|Action Plan and Implementation|
Let's talk about the tactical and implementation issues of your
marketing plan. How do you decide exactly which magazines or newspapers
in which to advertise? What is the difference? This is called your
Media Plan and can actually become a separate, and much more detailed,
document. For this article, we will cover the basics and help give you
an idea of what goes into planning your media advertising and what
should be included in your marketing plan. It's time to get out your
calculator and put on your math hat.
Putting Together Your Media Plan
Your media plan should:
- specify which media you will be using to carry your advertising
message, such as magazines, newspapers, direct mail, Internet, etc.
- detail the specifics, such as which publications
- detail even more specifics, such as which issues, times, dates, etc.
- list the budget for each vehicle
- describe the rationale behind each selection
How do you go about determining those things? First you have to weight your media.
Weighting your Media
your media refers to determining the potential exposures of your
marketing message to your target audience that each of your chosen
media can produce. Basically, by weighting your media, you are trying
to determine how much advertising is enough to reach your objectives.
To do this, you'll come up with a total number of gross rating points.
To do that, you need to understand a little bit about reach, frequency,
- Impressions are the number of times your audience sees your advertising message.
- Reach refers to the number of individuals within
your target market that are exposed to a specific ad over a specific
period of time. This number is expressed as a percentage of your total
- Frequency refers to the number of exposures those individuals got to your specific ad over the same specific period of time.
- To get your Gross Rating Points (GRPs), just multiply the percent reach (% of your total market) by the frequency.
For example, if your marketing strategy is to reach 70% of your
market for a specific campaign, and you know you want to reach them at
least 10 times in order to convince them to act, then you would need a
schedule that would give you 700 GRPs.
Each medium will have a slightly different calculated GRP, so
go through each and determine those numbers before you begin planning
your media schedule. As a general rule, just make sure you are
calculating the percentage of your target audience as a part of the
total circulation, exposure, etc., and then multiply that by the number
of insertions, or ads you run should.
To help you estimate the total GRP needed to reach your sales goals, here are some rules of thumb:
- Try for a reach of 50 to 90+ of your total market.
- Assume it will take at least three exposures for your target audience to act on your offer.
- New products will need more frequency than established products.
- Complex products will need more frequency than simple products.
- Products with a lot of competition will need more frequency.
- An average GRP goal for a typical packaged product is 1,000 to 5,000 in a year.
- An average GRP goal for a service or retail establishment is 2,000 to 10,000 in a year.
- An average GRP goal for business-to-business is 600 to 4,000 in a year.
Determining these numbers isn't easy. There are some resources on
the Web that might help. Check out the last page of this article for
some sites that offer calculators and guidelines.
Other things to consider when planning and scheduling your media include:
- Your media vehicle's Cost per Thousand (CPM).
This is useful because it helps you compare the values of different
vehicles. For example, you may have two publications you are
considering. Both reach your target audience, and all other aspects are
equal. One, however, is more expensive than the other. Determining the
CPM can help you decide which is the better vehicle for your
advertisement. You can get the CPM by dividing the total number of
subscribers that fall into your target market by the cost of running an
ad. This is expressed as the cost per thousand impressions.
- Strive for a good balance of various media. In other words, don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
- Don't forget new media, such as the Internet and other interactive media like CD-ROM.
- Look at the strengths and weaknesses of each medium as it
would effectively carry your marketing message and product positioning.
Some media can't effectively communicate certain information. For
example, a complicated product would not make good use of a billboard
or other "quick" impression media.
- Don't forget to consider the seasonality of your product
and geographic concentrations of your audience when selecting and
scheduling your media.
- Remember that the percentage of your target audience that
a particular media vehicle reaches will not be the number that actually
see your message. Many will skim, change channels, or just miss it. So
keep your expectations realistic in this respect.
Based on the
information and the results you calculate from your media weightings,
you should be able to put together a schedule of advertising,
promotions, and events that will match your goals. There are some
scheduling techniques you should consider when planning media
- Front loading - This refers to heavier advertising for the introduction phase of a new product.
- Heavy-up - This refers to specific times throughout the
year that need heavier advertising (usually timed out with new
introductions, promotions, or increased market activity).
- Flighting - This refers to shorter periods of advertising (three to six weeks) that are followed by periods of no advertising.
- Pulsing - This refers to a regular schedule of on-again/off-again advertising.
- Continuity - This refers to a steady fixed rate of
advertising for continuous exposure (often used to try and even out a
fluctuating buying pattern).
Look at your goals, product seasonality, special events, and other
marketing factors and select the scheduling strategy that would work
best for the situation. Remember, while the different media types can
follow different schedules, you should also consider the added impact
of combining media on the same schedules. It all depends on your
objectives and goals.
Now you need to think
about your marketing budget. No matter how hard you try to be frugal,
you'll probably never have enough marketing funds to really do what you
want. Just remember, you are not alone. Your competitors are probably
facing the same issues you are.
There are three steps you should take when setting your budget.
When you get all three results, set your budget based on comparisons of
- Set your budget based on your plan's goals and objectives and the schedules you have recommended.
- Look at the industry average of marketing dollars spent as
a percent of sales for similar companies in your industry. There should
be data available for the average in your industry. Using this second
method will let you see if your budget appears to be realistic in
comparison to other similar companies. This figure will help you
determine if your budget is too high or low compared to the industry
- Go through a third exercise which involves estimating your
primary competitor's advertising and marketing budget based on what you
know about their activities. This is a good way to help you be more
competitive and possibly gain more market share.
Next, construct your final budget sheets. You should include:
See our sample budget forms on the Marketing Tools page.
