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Highways for LIFE

Arrow Guide to Creating An Effective Marketing Plan

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Section One: Preliminary Tasks

The following tasks will lead you through the meat of plan development. They will help you think through important aspects of your plan, then provide you with the critical elements that will comprise your living document.

1.1 Building Your Team

The Highways for LIFE (HfL) pilot program, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) initiative to accelerate innovation in the highway community, provides incentive funding for demonstration construction projects. Through these projects, the HfL program promotes and documents improvements in safety, construction-related congestion, and quality that can be achieved by setting performance goals and adopting innovations.

Initially, either you or another highly respected, motivated individual needs to be identified as the team leader. Next, bring people from different highly specialized areas together to address a shared goal, which will build a powerful foundation for successful marketing of your innovation. Key stakeholders and champions should be identified to drive the creation and on-going development of an effective marketing plan. A team should include not only leaders in the organizational area in which the technology falls, but also those individuals who will be asked to deliver the technology. The classic example is the one in which a case of brochures promoting a particular technology mysteriously shows up at a field office with no prior indication of what they are or how they are to be used. More appropriate would be to have included the field specialists in the team, or at least in progress updates on developing the marketing plan as it goes along. Expertise in market research, marketing plan development, and marketing communications tools is also required on the team.

For marketing professionals, it is critical to partner closely with R&D/field colleagues, sit in on staff and concept meetings and spend a lot of time with engineers learning about their work and their challenges. Marketing professionals can listen in order to understand the thinking behind the engineers' decisions and ideas, and help them think through how target audiences will be most likely to apply/adopt the new technology. As marketers, a passion and ability to collaborate with engineers, CEO's and stakeholders is critical. As engineers, researchers or project managers, the recognition of the invaluable skills the marketer brings to your effort will pay huge dividends. Marry the two, and your plan's likelihood of success is much greater. Planning and implementing an effective marketing plan requires collaboration of people with both marketing and technical expertise.

The FHWA Resource Center and the Highways for LIFE program staff can also provide assistance in identifying stakeholders/potential champions, as well as other critical marketing resources/support.

Bringing the Team Together

A team gathering in a comfortable, informal setting should be the initial step toward getting the individuals to begin operating as a team. After brief introductions and a statement of commitment from a key leader within the organization, a discussion should be undertaken Guide to Creating an Effective Marketing Plan 5 on the innovation itself and how it responds to the particular need. Following that should be a discussion of exactly what the overall goal of the effort should be. Goals should not be simply the easily obtainable, but rather have a degree of difficulty in them.

Other discussions should focus on the organization's commitment to the effort, the level of funding available, and the time available to accomplish the work.

Developing the Preliminary Marketing Plan

Over the next several weeks, it will be the task of the team leader and the marketing specialist to come up with a preliminary marketing plan. Much of this effort will involve market research to determine details about the various attributes of the target audience, needs for training or workshops, potential requirements for the team in terms of delivering the technology, and so forth. This preliminary plan should not be merely an overview, but a full blown plan, complete with goals, description of the technology, target audience, proposed communications/promotional tools and their costs, and activities which need to be done by team members to assure faster deployment.

Planning Your Team Retreat

Once a "straw—man" marketing plan has been developed, this is sent to each team member, and then the entire team is brought together for a two-day, off-site, face-to-face meeting. This meeting will serve to validate the assumptions and information compiled during the development of the preliminary marketing plan. The result of the meeting should be a clear set of goals and objectives, identified target audiences and an action plan with responsible parties assigned to each task.

The most crucial part of planning a strategy session is an agenda. Prior to the retreat, all players must have a "game plan" on the purpose, objectives, roles and projected outcomes of the meeting. In addition, it is helpful to have any background information (i.e., previous project reviews, research, etc.) for the team to review prior to the retreat. This will allow the team to digest the information and come to the retreat prepared with feedback.

NOTE: For a team retreat blueprint, see section 4.1

Identify and Define Target Audiences

Determine target audiences for your innovation and describe them. Identify who are the beneficiaries and users of the innovation and who are the authorized decision-makers whom you have to convince to adopt the innovation. Next, develop a table that illustrates market demographics. Useful table headers may include:

  • Audiences.
  • Characteristics (education level, occupation).
  • Obstacles/issues.
  • Opportunities/needs.
  • Targeted message.
  • Messenger (should they be contacted by you or a strategic partner/champion?).
  • Strategies (face-to-face meetings? conference presentations? workshops?).

1.3 Market Research

Note: Typically the opinion leader is held in high esteem by those in their field of expertise. Opinion leadership tends to be subject specific, that is, a person that is an opinion leader in one area may be a follower in another. In order to get others' buy in, you want the opinion leader(s) in your segment/target audience as your champions.

Collect, organize and document information about target audience(s) that will benefit from your innovation, as well as industry conditions. Some areas to consider:

  • Transportation market dynamics, patterns and trends.
  • Customers — demographics, target markets (primary & secondary), positioning.
  • Current practices or processes — What's out there now relative to your innovation?
  • Identify previous or planned uses of your innovation.
  • Applicable innovation benchmarks in the transportation industry.
  • Obstacles to adoption of innovation — talk with potential target audience members in their language about their issues. For example, how the right technology solutions could help them, where the obstacles lie, and what it would take to remove those obstacles. Even if you've worked with them or known them for many years, you may not have had the opportunity to uncover the true issues that stand in their way of adopting new technologies.
  • Opportunities in the industry that create a favorable climate for adoption of your innovation/technology
  • Strategic Partners/potential champions from which to illicit support (who are the opinion leaders within your target audience?)

Note: Primary and secondary data are two general categories of market research information.

Primary Data: Information that you personally collect for the purpose of solving a particular problem or investigating a specific issue. This information might be gathered by survey, interview, observation or controlled experiment.

