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The common problem I run into with new clients is that they do not know how to develop a strategic marketing plan.

Instead, they pick a list of seemingly popular advertising tactics to begin promoting their product.

For example, they may run a print ad in the local paper and not consider their market doesn't read that particular paper. They may start a website online, but not build it to effectively reach people online looking for their particular product.

One client we represented put an advertisement in a national magazine. Unfortunately he is a local psychiatrist in New Jersey that I doubt a patient in Salt Lake City, Utah would have any use for.

Let me make something clear, before you even begin thinking about advertising or creating a website, you need to determine your marketing strategy. Strategy (marketing plan) always comes before tactics (advertising, online media). If building a house was the act of promoting your product, than the material would be advertising, but the blueprints would be a strategic marketing plan.

Let's get started with teaching you how to develop your strategic marketing plan:

My model of developing a strategic marketing plan uses the 3 P's: product, promotion and people. Some people include placement and price, but they fail to see the beauty and simplicity of my model which generates revenue, not confusion.

If you already have a product (this includes services), you next need to think about people. People are split into 3 types that consistently overlap:

  1. Your Market (target, peripheral and oblivious)
  2. Your Competitor (organizational, product, benefit and market)
  3. Your Affiliates (other professionals you can pay to help you sell your product)

Your Market

Your target market is comprised of people who you wish to target directly with your product promotions because they are your most profitable starting point. Your peripheral market is comprised of people who can use your product, but are not as lucrative as your target market.

For example, we recently wrote a marketing plan for an exotic restaurant who wished only to target local mainstream communities not made up of his respective culture (Japanese). We realized this was a larger market that he was not reaching, while his current market was profitable, but not capable of facilitating his long-term goal of expansion. Although we were marketing to a particular culture (target), we knew we were also reaching his peripheral market (Japanese).

An oblivious market, on the other hand, is one that, for the most part, completely ignores your brand and advertising because it is not relevant to them. For example, a married man would have no use for a dating website (unless he is a creep, and there is a market for them as well). An oblivious market is peculiar because they can easily become your target. For example, right around Christmas time we advise our client who manufactures mens cologne to begin advertising to women. Obviously women are more in the market to purchase mens cologne during the holiday season than men.

Your Competitors

Your competitors are broken down into 4 groups:

  1. Orgnaizational
  2. Product
  3. Benefit
  4. Market

The first two groups are in tight competition with you for market share while the last two are not. In fact, more times than not, you can transform these benefit and market competitors into affiliates as you will see below.

So, let's start with your most competitive types of competitors.

Your organizational competitor offers the same product and benefit as you.

For example, if you sell sneakers, than Payless, Nike and Reebok are your organizational competitors. This is because the product (sneaker) and benefit (foot support) are the same as what your organization sells.

Your product competitors sell the same product as you, yet with a different benefit.

With regard to the example above, say you sell basketball sneakers, and a local store sells trendy sneakers. They are your product competitors because while they sell the same product as you (sneakers), the benefits are totally different (fashion versus athletic support).

Your Affiliates

Affiliates are people who, typically, sell products to your market who you are not in direct competition with.

Affiliates will help you to sell your product. For example, if you train dogs, you might want to request that a local veterinarian add some coupons for your services ion their lobby. Every time one of those coupons comes in the door, give the veterinarian 15% of that sale.

Make this relationship a trust building priority as it will help you greatly with more elaborate marketing techniques I will highlight later.

Benefit competitors offer a different product, but sell the same benefit as you.

For example, we represent a local music store and we identified their main perpendicular competitors as Karate schools, sports teams and tutors. Yes, tutors. There are many ways to address perpendicular competitors. For example, early movie theaters down-the-shore began realizing that they were losing business to restaurants and the local boardwalk. So what was their move? They added their benefits competitors' products as their own complementary goods within the theater.

For instance, they increased the amount of food they served, brought in arcade machines and even added those photo booths no scrapbook can live without.

Sometimes product competitors can be affiliates to. For example, when Borders used Amazon for their online bookseller. Allow me to digress for a second and state that any assistance to your organizational or product competitors is bad news. After all, what happened to Borders again?

Your next step toward developing a strategic marketing plan is the following 3 things:

  1. 3 benefits (not features) of your product
  2. 3 problems of your target market
  3. 3 features of your product that differentiates you from your competitor

3 Benefits (not features) of Your Product

Features are the input of your product to create output (benefits). Our slogan is quite simple: We get small businesses more customers. That is the benefit of our service- period. This may include building and training regional sales teams, blogging, negotiating advertising and smoking cigars with Congressman Adler, but the benefit is more customers. What is the benefit of your product? Essentially, what value do you provide to your market niche?

3 Problems of Your Target Market

I had a meeting with a prospective client today and they happen to sell delicious cakes.

I asked if they had a blog and they said yes. I automatically told them that, because they are targeting people shopping for wedding cakes, they need to be blogging to solve the problems of people getting married.

Because they are in South Jersey, I would suggest they write articles about: the top places in South Jersey to get married, 5 things you must know before selecting a wedding planner, 5 tips to selecting the perfect reception hall, etc.

The point is, they know their market so well that they can introduce their product in a number of ways that their prospects (people getting married) will automatically find valuable. This was a very expensive advertising tactic before the advent of the internet, but obviously not anymore.

Remember, marketing is getting people to know, like and trust you in the interest of improving their condition. Solving the problems of your market niche while incidentally introducing your company is a superior way to begin promoting your product.

3 Features of Your Product that Differentiates You from Your Competitor

We never advertise our marketing services because this is exactly what every one of our competitors does.

Instead, we advertise our free marketing seminars to get a room full of eager prospects looking to market their respective business.

We give them wine, food and even feature an accountant who gives our audience some great accounting advice. Then we teach our audience about marketing, and their jaws drop in wonder and awe of our marketing wisdom.

Either that or they can't believe how ugly I am. At the end, we find time to chat with each participant and begin building relationships. After all, marketing is getting someone to know, like and trust you in the interest of improving their condition.

Just remember, if you have confidence that your product will reliably solve a problem of your target market, all of your subsequent strategic marketing will drip with integrity and differentiation. But if you aren't blowing your own horn, there is no music.

Don't compete — DOMINATE.


Matt Steffen

"Don't compete -- DOMINATE!"

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Matt Steffen was Listed by Forbes as the #1 Marketing Consultant Who Avoids the B.S.