No one stumbles into success. They have a goal and a plan. The former is in granite; the latter remains flexible enough to roll with the punches and shift with market conditions. But just how flexible should a plan be? Are there any steps or stages that should be present in nearly every single marketing plan. Yes, there are.
Think of these as four quadrants, or checkpoints, within which the plan should unfold and move towards the ultimate goal. The steps, factors, or metrics within the stages may shift, but the basic fundamental foundation of each stage will help guide any plan from inception to completion.
Step 1: Research
Knowledge really is power, and what a marketer knows before they build their campaign can make or break the success of the endeavor. Also known as “discovery,” this step in the process involves asking and answering a few key questions:
· What’s happening in my niche of the market?
· What are the best niches and secondary markets for my product or service?
· What’s the competition up to?
· Where are the opportunities for my brand to grab a foothold or gain market share?
Experienced marketers know it doesn’t pay to skimp on this step. Put in the work, do quality research and find accurate, detailed answers. The more accurate the answers are, the better the potential for success will be in the coming stages.
Step 2: Planning
This stage is all about strategy, taking all the answers to the questions discovered in Step 1 and using these answers to build a detailed, effective plan for operational implementation. Questions to ask at this stage include:
· How will we go to market with this plan?
· What is the meta (overall) goal?
· What are the incremental benchmarks that build on each other?
· What are the optimal marketing channels?
· What are the appropriate and reasonable incremental goals?
Clearly defined next steps are important at this stage but, remember, flexibility should be baked into the plan at every level.
Step 3: Execution
This is where all that hard work in the planning stages gets to work. At this point, the marketer should know how and where their plan will be implemented. They should know what tools they will be using, what media channels they will employ, and who they will be speaking to. All the proper information should be collected, collated and condensed into clear, actionable steps. Once this is all in order, pull the trigger.
One of the key aspects to consider here is that the execution of a marketing plan is not a “push button, it’s done” kind of thing. Savvy marketers know to watch and study, measure and adjust as needed. If the research and planning were done properly, barring anything catastrophic in the market, only slight course corrections should be necessary. Just be open to major changes if the need arises.
Step 4: Evaluating
Once the plan is in motion, watch it closely, making any necessary slight revisions. In addition, set up regular times to review all aspects of the plan, quantify and measure the results. How is everything working? Could it be better? Is there an area or areas that should be tweaked or adjusted — or even abandoned — before moving forward into?
This is also the step where the results are measured against the benchmarks, both the incremental goals and the overall goal. What worked? What didn’t? Use these answers to inform the next campaign.