|Ðð©'§ Internet Marketing Information Library|
The e-Marketing Plan - Brief Overview and Working Scheme
I. Summary of a marketing plan
The marketing planning (concretized in the marketing plan) is an essential organizational activity, considering the hostile and complex competitive business environment. Our ability and skills to perform profitable sales are affected by hundreds of internal and external factors that interact in a difficult way to evaluate. A marketing manager must understand and build an image upon these variables and their interactions, and must take rational decisions.
Let us see what do we call a "marketing plan"? It is the result of the planning activity, a document that includes a review of the organization's place in the market, an analysis of the STEP factors as well as a SWOT analysis. A complete plan would also formulate some presumptions on why we think the past marketing strategy was successful or not. The next phase shall present the objectives we set, together with the strategies to achieve these objectives. In a logical sequence, we will further need to evaluate the results and formulate alternative plans of action. A plan would consist in details of responsibilities, costs, sales prognosis and budgeting issues.
In the end, we should not forget to specify how the plan (or plans) will be controlled, by what means we will measure its results.
We will see how to build the marketing plan, what is its structure: after we will see how to build the traditional marketing plan, we will take a look at the e-marketing plan and see how the unique features of the internet will require some changes in the approach of writing a marketing plan.
But, before we continue, we must understand and accept that steps of the marketing plan are universal. It is a logical approach of the planning activity, no matter where we apply it. The differences you meet from a plan to another consist in the degree of formality accorded to each phase, depending on the size and nature of the organization involved. For example, a small and not diversified company would adopt less formal procedures, because the managers in these cases have more experience and functional knowledge than the subordinates, and they are able to achieve direct control upon most factors. On the other hand, in a company with diversified activity, it is less likely that top managers have functional information in a higher degree than the subordinate managers. Therefore, the planning process must be formulated to ensure a strict discipline for everyone involved in the decisional chain.
II. The general marketing plan
The classical marketing plan would follow the following scheme of 8 stages:
1. Declaring the mission: this is the planning stage when we establish the organizational orientations and intentions, thus providing a sense of direction. In most cases, this is a general presentation of the company's intentions and almost has a philosophic character.
2. Establishing current objectives: it is essential for the organization to try to determine with preciseness the objectives to be reached. These objectives, in order to be viable, must be SMART. SMART is an acronym and stands for "Specific", "Measurable", "Attainable", "Realistic" and "Timed". The objectives must also convey the general organizational mission.
3. Gathering information: this stage is based on the concept of marketing audit. After performing the audit of the macro-environment by analyzing the STEP factors (social, technologic, economic and politic), we should turn the focus upon the immediate extern environment (the micro-environment) and analyze the competitive environment, the costs and the market. Finally, we will conclude with the SWOT analysis, by this way we will have a general view upon the internal environment compared to the external one. The SWOT analysis combine the two perspectives, from the inside and from the outside, because the Strengths and the Weaknesses are internal issues of an organization, while the Opportunities and Threads come from the outside.
4. Re-formulating objectives: after the close examination of data gathered in the previous stage, sometimes it is needed to re-formulate the initial objectives, in order to address all the issues that might have come up from the previous stage. The distance between the initial objective and the re-formulated objective will be covered by appropriate strategies. We must ensure the re-formulated objective is SMART as well.
5. Establishing strategies: several strategies are to be formulated, in order to cover the distance between what we want to achieve and what is possible to achieve, with the resources at our disposal. As we would usually have several options, we should analyze them and chose the one with more chances to achieve the marketing objectives.
6. Plan of actions: consists in a very detailed description of the procedures and means to implement the actions we want to take. For example, if the strategy implies a raise in advertising volume, the plan of actions should establish where the advertisements will be placed, the dates and frequency of the advertising campaigns, a set of procedures to evaluate their effectiveness. The actions we plan to take must be clearly formulated, measurable, and the results must be monitored and evaluated.
7. Implementation and control: consist in the series of activities that must be performed in order to run the marketing plan in accordance to the objectives set by the marketer. At this stage, it is critical to gain the support of all members if the organization, especially when the marketing plan is due to affect the organization from its grounds.
