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CEO Best Practice: Marketing Strategy/Planning

Executive Tools

  • Executive Summary
  • Self Assessment Checklist

Expert Practices Articles

  • Marketing: An Overview
  • Marketing Strategy
  • The Marketing Plan
  • Customer Focus
  • The CEO and Marketing
  • Direct Marketing

Case Histories

  • Use a "Communication Strategy Form" to Plan Campaigns
  • Use Technology-Based Partner Relationship Management Tools
  • Sell to Customer Needs, not Company Needs
  • Use a "Nurturing" Direct Marketing Program
  • Add "Value-Added" Services to Your Products and Corporation

Book List: Marketing Strategy/Planning

Request the Entire Best Practice Module: Marketing Strategy/Planning

CEO Best Practice: Marketing Strategy/Planning

Executive Summary

  • Marketing: An Overview
  • Marketing Strategy
  • The Marketing Plan
  • Customer Focus
  • The CEO and Marketing
  • Direct Marketing

Marketing: An Overview

Marketing-oriented organizations focus like a laser beam on customer needs and wants. They anticipate demand. They enlarge demand through promotions and advertising. Then they satisfy that demand.

Unfortunately, too many companies either don't understand this basic principle or lack the resolve to see their strategies through to completion. In fact, many businesses start thinking about marketing campaigns only after sales have begun to sag.

Other reasons why marketing plans fail:

  • No sense of the future. Successful marketing is an investment in your organization's future. Be creative, the TEC experts advise. Focus on new opportunities. Always think of new ways to enhance exposure for your product.
  • No measurement of results. Like any other initiative, marketing projects must be tested and measured. To measure results, assign someone to capture sales and customer information and give them access to all revenue and expense data. Once results are measured, analyze them and share them throughout the organization. Then spend money on what generates the best return.
  • Too much interference. Some CEOs approve a marketing plan, then insist on constantly making adjustments. Sometimes, the best approach is to wait until marketing efforts can be suitably measured and then fine-tune the plan. Constant meddling only distorts results and demoralizes the people in charge of driving the campaign.

For some organizations, maintaining a full-blown marketing department may be too costly and impractical to justify itself. One option in these circumstances is hiring a professional marketing consultant to ensure that your product meets customer demands the way it should.

The Vistage experts suggest the following to ensure getting the most out of a marketing consultant:

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Marketing Strategy

Step one in market research is determining what you genuinely need to find out. Are you considering entering a new market? A new market area? A new product line mix? The kind of information you're after will influence the type of research you want to do.

Other key questions:

  • What's the current size of the market?
  • How fast is it growing?
  • How can we hope to reach it?
  • Can the market be segmented into targeted customer groups?
  • What makes our product distinctive among others in the marketplace?
  • What types of people buy our product or service?
  • What's most important to buyers when choosing a product (price, quality, delivery time, etc.)?
  • What do customers like about our competitor's products that we're not offering?

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The Marketing Plan

The best marketing plans always focus on the customer. Therefore, the plan should be organized to address specific questions:

  • What does the customer really need?
  • Where do they want to buy it?
  • How do they want to buy it?
  • How much are they willing to pay?

A solid marketing communications strategy is also crucial as well. Goozé asks: "Do you know what your target customers read and listen to? What are the best ways to get their attention?" This aspect of the plan should address your organization's promotional goals ("promotions" include everything from advertising to public relations). Other key questions:

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Customer Focus

To think like your customers, your company must encourage a customer-oriented culture. "Your decision-making process should include a mechanism for collecting and understanding customer input," Harms says. "Before you design, test and sell your product, make sure you've gathered, interpreted and synthesized all the customer information you can find. That way, you're not making the product in a vacuum, but backed up instead by solid data."

Where does this information come from? Harms describes several fundamental sources:

  • Customer complaints. Look at complaints your business has received over the past few weeks and months. Does your management team seriously examine what's behind these complaints? Does the team offer solutions to reduce the number of complaints?
  • Customer surveys. This is still considered among the most effective methods for collecting reliable, objective data about your customers.
  • Industry trends. Study patterns in your industry. Read trade publications. Monitor new trends and approaches to customer care.
  • Face to face contact. Do you know -- really know -- how your customers buy your products and exactly what they do with them? Nothing beats getting out of the office and meeting with customers directly.

Market research offers crucial information about customers' buying habits, needs, preferences and opinions. Goozé describes five basic methods used by most businesses:

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The CEO and Marketing

"The CEO is -- or should be -- the chief marketing officer," Harms says. "He or she should avoid getting stuck in a 'product-thing' mentality that asks, 'What are our customers buying from us? Why should they buy from me instead of my competition?' Instead, the question should be: 'What value or benefits do my products provide?' That's the only question that truly matters."

Goozé urges CEOs to spend a substantial amount of time out in the field, meeting with customers and prospects -- "not for the purpose of selling, but to better understand their needs, wants and demands. CEOs are uniquely equipped to do this. They know their own business, so they'll likely understand what their business can do to address customers' issues. Many CEOs think this is what they've hired salespeople to do, but in the 10 years I've been advising CEOs, every single one has said it's the best thing they've ever done."

Above all, the CEO has the power and influence to ensure that marketing is considered a primary function within the organization. Don't look at marketing efforts as an expense. Sales is an expense. Marketing is an investment in your company's future. Do everything possible to get the best people involved in marketing activities and see that this ethic is incorporated into the culture as a whole.

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Direct Marketing

Should your company include direct marketing in its promotional mix? Here are the experts' guidelines:

  • Your primary, or significant, method of distributing your product is through the mail or directly to your customers. The key to doing this effectively is acquiring and maintaining an accurate database of targeted customers. The most successful direct marketing businesses make having excellent databases a number-one priority.
  • Your product offers a variety of benefits. Trying to convey multiple product benefits in a print or electronic medium can result in confusion for your customers. Instead, a well-composed direct mail letter can communicate all of these benefits and announce special promotions like discounts or contests.
  • Your product is expensive. Again, a direct mail letter offers greater opportunity to expand your product's appeal (and convince potential customers to spend a little extra) than the limited space of advertising.

E-mail marketing has become an increasingly valuable form of direct mail. "E-mail ads are a great supplement to traditional methods," Harms says, primarily for three reasons:

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