All of us have made New Year’s resolutions at one point or another. And then, by the end of the third week of January, we break them—at least I do! So, I have stopped making resolutions. Or, let’s just say that I have “re-branded” my New Year’s resolutions. I now make my own annual personal plan. It is important for everyone in business to develop an annual marketing plan for their organization. You are reading this article in January, so hopefully you finalized your plan the end of last year. But if you haven’t yet, no worries, it is never too late to get started.
Steps to a Great Marketing Plan
The marketing plan is a systematic, forward-looking exercise to identify target markets and set measurable goals. Marketing planning helps to achieve business objectives, identify new opportunities, adapt to change and focus resources while providing a marketing roadmap for the organization.
1. Situation Analysis
As you begin the planning process, it is always good to have a deep understanding of what is transpiring in the macro environment, as well as in your local market. There are at least four areas that you should evaluate as a backdrop for the development of your annual marketing objectives.
2. Segment Analysis
How strong are the residential versus the commercial markets? Is residential construction up or down? Remodeling activity strong? New home building up or down? Is there strong commercial construction at the national level? How are each of segments performing in your local market? Do you see any opportunities?
3. Competitive Analysis
What are your competitors up to? What markets do they serve? Have you seen any shifts in their strategies in the past year? Any changes in how they go to market? Shift in product offering? Pricing? It is always helpful to complete a SWOT [strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats] analysis for your organization and for each of your competitors. Visit competitor’s showrooms. What are they doing right? Are there any “best practices” that could be applied to your business?
Evaluate the positioning and marketing of your competition. Have they evolved their branding? What are they saying about themselves in the market? What customers are they targeting? What mediums are they using to reach their customers? What is their digital marketing strategy?
Check out your local home center locations. They have come a long way in flooring and have made great strides in both their floor covering product assortment and merchandising.
4. Customer Analysis
What is the profile of the current customers you are serving? Are there opportunities to expand your consumer profile? Demographically? Geographically? Are there opportunities for you to expand your trade audience to include additional segments, either residentially or commercially?
5. Product Analysis
What are the current product trends in your local market? What products are the manufacturers promoting? Does your product mix include the on-trend products that consumers are seeing on TV and in magazines? Are there any local products that leverage new trends you can add to the product mix?
As you begin a new planning cycle, it is a good idea to evaluate the products you are selling versus what you are merchandising. What brands and products are the most successful? Are these the products that you are showcasing most prominently? What products are not selling? Consider using that merchandising space for another product.
6. Identify Annual Marketing Objectives
A solid situation analysis will enable you to confidently begin to craft your marketing objectives. As you establish these objectives, ladder them up to your business objectives. Insure that all marketing objectives are specific and measurable.
7. Collaborate with the Team
Consider conducting pre-plan development input sessions. Share the marketing objectives and conduct a brainstorming session to obtain input from cross-functional team members. New ideas may be generated based on their direct experience with customers - bringing a new perspective to the plan content. Plus, engaging cross-functional personnel can increase engagement and buy-in when the plan is rolled out.
8. Craft Marketing Strategies and Tactics
Your marketing strategies and tactics can take many shapes and forms, and the plan should include focus areas that will support the marketing objectives. Strategic focus areas could include some of the following:
Products: Identify opportunities to expand or shift the product focus to capitalize on products most desirable to your target market. Does your product assortment align with trends? Rely on your manufacturing partners to update you and your team in with product and trend presentations. Manufacturing improvements have resulted in enhanced technical and aesthetic features across all flooring categories. There may be gaps in your product portfolio that represent an opportunity.
Pricing: Define any pricing changes in categories, brands or specific products. Evaluate the product assortment to identify top sellers, and your slow-moving products. Cycle out products that are not profitable. In addition to the cost of the product itself, the showroom space you leverage to showcase the product is an additional investment, so you’ll want to prioritize products that are most profitable.
Advertising and Promotion: Define the advertising strategies and approach for the year. Will the plan include a combination of traditional and digital marketing? What is the mix? What mediums have been most effective, and what are the promotional offers that yield the best return?
Any opportunities to include or expand digital marketing? Digital marketing is a targeted medium which can be targeted to a specific geographic area or audience. There are several different digital marketing activities that can be considered. An additional benefit of digital marketing over traditional advertising is that, in most cases, the performance can be measured, and you can adjust the plan real time based on results. Define any social marketing activities you will leverage as part of your advertising program.
Merchandising: Outline any modifications or additions to be made to the showroom merchandising, based on the effectiveness of the showroom displays in your showroom.
If there are some products that are not selling, talk to your Manufacturing Sale Representative about when the next new product launch is so that under-performing products can be switched out with exciting new products to help keep your showroom looking current and on-trend.
Merchandising strategies could recognize and outline these opportunities.
Service Enhancements: Include opportunities to evolve or provide new services to your customers. Are the services being offered adding value? What are competitors in category and out of category offering? Any best practices you can leverage in your store?
Budgeting: We can’t talk about marketing planning without talking about budgeting. Once the plan is finalized, it needs to be costed out, with dollars associated to each activity. Discussions with executive leadership will likely result in the prioritization of marketing programs. It is typical to cycle through a couple of budget versions before settling on the final version.
Schedule a meeting with the entire team to share the final marketing plan. Each member of the team plays a roll in bringing the plan to life, so it is important that they be aware of the annual goals and the plan to achieve them. Let them know the important role they play to help make it successful!
10. Let’s go!
It can seem like a daunting project to develop a marketing plan. Start by developing a process and timeline that can be followed when going through the steps of the plan development. Try to manage to that timeline and that will help guide the process.
Developing the marketing plan is a fundamental and important guide for your organization. It is your roadmap that you can adapt and evolve as the situation changes. If done correctly, it will help the organization stay focused on accomplishing its objectives and successfully grow and flourish.