Friday, October 15, 2010 @ 11:25 PM

Write a marketing plan #9

Here's how I developed and implemented a marketing plan
Escherman is a digital public relations (PR) and marketing consultancy based in Richmond, Surrey which launched in January 2008. Owner Andrew Smith identified a gap in the market for measurable, integrated digital PR and marketing programmes that combine new techniques such as web analytics and social media with traditional PR content development skills. Here Andrew describes how he devised the company's own marketing plan.

What I did

Research and analyse

"When I first had the idea of starting the company, I had over 20 years experience in PR, primarily promoting technology companies. I had a shrewd idea that there was a gap in the market for the kind of PR service I intended to offer. The proposed business strategy was to bring together innovative online PR solutions under one roof and offer highly accountable results that would have a measurable impact on customer sales. The initial step in writing the marketing plan was research and SWOT/PEST analysis.

"First, I analysed the current position of existing PR agencies against the wider economic, technological and social background. This confirmed that traditional 'non-digital' agencies were in decline, with only one third making a profit.

"I also talked to search marketing agencies (at the time the most advanced area of digital solutions) to get a glimpse of how other new methods I intended to base the agency around might evolve. On top of all that, I talked to potential customers, including ex-clients and industry leaders, to ascertain their current PR and marketing needs.

"Last, but not least, I undertook competitor analysis, looking closely at the operation and cost bases of other PR agencies that styled themselves as digital communications experts."

Define overall strategy

"Because I'd researched thoroughly, the marketing strategy to some extent wrote itself. The perceived value of the business' offering was clear from talking to potential clients. However, I had to be realistic about the volume of business the company could cope with in its first year. I was confident of gaining clients, but didn't want to risk under-servicing because of limited resources. It was therefore clear that the marketing strategy should focus on higher margins and lower volumes.

"I identified a select handful of potential customers and included topline financial objectives based on an analysis of fee income throughout the industry. I also addressed the resourcing issue by planning to outsource certain marketing activities, such as document preparation."

Plan tactics and implement them

"I planned marketing tactics to support the strategy, including detailed pricing and how to publicise the business to the defined target market. Obviously a website and online presence was essential. Because we would be selling ourselves on our ability to reach the media and consumers in innovative ways, we had to practice what we preached. In particular I looked at ways to exploit my LinkedIn profile and the website's blog so as to maximise the possibility of being picked up in internet searches carried out by potential customers.

"Another key tactic was to identify a series of networking events that I would attend to spread the word about the company. We also planned for growth by instigating dialogue with other, non-competitive PR agencies with a view to partnering with them. Marketing our services as a seamless add-on to their own is already proving successful and provides a valuable additional route to market.

"We revisit the marketing plan regularly and monitor our progress against a set of Key Performance Indicators to keep us focussed. The proof of the pudding is that we met our annual target in the first six months of being in business."

What I'd do differently

Set a deadline
"While it's crucial to research thoroughly when preparing a marketing plan, I probably spent too long agonising over every possible outcome. Setting a firmer deadline for writing the plan might have speeded up the implementation."

Accept that not everything will work
"When it came to implementing the plan, parts of it didn't work as expected and had to be adapted as we went along. Accepting the element of risk and having confidence in your idea at the planning stage is ultimately more useful than striving to produce the 'perfect' plan."

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