you have results. And now what?

If you’re here, it means that you’ve finished your project and are now the proud owner of something of value, either the results of your research project, a product or service for the business you’ve been working with or your own brand new product or company. First, take some time to celebrate your accomplishments and see how far you’ve come…

… Now that we’re done celebrating, let’s get back to work! You’re probably wondering what the next step is. That really depends on what you’ve accomplished at the end of your project: is it a product or business that is ready to go to the market or some interesting results that you want to share with the world (or at least with your peers, other academics or industry actors)? For the first option, we recommend developing a marketing strategy, while for the latter you should work on a communication plan to help identify what you want to communicate, to whom, how and when to do it.

define a marketing strategy

If your goal is to position a (new) product, business or even your university on the market, you’ll probably need to work on a marketing strategy. This is a strategic document that outlines how, what and to whom to communicate about your product or business and – more importantly – why people should know about it. A marketing strategy is typically part of a business plan, so you can use all of the elements you have worked on until now to prepare it. The internet is full of great information and templates for marketing strategies, so feel free to research and use other methods that fit your needs, we leave you with ten tips we consider relevant.

1: Review your market research

Remember that market research or business challenge you did back in step 1? It’s now time to back to get it out of the closet and look at it once again. If you haven’t conducted any market research yet, it’s a good time to do so as it will help you to better understand where your product or business best fits in the market in which you (want to) operate.

2: Refine your value proposition

‘Where do I know this term from?’, you might be thinking! Let us refresh your memory: it is the central element of the BMC you made back in step 3. If you don’t remember it, go back and read again what it is and why it’s important. We’ll wait…

You’re back? Good! Because now that you’ve spent so much time on your product or project, your idea about what makes it unique (and ultimately what people are willing to pay for/use) might have changed. If it hasn’t, that’s great, and you can move to the next step, although the chances are that working your initial idea into a product or business has shifted your view slightly or completely. That’s great too! But it does mean settling into a new value proposition.

3: Describe your product

We’re sure that by now you know everything that there is to know about your product. But does everyone else? Can you describe it in a clear and simple way to potential users? If not, now’s the time to work on this, because if they cannot understand what it is, how they can use it and why is useful for them, the chances are they won’t be interested. There are many ways to describe a product, but for this we recommend checking out the “golden circle” theory. Never heard of it? Check out this video where Simon Sinek explains it.

4: Investigate the competition

If you’ve used the Five Forces model during your market research, you’ll have also considered how intense the competition is in your market. Now you can zoom into your direct competitors and try to figure out how they are positioned in the market (and how you can differentiate yourself). Understanding your competitors is an important yet often-neglected element of a marketing strategy, so make sure to look into it.

5: Define your marketing mix

The marketing mix – also know as the 4Ps of marketing – is a foundational model that provides a framework for marketing decision-making. It comprises four elements:

Product: An “item that satisfies consumers’ needs or wants”. It can be tangible (goods) or intangible (services, ideas or experiences). Marketing decisions associated with the product typically include the product design (features, quality, etc.), assortment (product range, mix, lines), branding, packaging and labelling, as well as services(complementary services, after-sales service, service level, etc.).

Price: This refers to the amount that a customer pays for a product. Marketing decisions associated with the price include the price strategy, price tactics, price-setting, discounts and payment terms (credit, payment methods, etc.).

Place: This relates to where the customer can access the product(s) that you’re providing. Marketing decision associated with place include distribution strategies, market coverage, channels, location decisions, inventory, transport, warehousing and logistics.

Promotion: This refers to marketing communications and can comprise elements such as advertising, PR and sales. Marketing decisions associated with promotion include the promotional mix (appropriate balance of advertising, PR, direct marketing and sales promotion), message strategy (what to communicate), channel/media strategy (how to reach the target audience) and message frequency (how often to communicate).

6: Plan a budget

Putting your marketing strategy into practice will likely require money, so you’ll need to plan a budget. This will also help you to make decisions on what is realistic given your available funds. For example, although an ad on TV might be the best channel to reach your customers, if you don’t have the necessary funds you might have to look for more affordable alternatives.

7: Establish quantifiable goals

What does success looks like for your marketing strategy? Is it reaching a specific number of social media followers? Selling a certain number of units? Generating a certain number of leads? In order to guide and adapt your marketing efforts, it is good to establish goals that you can quantify and monitor along the way. Remember, it’s not about establishing as many goals as possible, but rather the right ones to keep an eye on.

8: Create a workplan

Having got this far, you can now plan how you’ll implement your marketing strategy. The more detailed that your plan is, the better it’ll take into account the activities to be implemented, the time it’ll take to finish them, how much they’ll cost and who’ll do them. Finally, it is also good to establish what it means for an activity to be finished. As an alternative, you might want to consider using SCRUM to implement your marketing strategy.

