14/10/10

By Michelle Jones, marketing director, Avaya

Everybody recognises the power of marketing and no one can argue that it’s a force to be reckoned with. With millions of pounds being invested in so many different campaigns including TV advertising, direct-to-consumer and B2B, marketing means something different for all of us.

Marketing can be described as a structured set of processes and strategies to engage and communicate with customers that plays a crucial role in influencing the purchase process. From the first impression a customer might receive via advertising right through to the final point of sale, marketing cultivates and builds awareness, qualifies leads and increases sales. It’s a cost-effective tool to reach your target audience and is critical to growing your small business.

The right marketing plan helps put both demand and sales leads into perspective. By focusing your marketing efforts in the most important areas according to your business goals you can drive a healthy pipeline of leads and ultimately sales. Taking the time to plan and write a formal marketing plan also gives you a reference guide to share with colleagues ensuring everyone is buying into the same goals. So how do you develop a solid marketing plan and better align your marketing resources with targets and tactics that will bring the most return for your business?

The plan should directly track against the specific business objectives you’re looking to achieve and define how the results of your marketing activities will be measured. The marketing goals should be relevant given your audience, realistic in the context of your business goals and should be part of a strategic timeline to drive the organisational momentum you need to achieve them. By using this method the impact of the marketing plan will be effective and measurable.

In today’s digital age, we’re seeing an increase in the use of search engine optimisation (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and social media programmes in addition to traditional advertising and public relations programmes. All of these marketing functions work towards the overall strategy to increase awareness among your target audience and ensure you are top of mind for existing and potential customers. Additionally, marketing programmes provide your resellers and sales teams with the vital tools and proof points to demonstrate to customers the value proposition of your company’s products and services. For instance, marketing programmes can help develop key messages that can be used among sales teams and establish the most effective ways to communicate to certain audiences.

Taking a ‘snapshot’ or situational analysis of your company’s current situation can be very useful when developing your marketing plan. It will enable you to understand who your audience is and who your competitors are which will drive the focus and build a foundation for your marketing strategies.

When taking this ‘snapshot’ there are six factors to consider:
• Current product analysis
• Current target markets
• Competitive analysis
• Business objectives
• Financial analysis
• Summary of current situation (SWOT: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

The results of your situational analysis will shape the marketing strategy you develop. As you look at the internal and external influences that may affect your overall integrated business strategy, you’ll start to see what types of marketing programmes to implement. For example, if you are trying to launch a new product in a new market an advertising campaign might help create awareness. Or perhaps your objective is to drive more traffic to your website in which case a viral campaign might be better suited. A product or service might require more than one strategy and benefit from a combination of marketing activities.

Every SMB has a different optimal marketing mix for attracting customers, but it’s widely accepted that a combination of both brand awareness and demand generation tactics works best. Finding the right balance of messaging coupled with marketing activities will drive a successful marketing plan, to drive sales and grow your business.