You're in position with tunnel-like vision, focusing on nothing but what's coming next. It could be generously described as a maniacal stare. You're in the racing zone and everything else fades away. In your pre-race plan did you decide to be aggressive or play it smart? Are you entering the race as an underdog or the defending leader? Is it about this race or setting up the next one?
Whether you are perched on the ramp at the start of a race or planning the details of a marketing strategy, these big questions are often surprisingly similar. Embarking on strategic development for your company and its brands, products or services is never as simple as it sounds and it can be a daunting task. Whether you're a long-shot underdog or defending champion, soap box derby racing has an interesting correlation to building a marketing plan.
Build your race strategy ahead of time and you’ll have more success during the race.
If you are a start-up or an established market leader, there are many variables that come into play. Just as in racing, the conditions and contenders change. Regardless of how much planning you do, you can never be prepared for everything in your business. You may ask, "Why should I bother planning at all with so much out of my control?" Don’t be discouraged. During a race, you can’t control the weather, lane selection, who you are racing against, etc. However, you can control your race strategy and its implementation.
Planning ahead and focusing on what you can control, including elements of production, distribution, pricing and service offerings, allows you to be more responsive and proactive when addressing events or elements beyond your control.
Answer the hard questions honestly.
When deciding to enter a race or developing a marketing strategy, answering any combination of these questions will help you create or evolve your marketing strategy. This means answering them honestly and realistically to be effective.
- Do we focus on the short-term, here and now?
- How and when should long-term objectives factor in?
- Who is my target audience and how do I most effectively reach them?
- Does the company, products or services have any brand awareness? What is the brand strength, if any at all?
- In the competitive landscape, how do we compare?
- What is the impact of the current (and future) economic stabilities?
- Are new products or services being introduced into the marketplace?
- How much can I afford to spend, or how much can I afford NOT to spend?
This is the critical starting point and represents only a handful of sample questions that must be asked and answered. You are now one step closer to developing a comprehensive marketing plan.