Step 9: Monitor progress

Using the quantifiable goals that you’ve set out, the budget that you’ve developed and the workplan that you’ve defined, you have all the tools needed to keep a close eye on the progress of your marketing strategy, which you should do on a regular basis.

Step 10: Revisit yearly

In this rapidly-changing world, unfortunately marketing strategies do not age well. This means that you should revisit yours at least on a yearly basis to make sure it is still accurate and up to date.

Prepare a communication plan

If your goal is not to sell a product or service but to communicate the results of your research or process, then you should consider developing a communication plan, which focuses more on getting the right message to the right people and not so much on getting them to buy something.

Communication plans are like snow flakes - no two are alike - so yours should reflect what it is that you want to achieve. Here are eight great tips to consider when preparing a communication plan!

  1. Define your message

Before anything else, think about what it is you want people to know. Do you want present specific results of your work? Are you looking for peers to review it? Do you want to tell companies about the potential application of your research? Maybe you are looking for extra funding to continue your research? Defining clear message (or messages) will help your audience to hear, understand and remember what you want to tell them. Your message(s) should be concise (focus on three to five key messages per topic and stick to one to three sentences for each key message), relevant (balance what you need to communicate with what your audience needs to know), compelling (information should be meaningful and stimulate action), simple (with easy to understand language and without jargon and acronyms), memorable (ensure that messages are easy to recall and repeat) and tailored (adapted to the different target audiences by adapting language and depth of information).

2. Define and analyse target audiences

Like you would do for a marketing strategy or a business model, a communication strategy also calls for a clear definition of target audiences. These are groups of people that can be grouped together because they share specific characteristics (for example the same profession or organisation, the same social interests or the same sector) and that can be reached using the same channels. If you want to reach many different groups, you might want to consider defining primary and secondary target audiences so you can also determine where to focus on. Once you’ve determined the target audiences, take some time to analyse them in order to understand them as best you can. Things like: where can you find them on a daily basis? Where do they get their information? But also why would be interested in what you have to tell them?

3. Define communication goals

Once you have chosen and have a better understanding of your target audiences, you can now decide what you want to reach with your communication. So, not what you want to say (that’s they key message you defined at the beginning) but what you expect to happen once they do (in other words: what is the call for action?). Should people get in touch with you for more information? Should they download an article you wrote? Should they pledge money to further finance the research? Having a clear idea of what you want each target group to do, is half the battle to creating the right communication materials (we’ll tell you all about these afterwards).

4. Select communication methods and channels

If you have taken some time to understand your target audiences, you will likely have come to the conclusion that not everyone can be reached in the same ways. While some groups might be avid social media users that spend most of their time scrolling away, others might be found listening to podcasts, flipping through scientific magazines or networking at sector conferences and gatherings. These are all potential channels that you can consider to get to your target audiences and each of them might require different communication methods (e.g. a short video might work very well on social media but makes little sense in a podcast or even in a small screen in the background of a busy conference).
When deciding on methods and channels, don’t forget to consider the amount of resources (time, money, material) needed to get them done and make decisions based on the resources you want to spend.

5. Develop communication materials

You should only work on communication materials once you have decided on the methods and channels, as those decisions will guide your choices. And, once you do start working on them, make sure they reflect the previous steps in your process: is the message clearly stated? Does it relate to the target group it intends to reach? Does it include a call for action or your communication goals? There are many (free and paid) online resources that help you develop communication materials whether you are looking to create a website or a blog, a leaflet, a video or a catchy social media post. And if you want to reach people that are outside your own circles, you might consider using online ads on social media which, starting at very low amounts, can help you target and reach the right people more accurately.

6. Plan feedback loops

Communication is two-sided and should therefore allow for feedback loops. That means creating ways for the target groups to respond to your messages. This can be done in many ways, some of which include providing contact details (email address, phone number, instant messaging on social media) and encourage people to reach out to you or by creating an a live interaction moment like an online Q&A (maybe using Facebook live) or a face2face meeting.

7. Establish a time frame

Communication plans have the most impact when condensed over a (relatively) short time period, unless of course you have the time and resources to invest in communication activities over a long period of time. Otherwise, planning a specific week, month or couple of months to go out into the world with your key message is typically the best way to plan the implementation of your communication plan.

8. Prepare a budget

Once you know what, how, where and when you want to communicate, don’t forget to check how much it’s going to cost you and make sure you can afford it. You can either create a budget at the end and then go look for the financial resources to implement it (if you don’t have them yourself), or you can establish a financial ceiling at the beginning of the process and make all the above mentioned decisions with that in mind.