as GlobalSpec, online banner ads and e-mail newsletters all are important online channels.
- What are the advantages/disadvantages of your current media choices?
Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of your media choices will help you understand the true value of any marketing program. For example, trade shows and live events help raise visibility of your brand and often generate qualified leads, although the leads may be limited in number and events can be expensive when you factor in registration, promotion, travel, time away from the office and other expenses. Here’s another example: marketing on general search engines through keywords ads will drive traffic to your site, but lead quality may be low and costs of ads are increasing.
- Will you reach your target audience at the right time?
Timing is so important in marketing, yet often overlooked. The key to timing is to reach your target audience while they are motivated and actively searching, rather than just passively browsing. Your Web site, specialized search engines such as GlobalSpec, general search engines, and online and printed directories are examples of channels that reach active searchers. Printed trade publications, direct mail and trade shows do not.
- How will you maintain frequency?
Frequency is a mandate in marketing. If you disappear off your customers’ and prospects’ radar screens for any length of time they will forget about you. Since your customers and prospects are spending more and more time on the Internet for work, a consistent online presence on those Web sites, directories and search engines they use and the e-newsletters they read will help your company stay visible day in and day out.
- How will you measure lead quality?
Many marketing programs promise leads, but not all deliver quality leads. As any sales person will attest to, the quality of the sales and marketing opportunities generated by your marketing efforts is a much better indicator of potential sales than the quantity. Look for programs that provide leads in a timely manner with contact information and area of interest, helping set the stage for your response and follow-up.
- How will you ensure brand exposure?
The concept of branding is often pushed aside during challenging economic times in favor of lead generation, but it shouldn’t be and doesn’t have to be. If you abandon brand visibility you dig a hole for your sales team, forcing them to start from the beginning with every sales opportunity: introducing your company, explaining your value proposition, etc. Many programs offer both lead generation and branding. Sponsorship of industry e-newsletters, highly visible online banner ads, publishing opportunities and more can both build your brand and generate qualified leads.
- How do you measure marketing performance?
Before you commit to any marketing programs, you should establish metrics to measure performance. Unfortunately, any marketer will tell you it’s extremely difficult to measure the performance of some traditional marketing programs. Online programs — which are built around delivering visibility, impressions, clicks, leads and customers — are easier to measure, and your customers and prospects are proven to be online.
- What can you expect from your media partners?
With every marketing dollar precious, it’s essential that you establish a trusted relationship with accountable media partners who understand your customers and prospects and know how to help you reach them. Ask partners if they can keep you continuously exposed to a growing target audience for your products and services, if they offer comprehensive reporting showing exactly how many qualified sales and marketing opportunities they generate for you, what key lead information they will provide, and how close to real time they can deliver leads to you, ensuring that they are still fresh and active.