Secondary Data: Information that has been collected or published by other people or organizations.

1.4 Innovation Description and Mission

"Innovations that are perceived by individuals as having greater relative advantage, compatibility, trial ability, observability, and less complexity will be adopted more rapidly than other innovations."

Everett M. Rogers

Describe the Innovation

  • How does the innovation relate to the industry and target audience(s)?
  • Where and how has the innovation already been used?
  • How does it improve upon current practices or processes?
  • What problem does it solve for your target market(s) and the industry?
  • What will motivate your target audience to adopt your innovation/technology?
  • In addition to the obvious benefits your innovation will provide brainstorm other incentives such as funding, recognition (personal and/or for their organization). In the transportation industry, it is perceived that rewards may consist of a pat on the back, while one could loose their job over making an error.

The key is to communicate in the target audience's language, not yours. Also, you need to know how your innovation is going to impact their operation as a whole even if your innovation is targeted in one area. Your understanding of the interrelationship of all their activities will go a long way in building trust. You may have to help them sell the solution to their superiors. They may need someone to help them justify what they already know from a technical standpoint. They know the technical justification for buying a solution, but they still need to sell it internally.

Be prepared to have tools/resources available to assist your customer in promoting the innovation internally.

Write a concise mission statement (one to three sentences that state):

  • Primary audience — who benefits from your innovation, who will use it and who will make the decision to adopt it.
  • Contribution — how the innovation solves a problem, addresses a need or improves upon practices
  • Distinction — key attributes and benefits of your innovation (i.e., saves time, reduces cost, reduces fatalities, meets new reporting requirements)

Example Mission Statement: Highways for LIFE (HfL) is focused on accelerating the adoption of innovations in the highway community. Its purpose is to advance longerlasting highway infrastructure using innovations to accomplish the fast construction of efficient and safe highways and bridges.

1.5 Background Development

Target markets, including vendors, media and strategic partners, will want background information that provides details of your industry/segment and the history or path that led to the technology or innovation. This helps tell your story, as well as equipping key audiences and opinion leaders with information that helps them understand the full picture and arms them to persuade others. Also, consider using charts, diagrams, and flow charts, which are appealing to people who learn visually.

1.6 Brainstorm marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy should focus on 'where we are now', 'where we want to be', and 'how we're going to get there.' Under the umbrella of the marketing strategy, your plan will outline the tactics (or activities) that detail specifically how you will get there. When Guide to Creating an Effective Marketing Plan 8 putting together the marketing plan, the litmus test for the tactics/activities should be, 'is this in line with our strategy?' Will this help us achieve our objectives?

Marketing Tactics / Tools (or Marketing Activities)/vehicles

Brainstorm and document marketing tactics and delivery channels that are (1) in line with your marketing strategy; (2) will provide the most efficient means to reach your target audience; and (3) will most effectively help you achieve your objectives. Example tactics include:

  • Networking — Go where your audience is
  • Direct marketing — Targeted and customized letters, brochures, flyers
  • Advertising — print media (ads in trade publications), trade directories
  • Presentations — to increase awareness (workshops, conferences)
  • Demonstrations — Incorporate the technology into a project and host field visits
  • Peer—to—peer exchanges for lead state teams
  • Publish — Write articles, give advice, become known as an expert
  • Interpersonal — face—to—face meetings with key opinion leaders/potential champions, strategic partners and targeted individuals
  • Publicity — press releases, news conferences, media relations
  • Displays/booths at trade shows, conferences
  • Web site (and promotion of)

Keep in mind that any of these activities that deal with media, publications, and publicity efforts must be cleared with the Agency's Public Affairs Office prior to any dissemination.

Note: A Technology Showcase is a well-advertised gathering of representatives from interested agencies to learn more about one or more technologies and to observe demonstrations. This is also often referred to as a demonstration workshop.

1.7 Brainstorm marketing Goals

Brainstorm and draft quantifiable, measurable marketing goals. For instance, your goals might be to gain at least five strategic partners/champions to help diffuse your innovation during the first six months to have successful implementation of your innovation/technology by X number of target organizations. Your goals might include X face-to-face visits with target audience members by a certain date, a certain number of exposures in trade publications, or a certain number of presentations at workshops, showcases or conferences.

1.8 Identify How You Will Monitor Your Results

Determine how you will monitor your results so you can identify the strategies that are working (i.e., surveys, regular meetings with team and champions, track information flow with target audiences, tracking visitors to your web site, percent of responses). Identify important external and internal metrics. Using the experience of your core team, identify Guide to Creating an Effective Marketing Plan 9 the most important external and internal performance indicators to measure. Be sure to include appropriate metrics for every major element of your marketing mix (such as meetings, publicity, and so forth), so that all members of the team can track their progress and contribution to the team's success. Gain agreement on what and how to measure. Obtain buy-in from key stakeholders once metrics are identified (post your team retreat).

Note: Activities such as measurement and potential adjustment of marketing activities is should be a cost consideration when determining your budget in the next section.

1.9 Determine Budget / Availability of Funds

Budget your available marketing project dollars.

  • What tactics/activities can you afford?
  • What can you do in house, what do you need to outsource (i.e., web site support, display materials)?
  • Can you obtain/qualify for funding from other organizations/programs?
  • Does your innovation qualify for a Highways for LIFE project or Partnership contract?
  • Do you have funding for customer training and technical support? (Keep in mind to identify who will conduct the development, delivery and the schedule of training)

If you have limited marketing resources, make sure your target market is not too broad. Find the segments of the broader transportation community that will most benefit from your technology. Who will be most receptive? Prioritize your audiences so that you enter the most fertile segment first without spreading your resources too thin.

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Scott Wolf
Center for Accelerating Innovation

This page last modified on 04/04/11

United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration