Marketing Plan Series: Part 2 – Situational Analysis

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

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.

Other

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.

Marketing Plan Series: Part 1 – Summary

Marketing is a key part of business success. You need to decide which customers to target. You need to work out how you will reach and win new customers. You need to make sure that you keep existing customers happy. And you need to keep reviewing and improving everything you do to stay ahead of the competition.

Your marketing plan should be the reference document you use as a basis to execute your marketing strategy. It sets out clear objectives and explains how you will achieve them. Perhaps most importantly it looks at how you can ensure that your plan becomes reality.

Remember that marketing in itself will not guarantee sales, but by adopting a well-researched and coherent plan, you have a much better chance of building long-term, profitable relationships.

It is funny, when you start writing a series like this you start with the Summary section because it is first in the document. However, it is usually the last thing you write.

So how can you write a summary without knowing the content you are summarizing?

The approach that you should use is that you should keep this section up as a separate document during your overall plan writing to take notes and capture important points that will be used when you submit this to your management and/or board. Everyone will read the intro and summary, some will read various parts they want to dig into more, and very few will read the whole thing

I know that might sound depressing but keep this in mind. If your intro and summary do their job, they won’t have to read further and that is a credit to you. However, for those that read the entire plan it will be a critical roadmap to help you reach your sales goals and guide your team as it builds marketing momentum.

Logically, the names intro and summary should speak for themselves as to what they should have but it is important to elaborate on what key information it should contain.

Elements of the Summary Section

Your marketing plan should start with an executive summary. The summary gives a quick overview of the main points of the plan. Writing the summary is a good opportunity to check that your plan makes sense and that you haven’t missed any important points.

Business Strategy

It’s a good idea to introduce the main body of the plan with a reminder of your overall business strategy, including:

  • what your business is about (your business mission)
  • your key business objectives
  • your broad strategy for achieving those objectives

This helps to ensure that your marketing plan, your marketing strategy and your overall business strategy all work together. For example, suppose your business strategy is based on providing premium quality products and service. Your marketing strategy and plan will need to take this into account, targeting customers who appreciate quality, promoting your product in ways that help build the right image and so on.

Strategic Focus and Plan

To connect readers with your overall business plan and strategy, you use this section to connect it with your business unit and/or company strategy, depending on your company size. You should address your vision and mission, the environment in which you are marketing, and the results you expect from a marketing plan.

The vision statement is something that you will pursue over an extended timeframe. It is not
quantitative in nature and should be one or two sentences at most. The mission statement contains the ideas attainable in a five to seven year range. This is a general statement shared in one or two sentences. You want it to be something that can define your unit/company and its purpose. The best mission statements are those that staff””and eventually constituents””use as a guide for where you are heading.

You should also include your objectives at a high level. These are general statements about what you hope to accomplish through marketing. You will provide more specific marketing strategies and quantitative goals later in the document. These will also be a guide for setting priorities as you develop strategies for reaching target audiences. You may choose to include unit objectives with general program goals listed under each.

Next you should have a summary paragraph on your competition. This should show how your awareness of the competition will make you stronger. Outline the competitive environment of your market, including both direct and indirect competition. You should describe the competition, their strengths and weaknesses, how you are alike or different, and how you plan to effectively market with the competition in mind.

The last paragraph should capture a SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Within this analysis provide information about current marketing efforts, programs and services, client reactions and any other details that may be helpful as you develop marketing strategies.

Marketing Focus

In this sub-section, you will describe all of the objectives you wish to attain through your marketing program. You will start with measurable marketing goals and a detailed description of how you will accomplish each one. Based on your Marketing Goals, list markets that you plan to target. Include research about target marketa and reasons that you plan to direct marketing at this area. If you do not
have valid research or information regarding the target audience/market for your goals, this is
a good time to develop focus groups to learn more about the market.

Marketing Strategies

Generally, your overall marketing plan will focus on promotion strategies, although you will want to keep an eye on the product, price and distribution. Including all four factors in the marketing plan, provides you with opportunities to reach your target market more effectively. As for promotion strategies, it is one of the most important sections of the marketing plan and is your action plan based on your goals. You need to identify your target audience, channels for reaching them (advertising, media/ public relations, events, strategic alliances, direct contact, internet, etc.) and the consistent message and other branding techniques you will use to engage your target audience. You will need to prioritize these strategies, tie them into your marketing budget, assign tasks and set deadlines.

