At some point in every successful start-up’s evolution, even ones with the best technology and customers who most ardently don’t want to be marketed to, founders will need marketing to sustain or increase their growth. If you work for one of these start-ups, take heart. Marketing is not a dark art. It requires both creativity and quantitative acumen. The Mad Men days of simply pumping out ingenious creative no longer is enough.
One thing that has not changed, though, is the need to craft and execute a marketing plan. If you’re a developer and have been asked to assess potential marketing candidates, or if show up for work one day and the “See me” email in your inbox results in you having to draw up a marketing plan yourself, this post is for you.
If you find yourself meeting a prospective marketing candidate, ask her to walk you through a marketing plan she has executed. If you like what you see, ask her to prepare a marketing plan for your product for her second round interview.
Regardless if you’re evaluating or crafting a plan, you need to know that effective marketing plans work when they bridge a product and its customers. Your company likely has no shortage of product experts, so look for marketers who are laser focused on customers.
While marketing plans can contain all sorts of stuff, the best ones contain the following eight core elements.
Measurable goals, ideally ones that ladder up to your company’s targets.
Clear, concise overview of the product: keep it to two slides tops and focus on its three most important benefits.
Description of the target consumer: e.g. their gender, age, geography, purchasing power, media consumption preferences, attitudes, how many of them there are, etc.
The product’s positioning: what does the product do for its target consumers that they can’t get any other way, and why is that better than or different from a competitive alternative?
The strategy: a marketing instructor of mine once explained that the best strategies adopt a militaristic posture. They’re offensive if you’re a challenger or defensive if you’re a market leader.
The tactics that will engage consumers and help reach the objective. These tactics should have a calendar overlay and show activity by channel.
Risks: what can go wrong, and what does the plan do to mitigate these potential problems?
Roles and responsibilities: who will do what?
Marketing plans may contain other important elements, such as competitive SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), but these are most critical components.
The best marketing I’ve ever seen happens when marketers demonstrate as much passion for customers as software engineers have for their products. Put those two passions together, and success is much more likely to follow.