Skip main navigation

Creating a marketing plan

So what really is marketing? Bethan Vincent, Managing Partner of Open Velocity marketing gives us an introduction.
Image of Bethan Vincent
© University of York

The following is the result of an interview with Bethan Vincent, Managing Partner of Open Velocity, about marketing an early product. Bethan is a former University of York student who supports enterprise in a variety of ways, from sitting on the board of our Venture One programme through to organising and attending events for the wider York ecosystem.

Hi Bethan. Let’s start with the most obvious questions – how would you define marketing?

Marketing is the development of actions that create, communicate and deliver services/products that drive value for customers above and beyond the capabilities of the competition.

When am I ready to start marketing?

From day one, marketing is about building relationships at scale and that can be done at any time in your business journey, even pre-launch. Even if you’re at the idea stage, you can start having conversations with potential customers to understand their needs, challenges and how your proposition will deliver value to them.

How do I know who to market to, and what channels to use?

Firstly you need to develop your business strategy – the why and what behind your business:

  • Your mission and vision – what does an ideal present future look like? Will you be global or local, mass market or niche? Where is the destination?
  • Your goals and objectives – what metrics are you pursuing at the expense of other avenues? Are you focused on EBITDA over net profit, utilisation over headcount?
  • Your values – what are your deal breakers? What won’t you do in pursuit of your company objectives?
  • The products/services you plan to sell – strip it back to your core offerings, not ‘we might do this in the future’. It has to be realistic, achievable and capable of supporting your objectives.
  • Your competitive advantages – what attributes and capabilities will you nurture across your organisation to ensure you win, such as better customer service, ability to react to market changes, willingness to invest in talent.

Your marketing strategy should build on this outline the who and how of your marketing efforts. This requires you to think about:

  • Customer segmentation and targeting – out of every type of customer you could market to, who should you focus on? Where does this group hang out and what channels do they use?
  • Pricing – are you going to be premium or budget? Will you discount for volume or longer contracts? This can help shape your understanding of your margins, which in turn informs your customer acquisition cost limit (how much can you spend to acquire a customer profitability).
  • Positioning – this is tied into everything above, but is also about perception and messaging. As positioning expert April Dunford puts it – ‘Positioning defines how our product is different and better than alternatives for a particular set of customers’. This feeds into your messaging and communications.
  • Opportunities and threats – this is systematic identification of existing and emerging opportunities and threats that may influence your market and organisation over the next few years. You then need to decide how you’ll hedge against them and what ground you are willing to give up in pursuit of your objectives (most organisations skip the threats part and ignore them until it’s too late)

And finally, what are the most common mistakes startups make when marketing products/services?

One of the big mistakes I often see start-ups make is focusing on every possible customer and spreading themselves too thin in terms of proposition and target market. As the old adage goes, if you’re everything to everyone, you’re nothing to nobody. That’s why it’s vital to spend time mapping out your target markets and deciding which niche best serves your financial and long term business goals.

Over to you

Do you have any further questions about marketing?

Ask us below!

© University of York
This article is from the free online

Enterprise: Everybody’s Business

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now