Small business guide to marketing planning part 2: situational analysis

SWOT signpostIn Part 1 of our guide to successful marketing planning we discussed the importance of putting time aside to plan your marketing for the year ahead.  We looked at the SOSTAC model as a simple and effective framework to follow when creating a marketing plan for your online business.  Part 2 of our guide looks at situational analysis in more detail. Situational analysis is the  first step in putting together a useful and relevant marketing plan.

Situational Analysis : Where are you now?

Before you rush headlong into creating your marketing plan for the year ahead, you need first to have a thorough understanding of where your business currently stands. Without this knowledge you are unlikely to be able to formulate a successful marketing strategy or steer your marketing activity in the direction it needs to go in order to support your overall business goals. Carrying out a situational analysis will provide you with a solid base from which to build the rest of your plan around.

Situational analysis essentially involves reviewing your internal and external environment through carrying out various useful analysis exercises. Including:

  • Customer Insight
  • SWOT
  • PESTEL
  • Competitor Analysis

Customer Insight

Customers should be the central focus of any marketing. Understanding your customer’s characteristics, behaviours and needs is fundamental to whether your business succeeds or fails long-term. Only through having a thorough understanding of your customers can you deliver what they want and achieve customer satisfaction.

Gathering as much data as you can about your customers is important. This could be through quantitative data such as demographics from registration forms, online behaviour from web analytics or more qualitative research such as feedback from social media interactions or lifestyle questionnaires. The more information you have the more you will be able to segment your customers into target markets with shared characteristics and offer more relevant and personalised communications, which in turn is more likely to lead to a higher conversion rates.

SWOT

A SWOT analysis involves looking at your internal environment by  identifying your businesses strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats provided by your external environment. A simple SWOT matrix like the image below  is a useful way to list them : 

SWOT matrix

Performing a SWOT enables you to identify and compare your key strengths and weaknesses alongside opportunities and threats from the external environment. This way you can ascertain the areas you are strong, the areas you can potentially improve, opportunities to exploit and threats you need to manage. Essentially it is about taking advantage of the strengths and opportunities which are going to help you achieve your objectives and identifying and managing any weaknesses or threats that may hinder you achieving your objectives.

PESTEL

A PESTEL analysis looks in more detail at the influences of the surrounding external environment and is a great exercise to get you thinking about external factors you may not have previously considered. PESTEL stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal – obviously some factors will have more of an impact than others:

  • Political – monitoring legislations from national and international governments is important. For example Government’s approaches to the Internet and its use could have a huge bearing on how online businesses operate.
  • Economic – economic factors from different countries can have a wide-reaching impact on the spending power of both individual consumers and organisations – for example what effect might a steep rise in interest rates or changes in exchange rates have on you or your customers?
  • Social – What social trends are occurring? For example the last few years have seen a significant growth in the older generation going online – what opportunities might that offer your business?
  • Technological – changes in the technological environment are often rapid and can have a knock on effect on your business. For example the massive rise in m-commerce has made it imperative that online business are multi-device friendly.
  • Environmental – Ecological and environmental factors may affect how a company operates. For example consumer pressure for fairtrade, sustainable and ethically produced goods may offer opportunities but could also drive up costs?
  • Legal – changes in law can effect how  your  company has to operate. For example how would changes to the data-protection act change how you collect and store customer information?

Once you have brainstormed all the relevant external factors, you can then classify them as high, medium or low impact and identify whether they are a potential opportunity or threat that needs to be managed.

Competitor Analysis

Keeping abreast of what your competitors are doing is of paramount importance as it enables you to gain competitor intelligence that can be fed into your strategy and planning. Competitor analysis is simply the  process of monitoring assessing your competition. We’ve examined competitor analysis in detail in our posts Getting To Know Your Competitors and Competitor Benchmarking – How to Compare Competitors Online, so take a moment to look at these posts as they’ll help you identify your competitor landscape and show you how to gain competitor insight through digital analysis.

Spending some time thinking about and indeed, carrying out some of the analysis we’ve discussed will help ensure that the foundation of any strategy or planning you are undertaking is an accurate reflection of you businesses current situation. It will make certain that your marketing objectives and strategy  are all pointing in the right direction to grow your business and support your business goals. In Part 3 of marketing planning we’ll be looking at  SMART objectives and formulating a marketing strategy.

SWOT signpost image courtesy of Scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

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Small business guide to marketing planning : part 1

marketing plan conceptWelcome to 2014. It’s the start of a brand new year and now is the time to start planning your marketing activity for the year ahead.  

We realise it’s not always easy to discipline yourself to put time aside for planning. Small business owners often have to juggle multiple roles, and planning can feel like it’s just one more thing to add to the bottom of a long of list of priorities – and before you know it you’re already halfway through the year. However, we firmly believe that putting some time aside now to plan your small business marketing strategy for the year ahead is well and truly worth the time and effort you put in.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at each of the elements that make up a successful marketing plan in more detail. First though we’ll look at why creating a marketing plan is so important for SME’s.

Why a usable marketing plan is so important for small businesses

Spending time planning your year ahead will actually help you focus on the areas that will help drive your business forward. By the end of the process you should have a relevant, useful working document that you can refer to time and time again over the course of the year. A good marketing plan will:

  • give your business direction through creating clear goals and objectives
  • help you to better understand your customers, online environment and competitors
  • help you put your resources and budget in the right places
  • provide a marketing strategy and plan of action for the year ahead
  • give you benchmarks by which to measure your performance.

How to write a marketing plan

How formal and structured you maker your marketing plan is  up to you. It  will depend on your business and the time and resources you have available. However at the very least you should consider and each of the areas we’ve outlined below as they’ll help you formulate your strategy and marketing activity for the coming year.

There are plenty of useful marketing planning models – marketers all  have their own particular favourites. In this post we’ll be using SOSTAC as it is a simple, useable framework to structure your plan around.  The SOSTAC model was created by Paul Smith in the 1990’s and is still one of the most widely used and popular models for marketing planning.

SOSTAC marketing planning model:

Situation Analysis – where are we now?  This is where you review your current environment to give you a better idea of where your business currently stands – what the current opportunities and threats are.  Situation analysis involves undertaking some marketplace, customer and competitor analysis enabling you to gain a better insight into your current situation and help you focus on where you want to be.

Objectiveswhere do we want to be? Setting clearly defined goals and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives will enable you to focus your marketing strategy to support your overall business strategy and business objectives. For example, if growing your online sales by x% is one of your business objectives this year then a key marketing objectives is likely to focusing on increasing traffic to your website.

Strategyhow do we get there? Your marketing  strategy essentially defines how you will achieve the marketing objectives you have set out. For example how you will position yourself in the market place and differentiate yourself from your competitors, and how you will segment and target your market.

Tactics exactly how do we get there? Tactics are simply the tools you use to achieve your objectives and support your marketing strategy. Tactics are essentially based around the 7ps of the marketing mix (product, promotion, price, place, people, process and physical)

ActionsWhat is our plan? Actions are the specific details of the tactics you have decided upon –  essentially who, when and how you intend to implement them. This often involves putting together of schedule of actions, budgets, timeframes and responsibilities.

Controlmeasuring success?  Control is how you intend to monitor the performance and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing, using measurements like web analytics, customer feedback, sales, conversion rates and so on.

We’ll be looking at each of these elements in more depth over the coming few weeks so by the end of the process you should be able to create a useful marketing plan that supports your overall business objectives and gives direction to your marketing activity over the coming year.

Marketing Plan Book image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
 

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment

Online objectives – drive traffic, generate new customers,  retain existing customers,