Do you have a new product or service to bring to market? Do you want to increase your operations in a new territory? Without a marketing plan and a real strategy, you face a very high risk of rollback and a high probability of failure.
In a world as competitive as it is today, launching a new product or service for a business is never easy. In addition, in the current economic climate, consumers have complete freedom to choose from a multitude of products and a wide range of professional services. Think again, even when it sounds like you are far from the only option.
Consequently, companies no longer have the choice to constantly reinvent themselves and find new ways to innovate. “Why should I buy from you and not from your competitors? “”Do I have real reasons to favor you, and this repeatedly?” With the rapid evolution of consumption habits, you owe it to yourself, as a company to be proactive in everything you do and to be on the lookout for the latest trends, hence the importance of focusing your efforts. in your positioning and marketing strategy.
In direct relation to the place you want to take in the market, your marketing strategy is a key part of your overall business plan. Developing this same plan remains quite complex, requires a lot of thought and requires a good understanding of several elements. To be effective and successful, it is not about simply asking yourself a few general questions about the market, but about having an in-depth knowledge of the market to give consumers exactly what they are looking for and more.
When developing the plan, you will have to ask yourself several questions and think about the 4 operational pillars, better known as the marketing mix (4P) since it is these elements that mainly influence marketing decisions:
· Product – What is the product or service to be marketed?
· Price – At what price will the product or service need to be sold?
· Place – What will be the points of sale / Where will it be sold?
· Promotion – What will the promotion of the product or service look like
Regardless of the service or product to promote, carrying out a marketing plan will allow you to define the concept to deploy, the market to target, the positioning to convey and the means to get there.
So let’s take a look at the different stages that make up a complete marketing plan to conquer new markets.
I. Market analysis and business strategy
The first step of your plan represents knowledge of the market in which you want to operate, knowledge of the customer base as well as in-depth knowledge of yourself. The definition of your commercial strategy makes it possible more precisely to define the market opportunities facing 4 global spheres:
· Assess the future and current market
· Analyze customers and their buying motivations
· Know the direct and indirect competition
· Portray your business
In summary, this represents establishing the best way to market the product / service for a chosen market.
Portrait of the market, the competition and customers
Analyzing the market and the different target segments should be your first step. As always, the businesses that work the best are the ones that best meet a specific need. Most of the time, knowing your market better helps you choose the best niche among the potentials in addition to gathering information on the target customers as well as their buying motivations.
Here are the questions you should ask yourself and the elements to address during market research:
• What need does your product / service meet?
• What is the portrait of the typical customers?
• What do consumers value?
• What are the advantages / benefits?
• Who are the buyers / users of the product?
• What are their motivations?
• What does their buying behavior look like?
• Is it a thoughtful or spontaneous purchase product?
• What is the value proposition of your product?
• How unique is your product?
• What are the targeted segments?
• What are the opportunities presented by the global market?
• What does the market potential look like?
In addition to answering all these questions, the market research should also allow the collection of data on the competitors so that you are able to carry out a detailed competitive analysis:
• Who are your direct competitors? Indirect?
• What are the substitutes or alternatives to the product / service?
• What are the channels used by your competitors?
• What are their products / services like?
• What are their competitive advantages?
• At what price are they selling their product?
• What does their promotion look like?
• What is the place of each of them in today’s market?
• How mature is their online presence? Offline?
Faced with all this data, then think about portraying your business and your current situation. It is essential to know where you are coming from before knowing where you are going.
Here are some avenues for reflection to design the portrait of your business:
• What are your business goals?
• What are the strategic marketing objectives?
• Are these related to your business objectives?
• Is it really an opportunity or a distraction from the long-term vision of the company?
• What is the concept of the new product / service?
• In what contexts does marketing take place?
• What is your understanding of the business model and sales of this new product?
• What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
• What are your differentiation activities?
• What are the threats in the market? Opportunities?
• What are your key resources at the moment?
• What will you need for full commercialization?
• What does your positioning look like?
As mentioned above, a marketing strategy is a great deal of thought. Before even starting to think about attacking a new territory, it is imperative to know in depth the 4 factors of your business, the customer base, the market and the competition.
II. Marketing plan
If the data gathered is conclusive and the market in question meets all the required criteria, the next step is largely marketing. Having an effective marketing strategy means having the best game plan on hand to turn ideas into action. It is therefore during this same step that the notion of plan takes on its full meaning.
Ultimately, the latter will define the business strategy, that is to say the best position to take in the market in the face of the marketing of the new product / service. It will also be time to establish the best strategic elements to support the positioning of the brand and the achievement of business objectives.
The first step in your marketing plan should therefore be your competitive strategy and should always be linked to your business objectives. These are called Porter’s generic strategies.
They were proposed by Michael Porter, professor of business strategy at Harvard University in the 1980s. According to him, a competitive advantage must be decisive, sustainable and defensible: this advantage must not be able to be neither copied nor substituted. , nor made obsolete by technological, regulatory or economic developments in the environment.
