You heard of business plans and marketing plans and if you have been in business for a while, chances are you have gotten so wrapped up in operations, finances or growing HR needs you let the marketing tend to fly by the seat of its pants. How weird would it be to handle your purchasing or pricing in the same fashion? So why do it with marketing? Marketing is perhaps one of the most important areas of your business because it keeps you pipeline full, prospects walking in the door, closing deals easier, and keep current customers to keep buying from you.
Lets break marketing down into the two simplest parts:
- How to start
- How to follow through
Simple Simon, right? Wrong. While most businesses entertain the idea of putting their marketing plan on paper, once on paper businesses seems to have a harder time committing to the execution. Just as important as any area of operations it seems easy to forget that marketing needs real attention. But the dividends from time spent on marketing drive dollars to your bottom line exponentially if you can remember how closely marketing and sales are tied together.
What we tend to see is that business owners are concerned to throw good dollars at a plan that has no guarantee to show a return. The success of a marketing plan is similar to swinging a gold club, without following through on the swing balls go flying in every direction
Why is it that so many small business owners do not appreciate the importance of a marketing plan? After all, most of you would not begin an across country trip without mapping out your route nor would you let a contractor build your dream home without hiring an architect to design it first. You understand that without a plan, you’re likely to experience costly delays and frustrations and not achieve your goal, whether it’s getting to your final destination or ending up with the home you hoped for at a price you can afford.
Planning is equally important when it comes to small business marketing, yet many small businesses make up their marketing as they go along with no real focus or rationale for their actions, much less any consistency and follow through. Too often in other words, their marketing is hit or miss, and then they wonder why their marketing dollars don’t get them the results they want.
Benefits of a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan helps your business take a systematic, coordinated approach to its marketing and makes it more likely that your business’ marketing activities will succeed. It’s your business’ marketing road map or blueprint.
Here are some other benefits to developing and implementing a marketing plan:
- Gives you an opportunity to help everyone in your business understand that although they may not be directly responsible for marketing, how they do their jobs can affect the success or failure of your marketing activities. The most effective marketing programs are top to bottom efforts.
- Provides you with an opportunity to improve communication and teamwork among your key managers. All of them should be involved in the plan development and implementation process.
- Helps ensure marketing consistency over time. Although your employees may come and go, your business plan remains, providing everyone with a written record of what you want to accomplish and how you intend to do it.
- Makes it more likely that marketing at your business will be an on-going effort, not a stop and start affair. Therefore, it’s more likely that your business’s marketing activities will produce good results.
- Helps you identify which marketing initiatives work and don’t work for your business. Your plan also helps you determine which initiatives should be retooled or refined.
What Your Business’ Marketing Plan Should Do
Among other things, your marketing plan should:
- Define and analyze your audience.
- Identify and assess your competition.
- Identify your business’ strengths and weaknesses vis a vis that competition.
- Establish clear and measurable marketing goals and objectives for your business.
- Identify the specific activities you will carry out to achieve those goals and objectives. Also, figure out the resources you will need.
- Make it clear who is responsible for what.
- Indicate whether any of your employees need additional training and education to effectively execute their plan responsibilities.
- Establish a timetable for taking each action.
Review, Revise, Reflect
Once you’ve completed your marketing plan, don’t file it away and never look at the plan again. You’ve probably spent weeks if not longer developing it, so use it!
Here are some tips for making effective use of your plan:
- Educate all of your employees about your business’ plan. Make them aware of what they can do to help it succeed.
- Schedule regular meetings with key staff. During the meetings review whether particular goals and objectives have been met or on target to be met.
- Identify stumbling blocks. Then figure out ways to get around them.
- Constantly assess what is and isn’t working. Based on your assessments, decide what you should do differently when you are developing and implementing next year’s marketing plan.
- Revise your plan when necessary.
The same thing happens with our marketing. We can put all our money and time into the preparation and stop short of the follow through.
As entrepreneurs, we are usually great at coming up with ideas to promote our business. We know that it’s not rocket science, and yet we struggle time and time again getting our ideas off the ground. This isn’t really surprising because on top of wearing our marketing hat, we are also wearing our operational, financial, IT and HR hats. Yet when we look at all the different roles we have to play in our businesses, it is truly our sales and marketing hat that can fast track our business to the next level.So how can we ensure that we allocate it the time it deserves? More importantly how do we know that we are fully following through?
- Treat Your Marketing Like Your Most Important Client – You wouldn’t miss an appointment with a high income client, would you? Then make appointments in your Calendar with Marketing and do your utmost not to miss these appointments.
- Promotions are Only The Beginning – When you decide to advertise, network or mail out a postcard, you are only taking one “big backswing” with your marketing efforts. To leave these expensive and time consuming activities with only a phone number or web address as “leave behinds” is a tragedy. You should make it EASY for them to contact you through a free or trial offering, an invitation, etc.
- Think Multi-Channel – What other marketing channels can you tap into to promote the same thing? What about your strategic alliances, peers, friends, clients, the press?
- Think Multi-Touch – If you can capture lead information or entice people to “try you out” now you are in a position to stay in contact.
Make sure this contact is:
- Provides Great Quality and Consistency
Review Revise Revisit – Just like my driving range experience. You need to try it, try it again. Measure it. Make some changes and try
Remember your marketing isn’t about perfection, it’s about improvement. Keep trying, measuring, learning and you are already 50% there!