The Situational Analysis is probably one of the hardest sections you will right because you are essentially laying out how the product will function in various environments and how it will be perceived in the marketplace.
Current Product Analysis (if you have an existing product)
If you already have existing products/services you should start with this so that you provide a “lay of the land” for readers not familiar with where you are at with your current product(s) and/or service(s). You should cover the product attributes, current pricing, current distribution and services offered. This should be about a page or two in length. If you are a new company, you can skip this part and dive straight into defining the market.
The market is a description of your total potential market (your potential customers). You should include the needs of this market. You will also need to describe the particular customers that you will target. This includes the size of (1) total potential market (number of potential customers), and (2) your target market.
This subsection of the situation analysis section provides actionable information on selling to target buyers and stimulating purchases or usage by the ultimate end users. Key questions answered in this subsection include: description of target buyers or end users in demographic, psychographic, and lifestyle terms target buyer/end user wants, needs, attitudes, and perceptions of category products and services where target buyers/end users are located and how to reach them which segments of the total market or category are growing or declining and why.
Demographics: Consumer wants; preferences and the frequency of their purchases are mostly associated with demographic information. Demographics help you determine the market’s age, gender, nationality, education, household composition, occupation and income.
Market Geographies : This section addresses where your customers are physically located. If you are marketing your services over the Internet, your client’s physical location may be irrelevant. However, if your job is to promote a local fundraising or store, having an internet as marketing tool is a fast and cheap way to advertise your products.
Market Psychographics: This category describes the personality of a person and how they might buy your product/service. It is less tangible to quantify, but still important that you address this area to demonstrate what motivates people to buy. For example, the lifestyle of a single person is significantly different with a two-income family.
Market Behaviors: Buyers can be analyzed based on their knowledge, use or response to a product or service. These behavioral variables may include the occasions that stimulate a purchase, the benefits realized when reading a testimony, the rate of possible usage, their loyalty, the buyer-readiness stage, and their attitude toward the service you offer.
Market needs: People have three buying modes. They buy what they want, what they need and what the can’t live without. Where does your product/service fit into these buying modes? Your product/service value and worth is determined by the user or client. Whether it is in tangible or intangible forms, the question is what is needed? Are you providing the right solution to the right problem? Are you making the users or clients overall value as a company increase or satisfy the needs? These questions would be compiled in this section.
All of your marketing activities should be based in meeting the needs of your customers. For each market segment a strategy should be included that outlines the market needs that would lead this market segment group to want to buy your products or use your service.
The Competitive Environment
The competitive environment is essentially a SWOT analysis. You may have never heard this term but it stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats”. Start with posing these sessions to your brainstorming team: Are your competitors becoming stronger? Are there emerging trends that amplify one of your weaknesses? Do you see other external threats to your company’s success? Internally, do you have financial, development, or other problems?
Strengths: Here is where you must capture the positive aspects internal to your business that add value or offer you a competitive advantage. This is an opportunity to remind yourself of the value existing within your business. Think about what your company does well. You should address the strengths within your business that add value to your product or your marketing efforts. You should also describe your positive tangible and intangible attributes.
Weaknesses: These are factors that detract from your ability to have a competitive edge. It includes the negative aspects internal to your business that distracting customers from seeing the value you offer or place you at a competitive disadvantage. These are areas you need to enhance in order to compete with your best competitor. The more accurately you identify your weaknesses, the more valuable the SWOT Analysis is to your readers. Some questions to help you get started are: What do your customers complain about? What are the unmet needs of your sales force?
Opportunities: Traditionally, a SWOT looks only at the external environment for opportunities. I suggest you look externally for areas your competitors are not fully covering, then go a step further and think how to match these to your internal strengths. Remember, these are opportunities external to your business. If you have identified “opportunities” that are internal to the organization and within your control, you will want to classify them as “strengths”. Try to uncover areas where your strengths are not being fully utilized. Are there emerging trends that fit with your company’s strengths? Is there a product/service area that others have not yet covered?
Threats: A threat is a challenge created by an unfavorable trend or development that may lead to deteriorating revenues or profits. As with opportunities, threats in a traditional SWOT analysis are considered an external force. By looking both inside and outside of your company for things that could damage your business, however, you may be better able to see the big picture. Competition — existing or potential — is always a threat. Other threats may include intolerable price increased by suppliers, government regulation, economic downturns, devastating media or press coverage, a shift in consumer behavior that reduces your sales, or the introduction of a “leap-frog” technology that may make your products, equipment, or services obsolete. What situations might threaten your marketing efforts? Get your worst fears on the table. A part of this list may be speculative in nature and still add value to your SWOT analysis.
The Technological Environment
The technological environment is creating new ways of satisfying needs (i.e. using technology to enhance the demand for existing products). Innovation can create or wipe out industries and businesses in less than a year. One example is the popularity and convenience of DVD players all but eliminated the sale of VCRs and seriously depressed the manufacture and sale of video tapes. This is especially important for you if your product is technology based.
The Socio-Political Environment
These are governmental policies and regulations that affect the market. It is also the economic environment around your company; which is the business cycle, inflation rate, interest rates, and other macroeconomic issues. For example, here in America there is a sweeping trend to dress more casually, with function and comfort driving new clothing and shoe trends. People are cooking less and are more concerned about nutrition and fat in their diets. And today, American business people are less willing to sacrifice family life for business careers. These types of factors can impact the marketability of your product or service.
This section is open for other situational factors that will affect your marketing plan. It could include additional environments that the product/service must address. It could also expand on aspects of the market or product analysis as well as alternative distribution and promotion ideas that are not part of the core sections of the plan. I guess the bottom line of the this section is that anything is game as long as it relates to the situational analysis of the marketing plan.
Next Time….Problems and Opportunities
In the next part of our marketing plan series we will take the SWOT analysis and the problems you uncovered in your situation analysis and really dive deeper. This is so your readers, some might be investors and will definitely be your upper management will see the potential issues ahead, the fact that you know them, know how to address them and have plan to overcome them. It goes a long way and much farther than you may think.