Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.


Power Direct Marketing: The Book

The Marketing Plan Plan

I am sold on the writing of sound marketing plans. When I say that I mean a plan that assembles into one spot all the vital up-to-date information on the product, so that when the whole picture is spread before me, the indicated course of action becomes clearly a sound procedure.

Clarence Eldridge
Vice President, Marketing
Campbell Soup Company

Planning is essential. Because as Lloyd S. Nelson of the NASA Corporation said: "If they can do it next year with no plan, why didn’t they do it last year?"

Seat-of-the-pants marketing programs rarely achieve success. Yes, periodically there is a "pet rock" success story. But can you name another one?

Planning is vital.

The Marketing Plan Plan is a checklist. A 19-point checklist of things to consider as you begin the process of establishing your direct response marketing program.

This checklist is divided into four primary sections:

  1. The facts
  2. The situation
  3. The strategy and tactics
  4. The method

Let’s walk through each of these four sections one-by-one.

The Facts

There’s an old saying that a man’s decisions are no better than his facts. Facts and ideas are the lifeblood of sound marketing. Without facts, ideas can be meaningless; and vice versa.

Here you will want to summarize the most important points, the facts as they are applicable to your product or service in your marketplace. You want all the information you can get.

Pinpoint this information as either problems which need to be overcome or circumvented, or as opportunity to be taken advantage of. In addition, this section should contain a statement of the company goals, as far as this special product is concerned.

The following summary is designed as a checklist for your planning process. Details of the process are covered throughout the book, chapters 2 through 9.

Gather all necessary background information such as:

  1. A brief marketing and sales history
  2. A review of where you have been
  3. A thought on where you are now
  4. A further thought on where you want to go!
  5. Information on the size and scope of the marketplace
  6. Details on pricing history and gross profit history
  7. What share of the market do you own today
  8. What share of the market does your leading competitor have
  9. A summary of any company resources and cultural climate that may be important to achieving your goal

Identify specific problems and opportunities of your services:

  1. What are your strengths?
  2. What are your weaknesses?
  3. Does your company have the resources and commitment necessary for success?
  4. What are we doing now that’s working?
  5. What are we doing now that’s not working?
  6. What did we do in the past that worked that we stopped doing?
  7. What would make us more efficient?
  8. What is getting in the way of our success?

Draw your overall direction conclusions based on the facts gathered from the previous sections

  1. What business are we in?
  2. What business should we be in?
  3. What should our short-term objectives be?
  4. What results are expected from the present way of doing things?
  5. How do we get to where we want to go from where we are?

You must at least think on each of these questions—and come to some conclusion about each of them. You may elect to skip one that may not be applicable. Fine, but at least consider all of them so you know what you’re doing.

Once you’ve accomplished these steps, the marketing process begins around a structured framework.

The Situation

You have gathered some facts. Now, what do they mean? How do you evaluate what you have gathered? What do you do with the facts against the market situation?

You objectively look at your product/service, your marketplace, the competition, distribution channel options, i.e., you completely outline where you are. To continue with the checklist here are the next 6 points.

Clear product identification

Not only must you know what business you’re in, you also must know your product.

  1. What products and services do you offer?
  2. Can you promote this product to a significant portion of existing customers?
  3. Does the product lend itself to sale by a mail-order program, or is lead generation or traffic building better?
  4. Does this product have potential to be large in both sales and profits?
  5. How and where does it fit into our profit grid?
  6. Can the product attract new customers?
  7. Does it take advantage of our existing strengths?
  8. And, where does it fit among all similar offerings in the marketplace?

Clear market identification

  1. Market identification means people.
  2. Market identification means companies.
  3. Market identification means geography.
  4. Market identification means social, cultural, technical, economic, political, and environmental factors—both positive and negative.
  5. Market identification means knowing the demand in your area.
  6. Market identification means knowing if you have the ability to be the leader in this field.

Competition evaluation and understanding

  1. What is the level of the competition; where do you "fit" among the competition?
  2. What are the current strengths and weaknesses of your primary competition?
  3. What is the competition doing now?
  4. What are the probable future actions of your competitors?
  5. What can you do NOW to take advantage of your competition?

