5 Key Questions for Developing Your Marketing Plan

5 Key Questions for Developing Your Marketing Plan

Since 2008, business has been anything but usual. The economy left many small businesses in turmoil. Entire industries have changed. And still we can’t predict with confidence when our economy will return to “normal.”

Then there is marketing and media. Our options for how we get information have exploded. Marketers are paralyzed as they try to figure out what’s new, why it matters, and how to use it. Whoever heard of Snapchat or WhatsApp before they recently hit the media?

With all this change and turmoil, it’s time to consider YOUR industry and YOUR business. You need to look at how they’ve changed in recent years and how your marketing needs to adjust.

In my last article, I explained why your business needs a solid marketing plan. Here I outline the five questions you must ask yourself to craft a plan for growth and success in today’s environment.

Answer these questions if you want to remain competitive and grow:

#1. How has your industry changed over the last few years?

Apple owned the high-end mobile phone market; then Samsung wanted a piece of that market. Google entered the market by acquiring Motorola Mobile, and then sold the company after just a year. You can imagine all the players adjusting, then adjusting again to each new development.

What changes has your industry seen? Have new substitutes become available? (For example, I changed from CareerBuilder to LinkedIn for my last two job postings.) This has shaken up marketing across the board. Is your 2010 marketing plan going to work in 2014?


#2. Do you have new competition?

Change can threaten, but it can also bring opportunity. Many companies have used the recent turmoil to grab new markets. For example, Angie’s List emerged to compete with Yellow Pages. Then Yelp entered the market for online review sites. That’s a lot for a marketer to keep up with. (At my own company, we’re listed on Manta.com.)

Have any new competitors jumped into your sandbox, and what are the implications for your marketing? Or, for your entire strategy? How are you different from the others? Do customers still have a compelling reason to choose you?


#3. How should your message change?

Even if your industry’s competitive set hasn’t changed, you are leaving money on the table if you don’t update your marketing plan. Why? Because the world has changed. Your customers have changed. Their perceptions, needs, and concerns have changed. Your time-tested messaging may no longer resonate with your customers who are listening to someone else.

Do your buyers subscribe to the same media? Do they have the same purchase process? Where do you have to be seen in the buying process?


#4. Should you diversify?

Maybe your company can seize an opportunity in this turmoil. This is a plausible solution if you feel you need to change or expand to continue growing revenue.

If you decide to expand your company, then you need to extend your marketing. What do your new prospects look like? How are they different from current customers? Even if they’re the same people, how do they search for this new product or service? Is their buying pattern different or similar to other prospects’? Last year, we added Promotional Products such as pens and apparel to our offering, as many of our clients wanted these to complement the other trade show items we supplied to them.


#5. What resources do you need to make the change?

Do you have enough time to devote to your marketing? Do you or your staff have the necessary skill sets? Or should you outsource some of this work to experts?

Business is anything but “normal” these days. Only if you’re prepared to meet the new challenges of your industry can you hope to survive and thrive. Answering the questions listed above will help you uncover the direction of your industry and company as you continue to strive for growth and success.