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A good marketing strategy is based on good data. That's why it's important to start the strategic marketing planning process with data about your industry and specific market, and about your customers.

Industry and market data

When your industry is growing, your company is probably growing, too. And, when your industry is starting to trend downward, it's time to update your strategic marketing plan to reduce the impact of your industry contracting. There are several types of data that can provide insights into how your industry is trending: Market analytics for strategic marketing plan mind map
  • Political and other external influences
  • Macro economic trends
  • Industry size and growth
  • Competitor size and growth

Customer behavior data

Most companies have an abundance of data about their customers that goes unused, such as:
  • Web analytics data on how visitors perform on your Web site
  • Customer purchase history on which products are re-ordered with other products, and which types of customers buy which products
  • Won-lost data on which prospects did not purchase from your company, and whether a competitor received the order
In addition to the internal data about customers, data needs to be gathered on non-customers, too. Unless your company's market share is over 50%, more people buy from competitors than from you. This means non-customers hold the key to your company's future growth, so research the market to learn how to meet the needs of those potential customers. There are two ways to obtain this market research data:
  • Primary research - Hire a market research firm to contact a representative sample of the market.
  • Secondary research - Find market research that's been published about the company's markets or about a market segment.
Despite their names, secondary research is done first, and primary research is done second.

Online monitoring

Buyers are now shifting from relying on manufacturers for product information to participating in online conversations about a company's products.

Marketers now need to track user generated content on all of the social media sites, forums, blogs, video sharing sites, and other ways the Internet distributes information about your company and brands.

Monitoring these online conversations can help you understand changes in customer behavior and product purchase patterns.

Turning data into Information

Lots of data by itself doesn't help in creating a marketing strategy. What's needed is a good analysis of the data. In other words, information on how potential customers feel, think, and act. And, it helps to create a good mind map showing customer behavior.

Good market researchers are skilled in the art of spotting patterns in the data and highlighting significant relationships between marketing activities and purchase behavior. In other words, market researchers turn data into the information that's needed to make sound marketing strategy decisions.

Gathering data on the industry, market, and your customers is the first step in formulating an effective strategic marketing plan.

Are You an Analytics Leader?

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No matter how much you use marketing analytics, you could probably be doing more.

Mila D'Antonio at Think Customers: The 1to1 Blog reports that Garther, the consulting and analyst firm, says that many of the largest companies will miss opportunities because of under funding their analytical processes:

Gartner reports that through 2012 more than 35 percent of the top 5,000 global companies will fail to make insightful decisions about significant changes in their business markets due to under investment in the information infrastructure and business user tools.

And SAS, the statistics and analytics company, divides the market into eight levels of analytics. Take a look at the list to see where you are. Then, look down the list to see how to expand and improve your use of marketing analytics.

Market segmentation is a key technique in targeting marketing messages - and maximizing ROI.

And, the use of Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, is making segmentation more specific and more valuable.

I've written a feature article that covers the use as Web analytics tools in combination with traditional market segmentation techniques. Take a look at Segmenting Your Market with Web Analytics.

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