His theory therefore proposes 3 main strategic options for those who wish to have a sustainable competitive advantage. Each of the 3 options is the result of crossing two aspects of your environment, i.e .:
· The competitive advantage in itself
· The target
This thus gives a matrix where 3 strategies are possible:
Dominance by costs: This strategy consists of producing at the lowest possible cost, which in particular reduces prices and rapidly increases market share. To do this, all elements of the value chain must be optimized, from start to finish.
Example: Wal-Mart & Amazon.
Differentiation: It’s pretty clear, the differentiation strategy consists of offering a product or service with different characteristics than your competitors and unique. The differentiation can be done upwards (Increase price> Reduce costs) or down (Reduce costs> Increase price).
Example of upward differentiation: Apple
Example of downward differentiation: Ikea
Focus (concentration or niche): The niche strategy is the strategy most used by small / medium businesses. Lacking the resources of a large company, the SME focuses the majority of its efforts in a specific market segment (niche) so as not to rub shoulders with too many competitors.
Make sure you choose a strategy and follow it. If you fail to sustain it, your business will remain stuck in the middle with no real competitive advantage. You will then become a commodity in the eyes of consumers and they will then have no reason to favor you.
Another important step in your marketing plan is to define your positioning strategy (directly linked to your generic strategy). If, for example, you have opted for a differentiation strategy, now is the time to ask yourself the following question: What is the best position for my company to take in relation to my market, my competitors and the customers?
To visually illustrate your positioning, the most commonly used tool remains that of the perceptual map. The principle is relatively simple. This is a graphical representation with two axes, each corresponding to a specific criterion of a variable nature related to your differentiation. The objective is then to place the main players (you and your competitors) on the map.
Once completed, the perceptual map will allow you to further assess the relevance of your marketing by mainly answering two essential questions:
• Is the positioning of my company too close to that of a competitor?
• Is there an unoccupied place in the market that would be worth tapping into?
Definition of marketing mix (4P)
Once you have identified your place in the market, it is time to work out how to get there. We talked about it a little earlier, but there are 4 essential elements. They must therefore necessarily be an integral part of your plan and your thinking. Very few products / services are unique, rather they differ in the way they are presented, supported, delivered and sold. So now is the time to establish and put on paper your:
• Product policy
• Price policy
• Distribution policy (place)
• Communication policy (promotion)
Obviously, this is all about your new product or service:
• The name of the product
• The brand behind
• Branding / packaging (projected image)
• Product quality
• Options and functionalities
• Services related to the product (warranty, after-sales service, etc.)
• Product lines and ranges
Then comes all the elements that include prices, both price strategy policies and reduction (rebates, rebates, discounts) even including the terms of payment (credit, payment term, etc.).
It’s a question of how you will attack the new territory in question. To enter a new market with a new product / service, there are two main ways to price, either skimming or penetration.
Skimming: Set a higher price initially and gradually lower it thereafter (as Apple does when releasing a new iPhone, for example)
Penetration: Set a price very low and increase it gradually afterwards. (Ex: Special introductory offer)
Of course, your pricing policy must be consistent with your product, but also with the desired positioning of your brand.
Place, meanwhile, represents your distribution policy and affects items such as:
• Communication channels
• Manufacturing points
• Distribution network (intermediary or reseller)
• Points of sale
• Stocks & warehouse
Finally, promotion refers to all your communications and this is essentially what will create interest, promote the product / service and generate action. So it represents your:
• Promotional sales
• Participation in events
• Business development (salespeople)
• Public relations
• Direct marketing
III. Implementation plan
Once the business strategy has been developed and the marketing plan created, it is now time to move on to implementation. The main objective of this step is to define the resources and activities necessary to achieve the previously established objectives. It is about analyzing the best practices of the market and those of the competition.
As mentioned, the resources necessary for the success of the project must be assessed in detail, both in terms of time, money and human capital. It is necessary to know how to evaluate the financial contribution necessary for the realization of the marketing plan and to demonstrate the profitability resulting from the realization of this same plan.
This is also the time to design the schedule, milestones to be achieved and the dashboard of key metrics to monitor. It is therefore also at this stage that the detailed schedule of activities is constructed.
IV. Strategic plan launch and monitoring
Now is the time to launch the strategic plan. All that follows then relates to the management of the plan and the strategy and represents the validation period where it will be essential to follow the market reaction in order to make the necessary adjustments for the success of the project. Nothing is perfect and it’s a safe bet that many things will be subject to change. This is normal and remember that your greatest strength as an SME is your agility and your ability to cope with change.
In conclusion, it should be remembered that a marketing plan has several stages and represents a very long process of thought. Ultimately, you must define your offer by answering the questions: why, what, who, how much and how.
Answering these questions will help you to further specify the objectives to be achieved, to identify the best marketing opportunity according to the market, to find the best axis of differentiation, to mobilize all the necessary resources and thus, to facilitate decision-making.
Each step is just as important as the last because they all meet different objectives and are part of a logical sequence.