In spite of what the so-called, experts tell us and predict, this tough-as-nails, Market Economy prevails and many small-to-medium, sized companies are uncertain about their outlook and future state. Further, they discuss when things will stabilize and normalize. Not sure what normalcy means, however it is not coming back soon.
It’s clear in today’s fierce and competitive Market Jungle that companies are finding that what they did traditionally (from a Marketing perspective) is not working or delivering expected results.
Certainly, there are more options and marketing vehicles and platforms available today than at any other time in history – primarily, due to the advent of the Internet.
It has become increasingly, difficult for companies to determine which Marketing vehicles fit their business and prospect/customer set and will achieve the required results.
Should the Marketing mix include Social Media Networking, blog hosting and participation, on-line advertising, generating a continuous stream of e-mail communiqués, hosting on-line billboards, conducting subject matter webinars and teleseminars (with big name guests), pumping-out a never-ending, flow of contributory articles, featured interviews, etc. along with your traditional marketing events?
Surprisingly, selecting the right mix of marketing vehicles is not the primary issue.
Rather, the real question is what is the right Market Programs response to meet the challenge, opportunity or problem-set that your company is faced with?
The various Marketing vehicles available are just that – options and alternatives that you can leverage to make-up an effective, Market Program.
It is remarkable how many Business Owners and professional Marketing and Sales pros just don’t think in these terms.
Rather, they will tinker and experiment with the newest and hottest approach and expect it to change the rules that fuel their company’s fortunes.
Dicey approach and about equal odds to winning the Lottery.
You should look at Market Programs development the same way that your firm handles Product Development.
In fact, Market Programs may be more critical – small-to-medium, sized firms unlike large companies need to get it right the first time out of the gate. There may not be a second chance.
Here’s a checklist of steps necessary to have a shot at making sure that your Market Programs will work and deliver tangible results:
1 Baseline Research (doing your homework) – this step allows you to gather, collect and analyze available data that will define and fuel your Market Programs. The nature of the information is linked to your target, priority need. Examples: Generating new sources of business, building an effective 3rd Party Channel, launching a new product, imparting new skills into a direct sales/support team, attacking a competitor’s installed base, developing a new Market Segment or new Prospect base, hunting for an acquisition or Strategic Alliance, etc. The key to this phase is interpretation of data not data collection. Have some of your brightest and most informed people interpret the data or seek the support of an outside, domain expert. The output must be on-target, as it fuels and drives the rest of the process. Avoid skipping this step and demand the best, quality results. The key elements that will be represented could include Market (segment) definition, applications emphasis, value/benefit proposition, prospect characteristics and buying attitudes, competitive influences, distribution network make-up, economic drivers, changing dynamics, governmental regulation, technology impact, etc., etc.
2) Market Programs Profile – the output of the baseline research defines, shapes and molds the profile that will drive your Market Program through full implementation. It helps define the right Marketing mix to give the Program a shot at achieving the required results. Let’s face it, your company cannot afford to experiment and you need to get this right. Put more importance on the results of your research, as opposed to creative thought – even if your CEO has strong opinions about what you should do. There is certainly room for the creative juices to flow, although they should not be forefront or drive the Market programs process. This thinking may be met with resistance, however we can cite classic examples of firms that had Creativity lead and found that there was no buying audience. This takes tough, tensile strength and discipline to pull-off. The profile must be hard and specific – not fluff – and when you believe that you’ve got it right – give it to an unbiased, objective, third-party source to validate. The elements of the profile are generally a mirror image of the way that the baseline research was structured. The output of this phase is a well-thought out and detailed document. It defines the make-up of the Market Program and pinpoints the elements (within the Marketing mix) that will be selected to support the Program Launch/Introduction. Other aspects like budget availability, resource demands, competing priorities and other factors will play a role here. It is also interesting what you may discover, during this phase. For example – do you have a compelling value proposition that holds water with target prospects? Are you positioned distinctively or just another player in your target segment? Is your field team armed and dangerous and prepared to wage war or are they playing according to the competitors’ rules? Can you really attain the target revenue goals for the new product launch? Take this phase seriously and don’t compromise.
3) Program Implementation – Do yourself a favor – before you throw big bucks, behind the program and burn your valuable resources – conduct a Pilot Program to do a pre-test, before full implementation. Select a sample, target audience that is a blend of known and new/unknown suspects. Attempt not to go to “Ringers” that will tell you what you want to hear. This audience should be comprised of marginal accounts and suspects that will allow you to test your Program fundamentals, before the real launch/introduction. Assign someone in your organization, as Program Owner. They will interface with all internal and external sources to drive the Program to success. Develop a simple, but effective reporting format to keep tabs on the program’s development and effectiveness. Develop and put to practice Program “Metrics for Success” and adhere to them. If you took the time to define them and believe that they are real and critical, then your organization should embrace them and make them happen. Take a weather report regularly – pay attention to key inputs from your Sales team, Distribution Network and key customers and quickly factor them into the program make-up. Look at the Market Program, as having a productive, life-cycle. Some Programs are driven quarterly. Others have longer lives – either way – keep the drive alive and keep the pressure and focus on. If needed, introduce financial incentives to grease the skids and put some grit into the program for target prospects and certainly spice the program with incentives/rewards for your Sales Team and Channel Partners to drive the message home that the Market Program is serious business. A roll-out and training program is essential to getting everyone on the same page and moving in the right direction.
We look at Market Programs, as an integral business process. Particularly, in this continuing, tough Market Economy, companies that want to beat the odds and experience growth must adopt a different view of the critical role that effective Market Programs play in their continued success and longevity.
Performance Marketing Group
Edmond M. Hennessy.