Developing a marketing strategy

Any organisation intent on future growth needs to implement a strategic marketing plan. Unless careful planning goes into the blueprint, a great deal of energy is likely to be consumed for very little return.

These steps are designed to give you practical advice, helping your organisation to be target specific and achieve tangible results. It is not a marketing plan. It allows you to draw up a strategy which will assist you in putting together your own marketing plan.

At the end of the steps, you should have a foundation on which to scrutinise your current business, assess your standing in the marketplace and build future growth. Every question in the exercises are relevant and need to be answered candidly to achieve a clear outcome.

When completed, this will be a working document. For that reason, it is important to nominate someone in your firm to ‘drive’ the plan.

Complete the following steps to develop your marketing plan:

  1. Setting objectives
  2. What is your operating philosophy?
  3. Identify the factors that impact your firm
  4. Clients
  5. Identifying influences
  6. Differentiating yourself
  7. Summarising your work so far
  8. Defining your market
  9. Self Analysis – Taking a closer look
  10. Monitoring Performance – How are you going?
  11. Planning your marketing strategy
  12. Achieving your goals

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1. Setting objectives – What do you want to achieve?

Think about and discuss the following

  • Why are we in business?
  • Where does our business stand now?
  • Where do we want to go with our business in the immediate future?
  • What is our ultimate goal?

Download Step 1 worksheet to complete.

You cannot determine the best way to get to a destination unless you know the exact point from which you are coming. Also, you will find the journey far simpler if you have a clear idea of where you want to go and, more importantly, why.Back to top

2. Knowing your business - what is your operating philosophy?

Formulating and communicating a set of operating principles and values to staff and clients is of the utmost importance in the development of your corporate strategy. It is the beliefs and values of staff, or people close to your organisation, which will influence and shape behaviour and attitudes, and to a large extent will determine success or failure.

Download Step 2 worksheet to complete.

Having reflected on what you want to achieve and the philosophy you intend to adopt to achieve it, it is time to look closely at the market in which you intend to work. This is the start of the critical path towards your marketing plan.Back to top

3. Identify opportunitites for your firm

Take a look at your existing clients and the industries they operate in.

Download Step 3 worksheet to complete.

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4. Clients

a) Who are your clients?

The client is the paramount reason for your professional existence. Complete the following step to define your client base

Download Step 4a to define your client base.

b) Undertake an analysis of your top three clients

  • Who are they?
  • What service does your firm provide these clients?
  • How can your firm offer better service in the future?

Download Step 4b to complete the analysis.

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5. External factors that impact your firm

It is important for a firm to identify the people who are impacting, or likely to impact , upon it and whom the firm needs to manage strategically.

These can include not only present clients but prospective clients, other accountancy firms, the media in short, anyone who has power, either now or in the future, to influence your business.

Management of these groups is an essential, but often neglected, part of strategic management.

Ask yourself the following questions

  • Who are the important external influencers on our firm?
  • What is their role, relationship and/or influence of each with your firm?
  • What are the services or interactions provided to or by them?
  • What are their expectations in relation to your firm’s activities and performance?
  • What can your firm do to meet the expectations/needs and effectively manage them?

Download Step 5 and answer the questions

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6. Differentiating Yourself

Key organisational competencies are the specialisations, technologies and the skills that an organisation demonstrates that set it apart from similar organisations.

You know who your clients are, what industries they operate in, and the external factors that influence your firm. What makes you different from your competitors?

Download Step 6 and complete the table.

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7. Summarising your work so far

Combining the information from steps 1-7 will allow you to come up with your strategies for steps 8 and 9.

It is important to identify the internal and external issues, factors and events in your firms operating environment which impact, or are likely to impact on it.

Without identification, a firm will not be able to develop a strategic response to those factors.

Deciding what those factors are is one of the most important decisions - it requires careful thought.

To determine these factors, we need to examine the firm’s

  • STRENGTHS - internal factors which affect the performance of your business.
  • WEAKNESSES- internal factors which affect the performance of your business. \
  • OPPORTUNITIES - external factors
  • THREATS - external factors

Strengths and weaknesses- look at staff, pricing strategy, cost structures and margins, and existing client services.

Opportunities and threats- look at your own resources, market opportunities, competition, external issues and types of threats.

There are other factors which a firm also needs to manage strategically, such as technological change, legal considerations, public perceptions, social and demographic trends and past histories.

These must be factored into your SWOT analysis.

Download Exercise 7 to complete your SWOT.

What does this mean? Take some time to analyse what you have written and discuss the conclusions you can come to from your SWOT analysis.

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8. Defining your market

Definition of the marketplace in which you operate is of primary importance. To assist your clients you must understand their needs and wants.

Understand the ethnic and social make-up of this marketplace, the nuances which drive the market and the specific interests which will impact on your business. Take into account such things as language difficulties, different forms of advertising and greater participation in social events.

TARGET – This is your client base. In other words, the people you are seeking to do business with. Are they local residents needing an accountancy professional, local small business, or the corporate sector? Identify which sector/s of the target market you want to reach.

