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Video guide to creating a marketing plan

Michael Scholl, Executive sales leader and startup consultant on a slide which reads How to Create a Marketing Plan
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Video guide to creating a marketing plan

In the fast-paced world of startups, the allure of diving straight into sales can be tempting. After all, sales translate to revenue, and revenue is the lifeline of any budding enterprise. However, before taking that vital step, there’s an underlying foundation that needs laying – creating a marketing plan.

For many startups, the thought of drafting a marketing plan might seem daunting or even unnecessary, especially when faced with limited resources and pressing time constraints. Yet, without a clear marketing strategy in place, the sales process can become directionless, inefficient, and disconnected from the target audience’s true needs and desires.

By understanding your market, positioning your brand, and crafting a compelling value proposition through a comprehensive marketing plan, startups not only pave the way for successful sales but also ensure that each sale aligns with their broader business goals and customer-centric vision.

Choosing a Strategy: Setting the Tone for Your Marketing Plan

Every ship needs a compass, and for startups crafting their marketing plan, that compass is the overarching strategy. Your choice in strategy reflects not just your business’s current position, but its aspirations. At the heart of any effective marketing plan lies one of four strategic pillars: Aggressive Growth, Targeted Growth, Optimize and Maintain, and Managed Decline.

For early-stage companies, ‘Aggressive Growth’ might not necessarily signify skyrocketing profits or top-line growth. Instead, it could denote a fervent push for early adopters, or a determined focus on user retention and engagement, thereby creating ‘sticky’ users. On the flip side, ‘Targeted Growth’ for an early-stage startup might mean zeroing in on a specific industry vertical to pinpoint that elusive product-market fit.

Yet for a more mature company, this strategy could translate to a modest top-line growth, ranging from 3% to 10%. It’s paramount for startups, regardless of their stage, to firmly select one of these strategy buckets. This decision not only sets the tone for the entire marketing plan but provides clarity and direction to every subsequent action.

Defining Your Product Strategy: Learn or Solve, But Always Evolve

At the heart of every great company lies a product that addresses genuine needs or desires. However, understanding the purpose of your product within the market is paramount. So, ask yourself, is your primary goal to Learn or Solve?

If you’re in the initial stages of your startup journey or launching a new product within an established company, a Learn strategy might be apt. This involves releasing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to gauge market responses, refining your product based on feedback, and understanding if you’ve achieved that elusive product-market fit.

Yet, most businesses should gravitate towards a Solve product strategy. This is about creating a product that remedies a tangible problem. If you align with the Solve approach, the next step requires more specificity.

  • Opting for a Leader strategy is all about paving the way. It’s for those aiming to introduce innovative solutions, leveraging first-mover advantages, or building a brand so formidable that it creates its own protective moat against competitors.
  • If you lean towards the Challenger strategy, your goal is to shake things up. This requires a sharp focus on your value proposition, aiming to provide a product that, while not first to market, offers distinct advantages or innovations over established leaders.
  • With the Targeted strategy, you’re eyeing precision. In a world teeming with solutions, your product addresses the needs of a very specific demographic, ensuring your offerings resonate deeply with a particular segment, even in a saturated market.
  • Lastly, if you believe in a Cost strategy, you’re harnessing the power of competitive pricing. Ideal for commodity-driven markets or verticals, this strategy aims to introduce products that, while similar in function to competitors, win the market on price.

Every product has a mission. By defining your strategy – whether to Learn or Solve – you’re not just deciding on a direction but setting the tone for every subsequent decision in your product journey.

Aligning Your Pricing Strategy with Your Product Vision

Once you’ve delineated your product strategy, the next pivotal decision is determining how you’ll price your offering. Pricing isn’t just about numbers; it’s a reflection of your brand’s value, your understanding of the market, and your long-term goals. More importantly, there needs to be congruency between your product and pricing strategies to ensure market success.

  • Penetration Pricing: Ideal for those looking to rapidly gain market share, this strategy involves setting a lower price than the competition to attract a significant customer base quickly. It can be especially potent if you’ve adopted a Challenger or Cost product strategy.
  • Competitive Pricing: As the name suggests, this approach is about pricing your product in line with or slightly below your competitors. It’s particularly effective when used in tandem with a Challenger product approach, as it signals to the market that you offer comparable (or superior) value at a similar price.
  • Value-Based Pricing: Rooted in the perceived value of your product to the customer, this strategy can align well with a Leader or Targeted product strategy. If your product offers unique features or caters to a specific segment’s needs, you can set prices based on the premium value you provide.
  • Price Skimming: Suitable for products that have a distinct competitive edge or first-mover advantage, this involves setting higher prices during the initial product launch, and gradually reducing them over time. It’s often congruent with a Leader product strategy, capitalizing on early adopters willing to pay a premium.
  • Cost Plus Pricing: Here, prices are set based on the cost of production with a specific markup percentage. This straightforward approach can complement a Cost product strategy, ensuring profitability while maintaining competitive prices.

As you navigate the myriad pricing options, remember: consistency and alignment between your product and pricing strategies will be the linchpin to your market positioning and, ultimately, your success.

Commit, Iterate, and Ensure Alignment for Success

In the dynamic world of startups and product innovation, committing to a structured blueprint like this initial marketing plan is paramount. It serves as the bedrock upon which you’ll build an effective and powerful sales strategy.

Understand that while this document represents your current vision and strategy, it’s not set in stone. As you journey through various stages of the product and business lifecycle, expect this plan to evolve and adapt. Yet, its real value lies not just in guiding your actions but in revealing incongruencies.

Regularly revisit and scrutinize your plan to identify any misalignment between your overarching strategy and its underlying components. By ensuring alignment across all facets of your strategy, you’ll navigate your business venture with clarity, purpose, and the agility to pivot when needed, fostering an environment primed for success.

Check out our fractional sales leadership services. We’ll provide any business with a free workshop to develop their marketing plan.

You can watch the video and find other relevant startup guides around developing a marketing and sales strategy by visiting our YouTube channel.