Strategic Marketing Plan Season 2, Element 1: Creating Awareness

If you don’t build it, they won’t come. What are you waiting for?

The first step in the marketing process is to build awareness of your products and services into your target audience. If your customers don’t know you’re there, they can’t buy your product. They need to learn who you are, what you do, and how your products will benefit them. Get the word out that your product is an option. Or perhaps even a necessity.

In Season 1, I worked with Bex and Caleb of Big Wood Ski to define the parameters of who their customer is and how best to reach them, broadcasting the message about the exceptional features of these tailor-made wood skis. In Season 1, Element 5 of the Strategic Marketing Program, we set up four personas, detailing the percentage of the Big Wood Ski market each persona might occupy and what channels work best to reach each one.

Realizing they were aimed in the right direction, Big Wood Ski also felt that the sales percentages they originally expected from each persona in their market should change. We’ve redone the chart from that post, basing our figures in dollars, as opposed to pairs of skis. To recap the stats, we took the total ski hardgoods market’s $866 million sales figure and carved out the five percent attributed to the boutique ski market, rounding it to $45 million. Big Wood Ski is focused on earning five percent of that market, aiming at $2.25 million in sales over the next five years.

Here’s the new breakout featuring those changes:

For Big Wood Ski, awareness will be built differently than most companies. They will employ highly selective placement of displays in locations where their target customers will most likely notice them: private airports in desirable destinations, high-end ski shops in elite ski areas like Aspen and Deer Valley, displays in shops at locations like the Montage or the St. Regis, and displays in art galleries, as their product is truly functional art. In all awareness-building campaigns, Bex and Caleb will feature brand over product until firmly established in the market, as discussed in the Season 1, Element 9 post on brand architecture.

They will utilize interactive, dynamic, and informative point-of-sale displays that capture the privilege of owning a pair of Big Wood Skis. They will look for ways to engage the senses and deliver sight, sound, touch, and scent experiences to their customers, as described in the Season 1, Element 12 post on programs and tactics.

In this process, it is important to survey the market to identify the top categories in aided, as well as unaided, awareness. What do your customers think of your brand? Do they know the top brands of handcrafted wood skis? Do they include Big Wood Ski in that group without prompting?

Creating surveys with both aided and unaided questions, either with sophisticated software programs like those offered by Adobe, for large companies, or with effective programs like Survey Monkey, for smaller firms like the following, will work to pinpoint your awareness campaign:

Using both inbound and outbound marketing strategies, also known as “push” and “pull” marketing, Big Wood Ski will implement its awareness campaign with precision. Push marketing, or outbound, should be fortified with strategic pull marketing, or inbound, marketing tactics.

Pull marketing brings customers to you with questions leading to conversion. Already aware of your product through social media, websites, blogs, word of mouth, and retailers, inbound customers know who you are and what you do. They simply need details to reinforce the buy.

Push customers are less engaged and thus need a little more aggressive approach. Establishing brand awareness by creating a brand position that accurately reflects your company and product, and by delivering on the “big idea” your product promises, will make you a known entity:

These two strategies are inextricably intertwined. If push isn’t doing the job, pull suffers. Unless your product is extremely rare with very high demand, you’ll need to introduce push to pull and help them work well together. Wikipedia offers a good discussion of the push/pull strategy.

It is also important to examine the awareness plan to ensure it accomplishes your objectives, as discussed in Season 1, Element 4. Recall that objectives should be specific, measurable, actionable, and time related. Big Wood Ski’s primary objective stated their intent to penetrate the high-end luxury wood ski market, measured by market share and revenues, within the next five years. Challenging? Of course. Doable? Yes. Your plan may not be quite as aggressive. Or perhaps it will be even more so.

There are lots of moving parts here, and time is of the essence. Armed with discipline and drive, however, setting awareness goals and implementing a plan to climb all over them, achieving and even exceeding your numbers, is what this is all about. Ready? Go.

Next up: retention and loyalty