8. Performance measurement: constitutes the last but not the less important stage of the marketing plan, since we can achieve only what we can measure. In order to measure the performances achieved through the marketing plan, we need to constantly monitor each previous stage of the plan.
The marketing plan that has a feedback cycle, from 8th stage back to the 4th. That is because sometimes during the planning process, we might need to perform stages 4 to 8 several times before the final plan can be written.
III. The e-marketing plan
The e-marketing plan is built exactly on the same principles as the classical plan. There is no different approach, but there might be some formal differences given by the uniqueness of the internet environment. Many of these differences come from the necessity to ensure a high rate of responsiveness from the customers, since the e-world is moving faster and requires faster reaction from its companies, compared to the traditional offline marketplace.
Even though it is perfectly acceptable and is a common practice to use the 8-stage classic model for the e-marketing plan as well, you might want to consider the simplified version proposed by Chaffey, who identifies four major steps to build the e-marketing plan:
1. Strategic analysis: consists in continuous scanning of the macro- and micro-environment. The accent should fall on the consumers' needs that change very rapidly in the online market, as well as on surveying the competitors' actions and evaluating the opportunities offered by new technologies.
2. Defining strategic objectives: the organization must have a clear vision and establish if the media channels will complement the traditional ones, or will replace them. We must define specific objectives (don't forget to check if they are SMART!) and we must also specify the contribution of the online activities to the organization's turnover.
3. Formulating strategies - we do that by addressing the following essential issues:
- develop strategies towards the target markets;
- positioning and differentiating strategies;
- establish priorities of online activities;
- focus attention and efforts on CRM and financial control;
- formulate strategies for product development;
- develop business models with well-established strategies for new products or services, as well as pricing policies;
- necessity for some organizational restructuring;
- changes in the structure of communication channels.
4. Implementing strategies: includes careful execution of all necessary steps to achieve established objectives. It could refer re-launching of a website, promo campaigns for a new or rewritten site, monitoring website efficiency and many more.
Note: a common strategy to achieve e-marketing objectives is the communication strategy. The steps to built a coherent communication plan will be presented within a further article.
IV. The e-marketing plan (sample titles)
1. Executive Summary
2. Situational Analysis
3. The e-Marketing Objectives
4. The e-Marketing Strategies
5. Technical Issues
Otilia Otlacan is a young certified professional with expertise in e-Marketing and e-Business, currently working as independent consultant and e-publisher. She developed and teach her own online course in "Principles of e-Marketing" and is also a volunteer Economics teacher.
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Selling to Sellers - Utterly Stupid Idea or Not Quite?
The list of promotional tools and resources available to online marketer today is very impressing, and new ones appear almost every day, each fancier and more sophisticated than ever. Almost all of them however are touched (some will even say "cursed") by a sort of the original sin. After all, after SPAM became criminal offence and as the result direct email marketing became all-but-impossible, the only people who see your offer are those who are also trying to sell something. Every thinking person involved in the Internet marketing must have noticed this disturbing fact. Most marketers evidently try to forget, after having classified it as some modern version of the ancient Achilles and the Hare paradox - intellectually sound perhaps, but not really applying to the real world. Other escape into "niche" markets where you sell to "normal people" i.e. not-marketers. Which of course is a perfectly valid and often profitable option. But is it really THE ONLY rational solution? Is it really not possible to sell to other marketers and be successful in that? In my opinion this "selling to sellers" is not at all as absurd as many people believe. It's simply different. And I often wonder why so little has been told about this difference by the experts. Because to me it seems to be the most important aspect of your marketing, the most important initial decision: "Will I be trying to sell things to people at large? Or perhaps will I concentrate on selling tools, resources and information to marketers?". And even the obviously important question of tangible vs. intangible merchandises doesn't seem to me more crucial. There are two main branches of Internet marketing. They are, as I will soon try to prove, very different but none of them is "absurd", "stupid", or by definition unprofitable. Of course, there are many more branches. Whether you're selling tangible or intangible goods is perhaps equally important. I don't know. In any case it's much more obvious and widely understood. (That's probably because selling of tangible goods is as old as the humanity itself, and in it the tested methods of the post-order selling still basically rule, though of course adapted to the virtual reality.) Let's now give those two categories