All communication options considered

. . . image advertising does not work . . . alone. Except for new product introduction there was no discernible correlation between advertising weight and sales levels . . . image advertising needed the impact of sales promotion, events, POP, and direct mail . . .

Valerie H. Free,
Marketing Communications

If there is anything marketing has learned from advertising it is multimedia. Using more than one tool to reach your marketplace, make your offer and achieve your objective.

These are the media tools to be considered as you plan an integrated direct marketing program:

  1. Sales promotion
  2. Point of purchase displays
  3. Package inserts
  4. Postcard decks
  5. Direct mail
  6. Catalogs
  7. Direct response print (newspapers and magazines)
  8. Public relations
  9. Video and film
  10. Advertising specialties and premiums
  11. Collateral and sales support materials
  12. Trade shows
  13. Telemarketing
  14. Direct response broadcast (radio and television)

An open-minded review of the large variety of communication options available to you must be made as a part of the total planning process.

Real customer/user purchase decision habits

There are always three types of people involved with every decision—in the home as well as at the office:

  1. The user of the product or service
  2. The influencer: This is usually someone of more importance than the user. In business it could even be somebody in another department.
  3. The decision maker: This is usually somebody at a higher level. In business it is someone from upper-middle or upper management.

In addition to these three decision makers, you may also have to weave your way through several others. In the business marketplace you may have to talk to such people as a buyer, a purchasing agent, or a financial officer. This is the person from whom you actually get the order.

Maybe the idea for this decision comes from another party entirely. The husband for the wife. The wife for the kids. The kids for the family. Sometimes this person is called an "initiator."

In business this could even be someone outside the immediate area of responsibility. Someone who sees a benefit in a product or service and urges a buy. They have no authority—but they could very well get the process rolling by raising the question and getting the door open.

In some instances you may also have a "gatekeeper." This happens at home as well as the office. Someone who protects the person you want to reach. In the office this person may have the title of executive secretary or administrative assistant. They have the responsibility for screening you out. At home it could be mother protecting kids or the wife the husband.

In any instance, you need to understand the real customer-user purchase decision habits.

Sales force/distribution methods

How are you going to distribute your product and through which channels? These methods could include:

  1. An inside order desk
  2. An outbound telemarketing unit
  3. Outside independent sales reps
  4. A captive sales force
  5. A network such as dealers or distributors
  6. An inside retail sales force
  7. A part of customer service
  8. A mix of any of these

Before you determine how you are going to sell your product—through which distribution channels—you must clearly identify which channels offer you the most opportunity for success.

What is the sales history of each type? What does your competition do—how do they distribute? What are the buying habits and attitudes of the principal channels under consideration? Where can you promote the most effectively? What is happening in your marketplace industrywide?

Overall company positioning, awareness and image factors, and "suspect/prospect/customer" audience perception

  1. What position do you currently own in your marketplace?
  2. What position do you want to own in your marketplace?
  3. Do you have to beat the leader to get the position you want to own?
  4. Do you have the resources to achieve the position you want to own (money/staff/commitment)?
  5. Can you take the time it will take to gain the position you want to own?
  6. Does your position—your current position—and the one you want to have match?

In order to achieve the company positioning you want, your position must be:

  1. Important to your audience
  2. Unique for your audience
  3. Believable to your audience
  4. Deliverable to your audience

Put these specific details on paper. First! then, and only then, can you set the strategy and tactics.

The Strategy and Tactics

Let’s define terms.

  • Strategy: Strategy equals planning! Strategies are planned actions designed to reach objectives.
  • Tactics: Tactics equal doing the plan. Tactics are the details of how you will achieve your plan.

To use a military analogy, strategy or planning is concerned with the broad outlook—the total picture of what is to come. Tactics, or the doing part, are the very specific maneuvers within the overall view that make the plan happen. That bring it to life.

This is true for both the short-range and long-range planning necessary to achieve your corporate goals. Here is where the planning process begins in earnest.

Even brilliant tactics, with the finest copy and the best graphics, cannot save a program that is strategically weak. You must do the planning first! Strategy comes from people, their experiences—it comes from THINKING!