Marketing Evaluation

In this section, explain how you plan to gather data to show that your plan has worked. You may need to look for resources that already exist or develop surveys that can give you baseline data for comparison over a period of time. This is your proof of success, so you must work closely with your team and include key stakeholders to ensure this follow-up effort is completed.

Marketing Financial Strategy

As with all plans, the seem to hold the financial stuff for the big finale. The end of the summary is going to bring the full impact of the strategy laid out to bear in terms of costs and return on investment (ROI) for those that are the hard core numbers people. You will need to include the high level information on the various market share amounts each product and/or service line will garner over the life of this plan. You will also need to include a few sentences on break even, which is when the investment in this marketing strategy will start to pay for itself. Last should be how you will handle cash flow and when and how much you might need to dip into the well for the strategy you have laid out.

Other Summary Sections You Should Include?

Did I miss anything? Is there a critical section that you have included in your summary that is missing here and should be added to the list? Do you have a different opinion on what should go in the summary? Please let me know in the comments.

Next Time – Part 2 – Situational Analysis

Situational Analysis lays out the overall marketplace you are competing in and the various environments your business will have to address. We will discuss the market and the various types of environments that your marketing plan will need to address for your products and/or services.

Rules for Entrepreneurs: 5 Ways to Avoid Founderitis

What is Founderitis? It is been called “Founders Syndrome” and it is not some type of medical disease but rather a disease that can infect your business if you are not careful.

The Wikipedia definition of “Founderitis” is stated as follows:

The term “founderitis” or “founder’s syndrome” refers to the unhealthy condition that afflicts many companies whose founders maintain a stranglehold on organizational leadership. While many companies owe their success “” and in fact their very existence “” to their founders, those same individuals can create chaos that ultimately leads to the organization’s collapse. The challenge to founding CEOs and boards of directors is to take steps to change conflict and chaos into opportunities for growth.

Diagnosing Founderitis

I came across this funny diagnosis from Infoshackle.com and it comes complete with a 12 step program.

“When Founderitis strikes, the Founder’s drive, energy and vision, characteristics crucial to the startup’s initial success, become a hindrance to the company’s maturation into a self-sustaining entity. To assess yourself or a loved one for Founderitis, determine if any of the following symptoms are present:

  • Inability to delegate
  • Anger when not included in every decision
  • Paranoia derived from a sense that the venture is “œslipping out of their control”
  • Ignoring input from subject-matter experts
  • Expressing prescient knowledge, even when lacking subject-matter expertise
  • Lack of respect for formalized planning
  • Subterfuge of efforts to institute procedures, processes and controls

Founderitis is akin to an active, engaged parent who is a wonderful caregiver until the child reaches adolescence. As the child enters its teens and requires an increasing level of independence to properly mature and prosper, the Founderitis parent futilely attempts to restrict the influence of outside factors and limit the child’s ability to act autonomously. The result is usually a fractured parent / child relationship or an “adult child” that never develops the life-skills necessary to succeed on their own.

One of the most insidious aspects of Founderitis is that the more profound the case, the deeper the denial on the part of the carrier. The afflicted Founder will honestly believe that all of his actions are in the company’s best interest, though their definition of “best interest” is actually whatever is in their own “self-interest”.

Like any startup executive, the Founder must honestly separate his self-interest from the company’s interest. For instance, it might be in his self-interest to lead the sales efforts, as well as a great learning experience and a heck of a lot of fun. However, it may not be in the company’s best interest to lose precious time to market while an inexperienced sales novice attempts to learn on the job.”

5 Ways to Avoid Founderitis

I have personally experience this running my own business. I have found some ways to avoid it:

  1. Respect the need for planning activities, staff meetings, and administrative policies;
  2. Realize that as the company grows circumstances may dictate new approaches;
  3. Institute new systems with approval of your board;
  4. Seek and accept input from others in making decisions;
  5. Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Don’t worry if you can’t over come this there is a simple solution. The route many take is to get your board to hire a professional CEO and take a long vacation.

So how many of you have had problems with founderitis? What is your story? Have a great example to share? Let the comments be the conversation.