Monday, November 5, 2012

Planning Part IV: Building a Better Plan


Building a Better Marketing Plan – Annual Planning

Let’s have a difficult discussion.   The cold hard facts are most distributors do a lousy job with marketing.  Over the years, most distributors leaned on the brand recognition of their supply partners.   In a few instances where their major supply partners use very limited or exclusive distribution, this strategy may even work.  However with just a couple of exceptions, meaningful exclusive channel partnerships are slip sliding away.  And this leaves distributors with a need to crank up their marketing efforts.

In distribution there are three basic components of marketing (ranked here from easiest to hardest): sales aids, sales events and brand building.  Experience dictates marketing people on distributor payrolls tend more towards the keeper of the trinket closet key and event coordinator.   We are not bashing them for the work they do, but we do believe it should be expanded a couple of notches. 

Let’s take a look at how we might move our marketing effort forward in the coming year. By answering these sets of questions:

The Distributor Brand

·         What makes us different from the competition?
·         How do we want to be seen by our customers?
·         Can the salespeople relate to our brand?
·         How does this play into the supply partners we have aligned ourselves with?

Target Focused Questions

·         Which of our product lines are strategic to long term growth?
·         Which customer segments offer the easiest path to growth in sales and market share?
·         How do our marketing plans directly impact our targets?
·         Who at each of our customers do we have the best relationship with?  Are there people we should be reaching out to?
·         How could a marketing effort assist the sales team in connecting with targeted new customers or new contacts at existing customers?
·         What new updates may be required for our website, newsletter, and other electronic communications tools to appeal to our target group?

Vendor Focused Questions

·         Are there vendors who require specific market activities? 
·         Who offers co-op dollars to fund certain activities?
·         How easy is it to take advantage of the dollars available?
·         Which vendors have marketing materials which could be crafted into our own materials?

Event Focused Question

·         What major event should be positioned on our calendar?
·         What resources are needed for the events?
·         What is the time line for developing materials? (invitations, promos etc.)

Promotional items

·         What promotional items did we purchase last year? 
·         What was their purpose?
·         Are there any which proved to be more/less successful than others?
·         Are there any that should be discontinued?
·         How have technology trends affected the impact of our promotional items?

Only after these questions have been given serious thought can a true marketing plan be laid out for the coming year.  Your company can be more effective and produce greater profits “just” by thinking about your current activities and promotional items.  If you push the envelope towards the strategic and brand building – you create better sales results.



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