some short, simple names for the use of this text. How about "X marketers" (from eXternal) and "N marketers" (from iNternal)? The X marketers will be those selling to the "world at large", and N marketers will be those selling to fellow marketers. Now, an explanation is needed. When you start your marketing career you don't usually "decide" whether you want to be X or N marketer. It's mostly determined by the promotional tools you have access to at the beginning. If you start without any investments, or only with little ones, you will be using opt-in lists, traffic exchanges, FFA pages and similar resources. Then, by their very nature you start promoting to people who see those ads, and who are those people? Of course they are other marketers using the same tools! You have become an N marketer without even giving this issue much thought. (It can be noted that you are an N marketer trying to sell to other N marketers. Selling to X marketers seems a much more difficult matter, for they don't use the same promotional tools, or at least not in the same extent. You will need to be somewhat of a Guru to start selling to those people! No doubt there's lots of common between those two branches. After all "the money is in the list", and the really big profits come from back-selling to people who have already bought from you, are satisfied, trust you and therefore are willing to buy from you more. This part of your business will be fairly similar, no matter if you send to marketers or non-marketers. There are also important differences of course. If it wasn't so our distinction would have little meaning and so the this article would have no meaning. But those differences are very visible. let's start with the language itself. If you are an N marketer and are successful, have a list of many thousands happy clients and so on -- then you will be soon called a "Guru". If, on the other hand, you're enormously successful in selling let's say 2' x 3' stainless-steel widgets (or ebooks on painless, well-fed & lazy slimming for that matter), which of course means that you are an X marketer, then, even if you have thousands of faithful clients with deep pockets, instinctively reaching for their credit Platinum cards whenever they hear your name... Well, you will of course be admired and envied, not to mention rich, but you won't be called a Guru! You might be called something like "a Great Salesman", which is not too bad of course, but it's not the same,is it? Another difference is that in N marketing you don't usually speak much about "niches". Selling memberships in credit based opt-in lists from some external point of view can be seen as much "niche marketing" as selling, let's say... polishing-wax for pet anacondas. Not true? But I personally have never heard this term used in this context. The most important differences are however in how X's and N's find their clients in the first place. Or sometimes how they let themselves to be found by them. This is not just a play with words, as search engines do exactly that -- they let people find your offer, don't they? There are of course many different types of search engines and similar systems ("normal" search engines, Pay Per Click search engines, directories etc.) but from the viewpoint of the potential client they basically do the same thing. And for the X type marketer they are nowadays one of the very few available means of promotion. Of course it's in large part because they are very powerful tools, providing you with highly targeted hits. If you're able to get high position on those search engines that really matter (and don't get bankrupt on the way, as they tend to be costly) you're almost there. Add some off-line promotion and you're on your way to become The Great Salesman. (Of course all other aspects of your business also must be done right.) If however you have decided that selling to sellers doesn't sound so absurd or pointless as it is often presented, then your options are much more numerous. Which is a good thing of course, though your competition also has the same options, so it's not an unmixed blessing. You must show your offer to marketers, so you need to show it where marketers are looking for offers. Why should they be looking? There are two main reasons. The first reason is that they simply are forced to look at your offers. How? Why? By whom? It's simply that many, if not most, of the methods of online promotion available today base on the principle reciprocality. Which in this context means: "I will take a look at yours if you agree to take a look at mine". Yes, of course, you don't always have to actually look at those offers. Often you can pay the service to show your offers to others and ignore theirs. Still, the people who will see your offer will be those who want to show theirs to the world. (Of course they don't necessarily need to be commercial offers, they can be sites devoted to hobbies, charities, private or group obsessions etc. But they all want to SHOW people something rather than SEE somebody else's offer.) Does anything positive result from this fact? And, to pose a much broader question: does the marketer trying to sell to sellers (N marketer in our terminology) have any advantages over the one trying to sell to non-marketers (X marketer)? My answers would be: YES and YES. Why? There are a few reasons. Some of them pretty trivial though not without importance, like the fact that marketer usually is much more exposed to contact with offers from online businesses. Marketer also has some needs that can possibly be satisfied by buying things online. Two sorts of needs in fact. Firstly, the same needs that