6 Essential Inputs of a Great Marketing Plan

Essential Inputs

​This article will focus on the essential inputs that should be used in thinking through and developing a winning marketing plan.

​In a previous post called Build and Execute Better Business Plans, an overview of our strategic planning framework was presented. This article will focus on the essential inputs that should be used in thinking through and developing a winning marketing plan. This background information should form the underlying guideposts that shape your strategy. It will also have a strong and direct link to the messaging used in your campaigns and communications.

If you have been in business a while, you will have most of these essential inputs figured out already. However, it’s surprising how many companies don’t have them well-documented, readily available and updated. If you’re creating a marketing plan for the first time, you really can’t begin without them. It’s a good idea to create a “Marketing Playbook” document so these artifacts are all in one place. Also, be sure to review and validate them before starting any plans in the future.

At a high level, the data you need basically summarizes how your market is defined, how you are positioned in it, and what your competitive pressures and obstacles may be. Regardless of the industry, these inputs are quite universal and the key elements are as follows:

​#1 Product Definitions

  • It all starts with what you sell, which of course is why you’re in business in the first place. Review the products and services you will be marketing – have they changed, or improved since your last plan?
  • Make sure the product documents, collaterals and digital content you will use in your campaigns and selling efforts are up-to-date and clearly articulated.
  • Ensure that anything that describes your offering externally, promotes benefits and value – not just features. Keep it customer-focused.

​#2 Value Proposition

  • ​If you don’t have a formally documented Value Proposition for your company, create one! If you have one already, pull it out and make sure it’s still current.
  • A Value Proposition is a concise definition of what your company does, for whom, and how it’s different, preferably better, than other alternatives in the marketplace.
  • Your Value Proposition should be the over-arching guidepost for building the key themes and messages you will use in communicating with your prospects.

#3 Market Segmentation

  • One of the most crucial and fundamental principles of marketing is having a clear understanding of your market as a whole and the well-defined sub-segments within it.
  • Group your prospective accounts by attributes such as industry, geographic location, company size, key buyers, the buying process, and the problems you can help them solve.
  • When you tightly define your segments, the messages you create will be more relevant to the recipient which greatly increases your chances of getting noticed and building attraction. See Market Segmentation: Increase Your Odds! for more information.

#4 Competitive Landscape

  • Besides macro factors such as the economy, regulatory constraints, or market saturation, the strongest external force working against you is the competition.
  • You need to know who they are at all times within your segments. You also need to understand their strengths, weaknesses and how to position against them to win.
  • Make a point of regularly conducting win-loss analyses to learn how you can compete more effectively.

#5 Themes and Messaging

  • With the information gathered and analyzed during the first 4 inputs, you are now ready to build the distinct themes and messages for the segments you will be marketing to.
  • Take time to be creative and get outside help if you need it. Your messaging needs to break through the clutter and be compelling enough to eventually lead to interest and opportunities.
  • If your company has core values that form important points of your differentiation, be sure to weave those in was well.
  • Use your messaging clearly and consistently throughout your marketing communications.

​#6 Historic Results

  • ​This last input is more of a process, but it’s very important and often not looked at in enough detail. Take time to analyse your previous marketing results and metrics to understand what they mean and how you can improve.
  • In some cases, the results may point to gaps in the process, weak messaging, or ineffective call-to-actions.
  • Or, the results may suggest you stop doing things that simply aren’t working, and start doing more of the activities that are showing results.

​If you think that going through this exercise is a lot of work – you are absolutely right. But consider the cost, time and energy that go into building a strategy and executing it. When you do your “homework” upfront and have a strong foundation of insight to draw upon, you significantly improve your probability of success!