Existing research confirms how important a sound marketing plan is toward business success. Although business owners do not dispute this notion, chances are that their marketing plan is sitting on a shelf gathering dust, and becoming more and more obsolete with every passing day. That means they are likely running their marketing strategy by the seat of their pants. Too many businesses make up their marketing plan as they go, and the effort will inevitably lack purpose, focus and consistency. The result of their efforts will be a hit or miss proposition, and business owners ultimately end up frustrated and confused about why they aren’t getting the results they want.
An effective marketing plan will provide guidance for the organization so that it can anticipate competitive forces, execute on a well-conceived product line, and keep the sales pipeline full of leads. Creating a simple plan, which is well researched, and implemented effectively, will deliver surely significant business results.
Creating a company and building a brand is all about giving the customers a reason for them to trust in your organization and product. To do that effectively, the business must create a strong and compelling message. This message needs to be conveyed consistently and continuously in order to create an effective level of brand visibility. That message doesn’t occur the first time a customer hears a message; it happens as the prospect continues to see and hear a company’s message over time.
By developing a marketing plan you have a road map laying out a systematic, coordinated approach to getting your message out there. Your marketing plan should include the following components:
- A clearly defined analyze of your target audience
- Market Research: seasonality, customers, products, benchmarks
- Pricing, Positioning and Branding
- Developing a SWOT Analysis of your business
- Defining clear and measurable goals, and what steps need to be taken to get there in 3month, 6 month and 1 year increments, and who has the accountability roles
- Market strategies for consideration
- Indicate training needs if any to ensure success
- Define timetables for actions needed, and map out accountability meetings
- Defining your goals
Here are the essential benefits of a well-conceived marketing plan:
- Get your entire company on the same page and develop a culture where sales and marketing at a part of the role of everyone in the company. The most effective marketing programs are top to bottom efforts.
- Provides you with framework to improve communication and teamwork amongst your key managers. All of them play a role in the implementation process.
- Keep your marketing activities consistent over time. Make sure everyone on your time is clearly aware of his or her expectations and what will be the results of consistent efforts. Therefore the new business coming in should be more evenly flowed.
- Having a steady focused effort will allow for more informed decisions on which activities you should be keeping or letting go of
While most businesses plan on committing to the written document, execution is typically a whole other story. For the sake of argument let’s take a law firm with several partners. In most cases, not one of those lawyers would think of themselves as a sales person when in fact that is their most important role. When businesses attempt to purchase marketing pieces a’la carte; such as simply creating a new website or running some advertisements, you miss the opportunity to convey that message through multiple touch points.
To often, plans are designed but quickly lose traction due to lack of accountability. For smaller organizations where there is no marketing staff, there must be a stakeholder that will be accountable to someone in-house, a marketing consultant or a business coach to stay on track. With the framework laid out per the marketing plan, it is possible to effectively review progress, revise and continue to track results.
Best practices for ensuring success include: informing staff about the plan and what direction the business is moving in, meetings with key staff scheduled regularly to make sure goals and objectives are being met, effort into the next years plan today be sure that the appropriate emphasis is placed on what is working and less emphasis on what is not working. Quarterly meetings are essential to continuously reassess the marketing effort as a whole, and review that the messaging is coming across clearly.
Business is not rocket science, but rather common sense; unfortunately coming up with great ideas is almost never the problem. So why does the struggle persist to get ideas to fruition? While juggling operational, financial, IT and HR hats, it is easy to forget that the most effective way to grow the business is through a
strong focus on sales and marketing. Business owners must treat marketing as the most important client. There should be a conscious effort to prioritize and set time aside in the calendar to make sure a dedicated effort is employed toward reviewing and accomplishing business goals.
Marketing means more than discounts and promotions. These forms of marketing bear significant costs in terms of dollars and time. Make it easier for your customer to purchase from you. Simply sending an email, or leaving a single leave behind leaves them to make the next step. Instead attempt to invite them to
an event, or provide a free trial offer. Mostly importantly remember develop a relationship. Be cognizant to develop a multi-touch approach to keep you front of mind. Be sure to get this right. It’s like the goldilocks and the three bears: be in touch often, but not to often, be professional but approachable, give great information but don’t sound like an encyclopedia,
Remember just like your marketing plan, the actual execution is a work in progress. You do not need to get it 100% correct 100% of the time. But you do need to keep at it.