everybody else has. Secondly, specific needs related to Internet marketing. By being rather more exposed to Internet ads and offers than an average person, more used to it and understanding it better, marketer would probably buy more things online. But the other type of needs is far more important here. Now for the second type of needs. Marketer will need marketing tools, resources, information... These things change and develop in an enormous pace. This is of course a truism but it's absolutely true. If you're able to quickly find new promotional tools, opportunities and/or information on Internet marketing, you will be in position to sell (more or less directly, we will not plunge here into discussing downlines and referrals) these information - for after all it is exactly information! - to other marketers. I personally see no reason why marketers should be less receptive to this sort of information than average person. In fact they are probably much more receptive, as they know perfectly well how much in their personal lives depends on those tools, information and opportunities. It is probably not true that whole 95% of people trying to earn online is not earning any money, but it must be obvious that most marketers still have not found their way of doing business online and there's no reason to believe that this situation ever radically changes. So it's not only information on new available services and opportunities that is sought after, and therefore sellable. In order to be successful in this sort of business, where there's so much available information, potential chances and risks, and so little road-signs that can be fully trusted, one needs to find their own way. Way of doing business online. Human life being as short as it is, with most often very limited finances (or you wouldn't spend your time in front of the monitor with uncertain result, would you?), people who still haven't found the right method and attained real success in online business will need a "recipe", or, perhaps better, a successful person to help them -- a teacher, or even perhaps what the Americans call "the mentor". (There's this old joke about some American children asking their parents to pay them tree-climbing lessons, but Internet marketing without qualified help is a dreary and very risky thing to do.) If you already are successful, then being the N marketer you have serious advantages. One of them, perhaps the most important, is that you only deal with one (big, that's true) issue: online marketing. As X marketer you would need to handle both marketing itself and the market niche you're in. This fact has some further interesting effects. For example this that by attaining success as N marketer you're becoming a Guru, or "almost a Guru", and this time I'm using this term without irony. What I mean is simply that you've become an accomplished expert in your field, which of course is Internet marketing. While if you attait even the biggest success in selling widgets online, you will be a "Great Expert In Selling Widgets Online". Which means that you will be generally seen as a crossing between "widgets expert" and "marketing expert". Nobody will be certain how good you are in any of those two parts of your activity! Effect of which will be that your success will be much harder to duplicate! You will have much more difficulty in teaching people your tested business methods. If they are not going to sell widgets like yourself, nobody can be completly sure it's the best marketing practice that you're teaching. And the widget niche may be too small to accomodate many new players. It will be a totally different matter with general marketing knowledge that you obtain practicing N marketing. One special advantage that N marketing has is something that I personally call "self-propelling money machines". So far they are not very numerous, at least those that work smoothly and bring tons of money without constant need for adjustments and pushing. But there are some, pretty successful. And their will be more. What are those self-propelling money machines? They are smart combination of promotional resources with selling. One could say that they are resources that sell themselves, automatically. The simpler form cosists of just two main parts: the Lead Generating Module (more often multiple Resources) that are constatly being sold by something that can be called the Selling Module to the leads they generate. One program that I remember that worked like that was CommisionSpyder. In another, more advanced, version is probably best represented by the new "Explosive" ebook by Stephanie L. Woolford, a very successful online marketer. (This ebook can be for example found on http://ebiz-guru.com.) Here one can three conceptual modules: the Lead Generating Module, the Selling Module, and an ebook (that can be either free or paid) that ignites the whole process. I'm not sure I managed to describe the idea clearly enough, but it can be understood when seen in action. Ebooks are supposed to be the almost-perfect business and in near future they may really become that. If we assume that this statement is true, we can say probably risk an opinion that X marketers have greater chance of publishing a competent book on topics related to their chosen niche they know lots about, while N marketers seem to have much greater chance of publishing purely marketing ebook, "viral" ebooks, and ebooks of the sort mentioned in previous paragraph included. Which seems to be another advantage of N marketing. So after all Selling to Sellers may not be so stupid idea, wouldn't you agree?
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