Effective Marketing Begins With a Marketing Plan
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
Without a doubt, the success of an endeavor lies in its diligent and thoughtful preparation. And when I’m asked by business owners to name the one marketing activity that’s essential when developing or expanding their businesses, I tell them to develop a marketing plan.
I encourage everyone in an active, growing business to formalize their marketing strategy in a plan. Creating a plan is important on so many fronts, not least of which is that it forces us to consider how our business fits into the marketplace.
It’s possible that you crafted a detailed marketing plan when assessing the viability of your business. If you did this already, then you have an excellent start. I’d recommend reviewing it at 3 month intervals if your business is new, and make the necessary adjustments. When your business matures somewhat, review and revise it every 6 months. For companies in business for five or more years, marketing plans should be revised and updated annually. Also remember that a marketing plan is a guidepost to allow you to follow a fluid course of action. It’s not written in stone, and it should be adaptable to situations and opportunities as they present themselves.
If you don’t have a plan, now’s the time to develop one. At the outset you need to define your marketplace and your objectives, so the sooner you can do this the better. You can pull a market plan template – there are plenty out there — off the internet. Or build your own. Among the main topics you’ll address in a marketing plan are:
Marketing objectives and goals for the coming year.
What are you trying to achieve with your marketing? Open a new marketplace? Gain market share? Create a stir when you launch your new offering? Announce your great new business? Create tactics to support business growth of 23%? Here’s where you consider what you intend to do with your marketing for the next 12 months.
Include current climate and competitive threats. This is an examination of what’s going on externally. What are current market conditions? Are you in a growing segment, or one with challenges? How does the overall economic situation affect your business opportunities?
SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).
A SWOT analysis is an excellent exercise each year. It allows consideration of the broad spectrum of what’s important in our businesses. I’d recommend revisiting your SWOT every year, and make it a part of your ongoing activities.
Take a look at your offering. Does it meet market need for the next 12 to 24 months and beyond? What is your unique differentiator? From a markets perspective, do you envision modifications are required? What specifically are they?
This might be part of your sales plan, if done separately. Even if you’re uncomfortable with projecting sales, it’s important to put a stake in the ground. Think big: pick a lofty goal, because it’s significantly better to stretch than to play it safe.
You’ve considered what’s important for the year, what the external climate is like, what you need to do with your product, and so forth. Now you will determine exact marketing activities you’ll pursue to fulfill your goals. This is where you map out your action plan, and make sure it ties directly back to the strategies delineated in your marketing plan. How do you get in front of and connect with your marketplace? What’s your messaging like? Are your activities visible and vital enough to support your sales objectives?
Planning is an enormously worthwhile activity that yields significantly more dividends than the effort put into creating it.
“Good plans shape good decisions. That’s why good planning helps to make elusive dreams come true.” — Lester R. Bittel
This post was excerpted from “8 Marketing Essentials for Startups & Small Businesses.” To download your free copy, please click here or on the image at left.