In order to provide you with the highest quality insights and practical advice, we have decided to interview some of the industry marketing leaders to discuss the best practices of marketing planning and to get their point of view on the job and its challenges. When we think about who to start with, one name quickly comes to mind.
Efrat Ravid is an accomplished marketing executive with a track record of success building and executing brand strategies. With 15 years of experience in senior executive marketing positions in tech companies, such as ClickTale, ClickSoftware, Sophos, SolidWorks and ContentSquare, where she currently serves as the Chief Marketing and Strategy – Americas. Efrat was an obvious choice as she has vast experience in planning, optimizing and executing marketing plans.
1. What are your biggest challenges regarding marketing planning?
In my industry, the two main challenges in marketing planning are timing and budget allocation. In terms of timing, people talk about one year marketing plans but the market, trends and people are changing at a much quicker pace. A one year plan can be thrown out of the window after a couple of months. The way we tackle this is by constantly changing the plan and execution based on these changes in the market, trends and people.
In terms of budget allocation, we are a smaller company compared to our competition, and as a strategic decision we have decided to invest more of our resources in the product we offer and less in the way we market it. This puts us in a situation where our competition is outspending us and, by pure dollar value, they have more access to new companies and people. This is actually one of my favorite challenges because it forces us to be very creative and focused in order to get the same audience with much fewer resources.
2. How often do you adjust your marketing plan after you’ve initially created it?
My marketing plan is adjusted every month. At the end of each month I have a meeting with my team where we go over what we did, what results we got and what we learned. Based on this conversation we identify what efforts are proving themselves in terms of ROI and what efforts should be either postponed, modified or canceled. The marketing plan is then adjusted accordingly for the following month, and so on. Having said that, it is important to leave room open for flexibility. If an opportunity arises mid-month which was in no way part of your plan, you want to be able to assess the pros and cons and have the capacity to go for it.
3. What marketing channel do you think is the most underrated today in the marketing scene?
I wish I had one answer for you, but it really depends on many things such as target audience, the product you are selling, if it’s an easy-to-buy low cost or a higher cost that requires implementation and long term commitment, if the decision makers are executives or department leaders, and more. It’s important to use the correct channel for every initiative. In my career I have marketed to both ends of the spectrum, and I am a huge believer in marketing that provides real value to customers.
Don’t sell – instead, help potential customers with their task today and build a relationship based on trust. If your product is good and solves an existing need, they will become customers and buy from you. In other words, offer a memorable experience that people can connect to. Most companies understand today that in order to win, they must improve their customer experience, which is why ContentSquare recently developed the UX Index, a free analysis tool that helps companies understand how they rate against industry benchmarks and provides step by step improvements to implement.
4. What are your top 5 tips for startups to get started with their marketing planning?
- Be open to change and adjustments – you are not writing with permanent markers!
- Talk to customers: listen and learn how they consume information and build your plan around them.
- Do not rely too much on what you or your competition did last year – last year is old news and you should be focusing on new strategies.
- Be creative and don’t be afraid to try at least 25% of your initiatives on new and crazy ideas – even if your boss says it will not work (usually she/he is not your target audience).
- Be agile when planning, executing and analyzing.
5. What is the most common marketing mistake you see?
The two mistakes I see the most are not talking enough with customers, and not involving them in the marketing effort. Given that you have a product you believe in, the most valuable asset a company has is the customers. Working closely with them, and empowering the entire marketing team to collaborate with them, will elevate the brand and help you market to their colleagues and followers in a direct and trustworthy way.
I have learned (and am constantly reminded) that I don’t have all the answers and that my predictions on what works and what doesn’t are limited because of constant and continuous change. The best way to stay ahead is to keep trying out new ideas and initiatives in small budgets at a time. If they fail, try a different approach. If they succeed, continue measuring and developing the success and increase the budget with an eye on ROI. In a nutshell, try new ideas all the time. Don’t be afraid to fail, set up expectations and jump in head first.
Do you agree with Efrat? What are your best practices when planning your marketing activities? Let us know in the comments below.