We’ve just come out of planning season for many organizations. To support our customers we’ve been reviewing their plans. When we conduct these reviews we’re evaluating a number of aspects, such as how well the plan is aligned to the business, the measurability and performance targets of the plan, and whether the plan is focused on creating value for the customers and the organization. One of the characteristics we examine is the analysis supporting the plan.
With all the energy around data, analytics, and models to support the function of Marketing and its purpose to create value, you might be surprised to learn that the analysis section of many of the marketing plans we receive is pretty lean.
What do we mean by analysis? Analysis, the detailed examination and interpretation of “elements” and “structures” in order to make sense of them to support making good decisions. Simply put, analysis helps determine what course of action is needed. It is the basis for strategy and the foundation of the organization’s outcomes and Marketing’s objectives. It provides the beacon for your marketing programs.
How to Get Started: Gap Analysis
Typically analysis begins with defining the “gaps.” The purpose of gap analysis is to discover the difference between the current level of performance and the performance that is actually required. This analysis should include understanding what is causing the difference, or what is referred to as the gap. Once you understand the gap in performance you can formulate a strategy to address it. Armed with the strategy and performance target, you can decide what data, metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you will need to support addressing, monitoring and closing the “gap.”
Marketing should be proficient in three areas of analysis when helping the organization develop its marketing strategy:
- Competitive analysis
- Industry analysis
- Customer analysis
Each of these may require you to conduct research so you can determine what, if any gaps exist. What’s the bare essentials for each of these?
- Competitive analysis should focus on understanding what you competitors offer, how they position their services/products, who they are targeting and their go-to-market strategy. Study your top three to four competitors to see what language they use to market their company and products. See if you can determine what their value proposition is and whether you believe they can defend it (with proprietary technology, patents, monopoly market share, etc.). On a chart, map out your competitors core competencies versus yours so that differentiation or sameness becomes apparent.
- Industry analysis should explore the various verticals and/or markets to identify trends and opportunities. This will require you to investigate the state of each vertical/market in terms of size, growth, challenges and outlook. Give some thought as to how these trends will affect your company over the next three to five years and even beyond. Combine your competitive information with your market and industry trends analysis to look for new growth opportunities.
- Customer analysis requires stepping into your customers shoes to learn what problems they are trying to solve and why, how the various available solutions do or don’t solve the problem and what they think and feel about these solutions, their buying criteria and process, and their supplier preferences and requirements. Talking with current customers (your advisory board is a good starting point) and reviewing your win/loss analysis will help you discern what your customer think about and value about your organization, solutions, and capabilities. Only customers can tell you why they selected your organization and if your organization has delivered.
Your main purpose in performing this analysis is to understand:
- Your best opportunities for growth
- What it takes to take advantage of these opportunities
- What hurdles you might encounter, and
- Your best options for addressing and overcoming these hurdles
The analyses you’ve conducted enables you to uncover the core value that your company offers and which solutions your customers and prospects will want to buy. At a minimum, in addition to clarifying your gaps and providing guidance, it should help clarify:
- What problem your customers want to solved and the magnitude of the problem
- What you offer that only your company/solution can provide to solve the problem
- What makes your offering clearly superior to any alternative
Once you’ve completed the analysis and identified the primary value, determine whether you can support your top value across every part of the company. If not, fix the gaps. Whether you’re the CMO or a team member, value creation is the primary focus of your efforts and investments.
By working from the perspective of value creation, you will be better able to differentiate your company from the competition. Armed with the results of your analyses, you will be able to develop a customer-centric defendable, sustainable, and measurable strategy(ies) and associated objectives. It is critical to define a strategy that enables growth and value creation.
This level of analysis is an investment of time and resources. It takes data. It doesn’t take fancy-dancy analytics or tools. If you’re short on time or internal resources, secure external help. The future of your organization and your company depends on it.
How do you justify the investment? The analysis and associated recommendations should help your organization accelerate the sales cycle, improve adoption, win, and referral rates, and increase your share of wallet. All valuable ways to measure Marketing’s contribution to the business.