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27 Pivotal Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Next Marketing Plan

27 Pivotal Questions to Ask Before Writing Your Next Marketing Plan

Marketing Plan

If you’re a Chief Marketing Officer, or a V.P. of Marketing, or even an entrepreneur running your own business, there’s going to come a time when you have to hit the re-set button and write a new marketing plan.

That’s something we do quite frequently for our clients, as outlined in an in-depth post we uploaded called Even We Were Surprised When Our Marketing Campaign Grew Our Client’s Revenues by 278%. If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on how to re-brand and re-launch a product or service, check out that post.

But before you do, take a spin through the questions below. These are fundamental questions you should ask yourself before you put pen to paper and write your next marketing plan.

Questions to Help You Lay Your Marketing Foundation

Here are the fundamental questions you should ask about your product or service that will help you lay the groundwork for the marketing campaign you’ll launch in the future.

  • What is our product or service? (Okay, that’s a pretty basic question, but you have to start somewhere.)
  • What makes our product or service different? (Don’t get too hung-up on this question — sometimes you have a Me Too product that’s not really different. That’s where the magic of marketing comes into play. In other words, you’ll use marketing to highlight a product feature or benefit that your competitors have ignored or overlooked.)
  • What is our awareness level? Do we have a positive, negative, or neutral brand impression?
  • Who is our primary competition? How are they positioning themselves? What strategies are they using? What have they overlooked?
  • What is the core message we’d like our customers to know about our brand? Is it safer? Sexier? Cheaper?
  • What unspoken need does our product or service fulfill? (Don’t overlook this very important question — sometimes this can be a game changer. After all, Starbucks doesn’t just sell coffee. Instead, they fulfill unspoken needs such as culture, coolness, and companionship.)
  • What kind of research or insights do we have about our customers?

Questions to Help You Think Through Your Marketing Campaign

Okay, now that we’ve laid the groundwork for your marketing strategy, let’s dive into some questions that will help you take the appropriate steps to launch your marketing campaign. Here goes:

  • What has been our most effective campaign to date? What made it effective?
  • What has been our least effective campaign to date? What made it fail?
  • What is the purpose of our upcoming marketing campaign? To build brand awareness? To deliver leads to our website? To drive foot traffic to our retail locations?

Questions to Help You Identify the Needs of Your Target Market

Remember, your prospects and customers are typically buying something that’s deeper than your product’s features or benefits.

Before we get into the questions on this section, here’s an excerpt from a post we wrote previously called How to Think Strategically About Social Media. It highlights some of the issues we’re talking about when it comes to what people are really buying.

If you’re Maid Brigade, a national home cleaning service, you’d say that your customers are buying a clean house. After all, when someone calls Maid Brigade, that customer doesn’t ask them to mow their lawn – they ask them to clean their house.

But is that really what they’re asking for?

Oh, sure, a clean house is an essential element of what Maid Brigade is selling, but there are plenty of businesses that clean houses. So the question really becomes, “In addition to a clean house, what is it that a Maid Brigade customer is really buying?”

For starters, they’re buying a brand they trust. For some companies (such as Coca-Cola and Apple), the value of the brand is one of their most important assets. For perspective on the value of a brand, consider this ­— in your neighborhood there are probably several local restaurants that sell pizza. And many of those restaurants sell better pizza than Domino’s. But Domino’s almost certainly sells more pizzas per store than any of the restaurants in your neighborhood.

Why? Because Domino’s has a national brand that people have grown to love and trust. And, when it comes right down to it, love and trust translates into big bucks. And more pizzas sold.

Now that we’ve talked about the value of a brand, let’s jump back to the Maid Brigade case study. People don’t hire Maid Brigade simply because they’re a trustworthy national brand or because they do a good job cleaning houses. It goes much deeper than that. When you drill down into what prompts someone to buy their services, you start to uncover some of the unspoken reasons why people gravitate to their brand.

For example, Maid Brigade was the first national chain to go green with their cleaning materials. So a certain percentage of people hire Maid Brigade because they like the green aspect of their services. For most people, “green cleaning” isn’t the very first thing they’re looking for when they do research on home cleaning services, but it’s certainly a key differentiator for their brand.

But we’re still just scratching the surface — you can go much deeper.

For example, what is it that people really get when they get a clean house? People get more than just a clean house – they also get time. In other words, they free up several hours a week that they would otherwise spend cleaning.

What do they get in those several hours? Initially, you might say they get time to play more tennis, time with their grandchildren or time to work with a charity. All of those answers are correct, but when you examine it further you realize that they’re actually getting the opportunity to have more fulfilling lives, to have deeper relationships and to get to know themselves better.

See how that works? What people are actually buying in a product or service goes much deeper than you might imagine.

If you were to write down a list of the features and benefits of using Maid Brigade, many marketers would just scratch the surface. But by getting inside the mind of the customer and thinking about what truly motivates them, you come up with emotional hot buttons that resonate with their prospects and customers.

Again, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t lead with “green clean” or “spotless counters” or “freshly-vacuumed rug.” Those aspects of the Maid Brigade brand are all important, but when you overlay those benefits with the deeper, more meaningful emotional hot buttons, you connect with your prospects and customers on a more lasting basis.

The excerpt above will help you understand the importance of digging deep into what it is that your prospects and customers are really looking for.

With that in mind, here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself as you dig deep into your target market’s needs, wants and desires.

  • Who are they (from a demographic point-of-view)?
  • What do they feel?
  • What do they need on the surface?
  • What are their hidden motivators for buying our products or services? (For example, many people buy B2B products or services because they like the salesperson, but if you asked the purchaser why they bought the product or service, they would never say, “because I like the salesperson.” Liking a salesperson is a hidden motivator.)
  • What’s the value of this product or service to the customer?
  • What does the customer need to know before he or she will buy from our company?
  • How does the customer make a decision to buy products or services like this? What is the process we have to go through to make a sale? (If you’re in the B2C world, this is relatively straightforward. But if you’re in the B2B world, you have to deal with multiple layers, which are outlined in the graphic below.)

B2B Marketing Process

Action Steps for You

The questions outlined above are just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re really interested in doing a top-notch job on your next marketing campaign, there’s a whole series of questions you should ask after this batch. We’ll be uploading a post about that in the future.

Until then, here are some action steps you should take before launching your next campaign:

  1. Clean the Slate: For a campaign to be break-through, you’ll need to start with as clean a slate as possible. I understand that there are legacy campaigns that you have to consider, but try to open your mind to new, fresh thinking. Otherwise, you’ll just be repeating the same mistakes you made in the past.
  2. Row in the Same Direction: As you clean the slate, you’ll also want to get your team rowing in the same direction. That means establishing goals and objectives for whatever you’re doing — and, most important, getting buy-in on those goals and objectives before you do the exercise outlined above.
  3. Pay Attention to Details: Many organizations do brainstorming meetings or launch campaigns, but then lose track of the initial objectives and/or end game. Keep your eye on the prize and make sure you track your progress. Otherwise, the whole experience will be for naught.

Good luck. Keep me posted on your progress. And let me know if there are any questions you think I missed in the comments section below.

Oh, and one other thing — if you liked this post, would you mind sharing it with your friends via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or Pinterest? Thanks!

Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, an Atlanta-based advertising agency and digital marketing firm that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

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