This is really how you do POWER DIRECT MARKETING right. You begin by thinking! You begin by planning.

Describe your specific marketing objectives to be reached with this direct marketing plan

In most cases you will have more than a single objective. Make sure they are in priority order.

Although you will have an overall set of objectives for your various media tools, each individual medium will have its own objective—set them accordingly.

Each individual sales channel will have an individual sales target. Set these objectives on an individual basis.

Outline a strategy to reach these specific objectives

Your overall strategy includes the courses of action you will take to achieve your objectives for each product/service, including pricing, promotion, and fulfillment.

Decide the message and various media to relay your message as an integrated marketing program

From the various communication options outlined under point 7, select those most adaptable to your specific needs and begin the creative and media planning process.

Determine the tactics to support your objectives

The purpose of tactics is to work within the strategies you have set to achieve your objectives. They do not function independently, nor are they developed to win awards.

Remember, more than one tactic can be used to achieve a specific point in your plan.

Budget to make it all happen

There is no such thing as a free lunch! Establish a budget against the strategies you have outlined and the tactics you have chosen to achieve your objectives.

Assign a timetable and schedule

Planning requires long range directional thinking. Not tomorrow or next week, not knee-jerk reaction, but fiscal or calendar year planning. Or, maybe two years.

I do not believe in five year plans for marketing. Why? Because in the 74 years from 1917 until 1991, the reign of what we knew in the west as the U.S.S.R., did not once make their five year plan work. It was never anything more than a paper pushing exercise!

That is not the only reason; but it is a reason! The real "why" is because the marketplace is moving so fast that anything beyond a year or two is pure fantasyland.

Direct response timetables for a complete plan usually cover from 4 to 12 months. Determine how much time, including contingencies, you need to accomplish your objectives and then schedule accordingly.

Develop a measurement/analysis system

Early on determine how you will measure the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of your direct marketing program.

Measurement occurs following the implementation of the tactics, but planning for measurement must be done in the beginning—as your objectives are being set.

Strategy is planning—planning how you will best utilize your resources of time, budget, facilities, and most importantly, people to achieve your objectives, to reach your goals.

Now the plan is on paper, ready to happen. As Eisenhower said: "Planning is everything. The plan is nothing." And making it happen is why you do it all in the first place!

The Method

"Do you want me to plan it . . . or do it?" Heard that before? Sure, everyone has at one time or another. It’s natural under the fire of day-to-day activity.

The direct response marketing plan is a comprehensive, detailed written document. It identifies in concrete terms the thoughts and corresponding direct response tactics needed to achieve and to fulfill the plan.

Those responsible for all areas of marketing and the marketing mix should work together in the drafting of the entire marketing plan. It is here, in this area, where the greatest cooperation and closest coordination are essential.

The team, or "The Group," as Richard Shaver likes to call them, includes marketing, sales, and management personnel. At a minimum, representatives from these 3 areas. If possible, it is also many times beneficial to include market research, media analysis, data processing, creative, and production people. Putting the plan together is not a project for an individual—it is a company effort.

It is time to put the details of your plan to work. To develop the program. What promotional material, advertising specialties, advertising, public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing is needed to tell your story. To tell it so that the entire marketing effort moves in the same direction at the same time—and is effective!

Prepare creative to accomplish your objectives

The key word here is "your". You know what your direction is—or you should before you get to the creative part of the plan.

Where have you been? Where are you now? And, where are you going? These questions should be answered in point 11 above, and the creative team must know your focus as clearly as management and marketing.

Know your direction. Know your goals. Know your objectives. Then you can aim your creative approach toward the way you are going.

Produce the program and take it to the marketplace

At General Foods we don’t have what are usually referred to as advertising plans. Instead we have marketing plans . . . to get the maximum efficiency of our marketing expenditures. We believe that advertising and selling and all the corollary functions of marketing should have a common objective. The annual marketing plan is the means by which we arrive at these common objectives.

Edwin W. Ebel
Vice President, Marketing
General Foods Corporation

Aristotle thought an unplanned life was not very productive, because the individual didn’t know where they were nor what they were trying to do. They didn’t know where they were going or how to get there.

The same philosophy is applicable to direct marketing.

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