QUESTION #1: What is a marketing plan, and why do I need one?
A marketing plan is a document that describes the goals of your marketing efforts and outlines, in some detail, what you will do to reach those goals. Without a marketing plan, you will not have a clear understanding of what you hope to accomplish or how you will accomplish it, which is why you need one.
The main sections of a marketing plan are:
• SWOT Analysis: An analysis of the organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and the external opportunities and threats it must deal with. This section is the foundation of the plan because it tells you what you have to work with.
• Goals, Objectives, Target Publics: Goals are what you want to make happen — sell more, win the election, etc. And they should be as specific and measurable as possible, such as “Increase sales by 7% within 12 months.” Objectives are the milestones used to judge your progress toward your goals. For example, “Attract 1,000 people to our kick-off event,” or “Place 10 positive stories in top-tier national news outlets over 12 months.” Target publics are the people you want to persuade, such as centers of influence like attorneys and CPAs, or women ages 45-65 who live in Southern Florida and take at least two vacations a year. As always, the more specific, the better.
• Messages: This could be your brand promise, unique selling proposition or vision. It’s the “why” of your marketing plan. It’s the reason people will care about what you are selling. It clearly lays out the benefits your product or service provides, not the features. Benefits are what your product will accomplish for the user — the needs it will meet. Features are what your product can do, what it looks like, etc. For example, a 600-horsepower motor is a feature of a car. Going fast is the benefit.
• Tactics: The tactics section outlines exactly what you will do to meet your goals and objectives
. This might include social media ads, a national publicity campaign, participating in a trade show, a word-of-mouth campaign and a publicity stunt. Or it might be a mix of email, YouTube videos, user group events and direct mail. The best marketing plans carefully match tactics to the product being sold, the people it is being sold to, the competition, geography and many other variables to get the most efficient mix. Most of the expertise required to write a great marketing plan is focused on this section.
• Timeline: This section outlines when each tactic will be deployed — hopefully in such a way that each tactic builds on the results the others produce.
• Budget: This section describes how much it will cost to implement the marketing plan, broken down by tactic.
QUESTION #2: What is the difference between advertising and PR? Which is more effective?
In a nutshell, advertising involves paying a media outlet — such as a magazine, news website, social media platform, billboard company or blog — to share your message with the people who pay attention to that media outlet. Public relations requires convincing a media outlet to share your message at no charge. (Actually, this is publicity, a subset of public relations, which is a much broader term that encompasses many different tactics to persuade people to do something.)
Advertising is particularly effective for creating a brand (i.e., a set of beliefs and perceptions about a product or service). It is a good tool for branding because you can assure that the message is transmitted X number of times to X number of people within a certain period — and repetition is essential to creating a brand. It is also most effective at communicating a specific offer, such as, “All products 25% off this Friday.”
Publicity is more effective for creating enthusiasm for a brand because it is more believable than advertising. The reason for publicity’s believability advantage is that it can’t be bought. When you read or hear about a product or service in a media outlet, you know that the decision to show you that information was made by the media outlet, not by the business behind the product. Therefore, the message carries the implied endorsement of the media outlet.
Knowing the answers to these two fundamental questions can be quite helpful to anyone seeking to better understand how to effectively market their company or organization, or how to do a better job of hiring an agency to handle marketing duties.
(Originally appeared in Forbes.)