- an overview sheet illustrating your total budget
- a breakdown by medium
- a breakdown by product/market
Putting it Together
Now for the
finishing touches of your marketing plan. You should now have the
message and media selected, your scheduling determined, and a budget.
In this section, you'll need to set up some charts to illustrate
everything in your plan. These charts will not only help you present
your plan to the powers that be, but they will also help you implement
Start by putting together a Graphic Media Calendar.
List your media on the left, followed by columns that correspond to the
calendar or fiscal year for which you are planning. In the last column
to the right, summarize the frequency and include the GRPs for each
vehicle. At the bottom of that column, total the GRPs. See our sample Media Calendar and other worksheets on the Marketing Tools page.
Then set up a similar calendar for each media type with the same elements included.
Assignment and Implementation
Compared to implementation, planning is a breeze! It is in this part of
marketing that you call in the reinforcements. It is very important to
schedule the events in your plan and assign responsibilities well in
advance. Use a very large scheduling board, and put it in an easily
viewed spot. Set up a reporting structure with progress reports and
regular communications that will keep your plan on target. Making
deadlines in the marketing world can be critical to the success of your
product (or business).
Magazines typically require insertion orders at least three
months in advance. Press releases for monthly publications should also
follow a three-month lead-time schedule. Newspapers allow shorter lead
times, and so do some other types of publications.
Make sure you know every deadline. Flag them wildly and stay on your toes!
Now, how are you going to make sure the plan is working? Go on to the next page and find out.
Just like in every other facet of life, you have to learn from your
mistakes. The best lessons are learned the hard way. So with that in
mind, how do you know which parts of your marketing plan are actually
generating sales and making your company money?
of your plan should include plans and procedures for tracking each type
of media you are using. And, as a subset of each of those procedures,
you should identify specifically which vehicle within those media
groups is being the most effective. This isn't easy for all mediums,
but for some it's pretty manageable.
Here are some types of media along with ideas for tracking
their effectiveness. The techniques will vary wildly depending on your
product type and market.
- Display advertising - With traditional consumer
publications, tracking can be done through the use of different phone
numbers, special offers (specific to that advertisement or
publication), or reference to a specific department to call for
information. When those calls come in, your call-center staff must be
prepared to record the information so the results can be tallied for
Many trade publications also include Reader Service Cards that
allow the reader to circle a number that corresponds to your ad on a
mail-in postcard in order to get more information about your product or
service. While you may get a lot of junk requests (competitors,
shoppers, or literature collectors), you also can get some good leads.
Keep a record of these leads and follow-up on the final result.
- Direct marketing - With postal mailings, tracking
is relatively simple. Include on the mailing label a code (called a key
code or a source code) that corresponds with the mailing list so you
know which list is producing, and instruct your call-center staff to
record the information by asking the customer for the code. You can
also include customer numbers here and record repeat orders without the
problem of re-entering their information into your customer database.
For telemarketing campaigns, tracking is also relatively simple
since a live person is communicating with the customer throughout the
entire process, in most cases.
- TV or radio ads - These require similar tracking
methods as consumer publications. They can be tracked through the use
of different phone numbers, special offers (specific to that
advertisement) or reference to a specific department to call for
information. Again, when those calls come in, your call-center staff
must be prepared to record the information so the results can be
tallied for that particular spot. Another less exact method, if you're
marketing on a very large scale, is to track immediate sales along with
the timing of the advertisement.
- Internet marketing - Usually, this is easily
tracked because it is based on click-throughs or page impressions. Your
Web administrator should be able to provide reports that indicate the
number of click-throughs that actually led to the purchase of your
product. You may also experience call-in sales as a result of your Web
site. Make sure your call center is aware and records the information
- Promotions - Most closed promotions are
basically "self-tracking" because they require the customer to do
something, such as fill out an entry form (trackable), turn in a
coupon, return a rebate slip (trackable), or log-on to a Web site to
claim a prize (also trackable). Open promotions, such as sales,
require a little more work to track, although they can be tracked in a
general way by noting increased sales for that time period, store,
region, or whatever the parameters of the sale.
- Events - An event is also tricky to track. You know
how many people attended, but do you know how many sales occurred as a
result? You can issue coupons at the event that could be tracked, offer
other special deals, or even allow attendees to join a special club.
You have to be creative in order to track the true sales results of a
A trade show's effectiveness can be tracked by collecting the right
information at the show and following up on it. These results must also
be tallied and recorded.
The tabulated results and customer information is very valuable
information. Make sure you routinely back up the system where this data
is kept and keep copies in safe places. The customer data is extremely
valuable to your future direct-marketing efforts, and must be keyed in
correctly and accurately.
Before your marketing plan is kicked off, make sure you have
the database structure in place to record this information. Use codes
for every level of information so that you can sort by various
specifications. This takes a lot of planning, as well as training for
your staff. Setting up the records with drop-down boxes for selecting
preset information such as product numbers, list codes, publication
codes, or department codes, will make your records much more consistent
Review Your Sales
the effectiveness of your marketing campaign from a product sales
standpoint is critical. Begin the review process early and repeat it
often. You can tweak your plan along the way to eliminate or shift
schedules if you find that some element of the mix is definitely not
working. Don't wait until it's too late.
Review your quarterly performance goals. Check your market
share. Look at your sales figures based on not only the origin of the
sale, but the type of customers as well. In other words, is this an
existing customer, a new customer, or a new customer with a totally
different demographic profile? Are you retaining existing customers, or
are most of your sales coming from new customers? What is your
There are a number of marketing audits not covered in this
article that you can and should perform on an annual basis. For more
information on marketing and related topics, check out the links on the
General Marketing Information