PRODUCT – Your ‘product’ is the professionalism you impart to clients. This is your sales tool. Clients want this professionalism and knowledge and will look for benefits, features and differences from other similar ‘products’ . Your key to success here is client service. Also, how innovative are you? How good are you at perceiving new opportunities? At interpreting market signals?

AREA – Are you centrally located for the business you wish to attract? Do you have to go to them, or is it easy for them to come to you? Are you making it easy for your clients to buy your services? Do you need to offer more in the ways you communicate with clients, for instance through email. Have you fully understood the demographics of your area? Do you understand the demands of your major ethnic grouping/s .

PROMOTION – How do you advertise your business to existing and potential clients? Are existing clients aware of new services and products? Do they know about new laws and regulations? Have you started a regular newsletter to advise them of changes? What about training seminars?

PRICE – You are a professional organisation, nevertheless each client is seeking value for money. Your business will expand or wither based upon client perception of what you offer. Are you offering a fair service for the rates charged? Do you offer extended terms, discounts for paying early? Quarterly payment? Do your clients have a clear understanding of how your charges are calculated?

Download Step 8 and complete the table.

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9. Analysing your own organisation

In completing the previous steps you have determined your objectives, operating philosophy, influencing factors, clients and points of difference for your organisation.

Take another look at how you want your business to grow in the marketplace. There are many facets to the accountancy profession, so ask yourself what else is affecting your and your clients. Business. For instance, take a look at taxation laws, corporate takeovers, the government and how current or future laws will affect the economy. Do you want to provide a service in these areas, or others?

Download Step 9 and answer the questions.

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10. Monitoring Performance – How are you going?

Identifying Key Performance Areas (KPAs) is a useful way of focussing attention on the most important areas of achievement for the firm. They can provide a framework for dividing the firm into critical areas.

Having identified the firms various Key Performance areas, it is important now to identify the intended outcomes for each of these areas.

Outcomes need to be identified so that the best options or strategies for achieving results can be determined, considering the availability of resources and other constraints.

Many companies simply identify objectives – i.e. things they are aiming to achieve. This does not help the development of a strategic focus. For example:“We want to make more money” or “We want the firm to be well known”.

Stating your planned outcomes allows everyone involved to work towards their achievement and know precisely where the organisation intends to go and how it will get there.

Look back over the Key Performance Areas you have decided upon and write down the specific outcome you plan to achieve on each.

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11. Planning your marketing strategy

By now you should have an idea of how you want your business to grow, your resources and the people you wish to do business with.

The question now is: “How do you reach them?”

There are a great variety of different methods which you can employ to reach your potential client base. Some methods are more effective with certain types of clients than other. Sometimes you may need to use two or more methods in tandem to achieve your aims.

Common methods of marketing readily available to you:

  • Advertising – costly and often hard to determine
  • Client entertaining– helps make face-to-face contact with current and potential clients
  • Direct mail – enables you to get your message direct to targets
  • E-mail – inexpensive form, that reaches your target instantly with your message
  • Events – participation in conventions, exhibitions, trade shows – can increase the profile of your firm
  • Internet website– provides an online reference point for your firm, with potential for exposure to millions.
  • Media relations – using the press to get your message out and create a profile, making submissions to technical and professional publications
  • Networking – attending community/government functions – good for developing contacts
  • Newsletters – in soft or hard copy, email or direct mail, a cost effective way to reach a large audience with your message
  • Presentations – face-to-face marketing with targeted companies or individuals
  • Proposals – unsolicited attempts to gain business from companies where you perceive a need which you can fill.
  • Promotional publications – brochures, and flyers advertising your services. Video may also be used if it is short in duration and well put together.
  • Seminars – opportunities to invite potential clients to watch your expertise at work
  • Sponsorship – helps get your name known. However returns are often hard to evaluate.

When developing a marketing campaign, consider the following:

  • What is your objective?
  • Does your campaign reflect it?
  • Is it saying the right thing, at the right time, to the right person? Do you have a legitimate reason to communicate with this person?

Develop an effective marketing campaign by:

  • Establishing your message
  • Timing it appropriately (Is it year end, or BAS lodgement time?)
  • Building on your previous contact (if any)

Tips for developing a marketing campaign

  • Grab the readers’ ATTENTION
  • Create INTEREST by providing useful information
  • Stimulate DESIRE by offering something customers want OR help them avoid difficulty
  • Make it easy and logical for them to take ACTION
  • Make sure that action provides SATISFACTION

Bearing in mind your list of planned outcomes, make a list of the current clients and beside them the methods you might use to best service them.

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12. Achieving your goals

No matter how hard and fast your plan may seem so far, there is often the need for change. Review on a regular basis what you have written down. Every three months or so take a careful look at the plan and make any necessary changes.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Is the plan on track?
  • What hurdles have we faced so far?
  • Are we making gains?
  • Does the plan need updating?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that what you have in place is concrete. For instance, some staff may have acquired new qualifications, new staff may have joined and their qualifications not added to the plan.

Like this guide, the marketing plan is a working document.

Revisit it regularly, make changes where necessary and don’t forget to discuss the plan and any changes with your staff.

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Article last updated 10 November 2010