Failure to plan is a Marketing disaster
So instead of writing about GDPR (it’s getting ridiculously now isn’t it), we thought we would start a discussion series; covering some of the questions and conversations we regularly have with small to medium sized business owners about Marketing.
One of the most common conversations we have in new business meetings and with other business owners or managers is that they don’t feel that their Marketing is focused enough. They are normally not a Marketing specialist themselves, but carry out ad-hoc Marketing activity ‘when they have time’ and it’s more of a suck-it-and-see scenario than being truly focused about results and outcomes for the business.
The harsh reality for small businesses (in particular for those that are just starting or growing and where there is just.so.much.to.do) is that the ‘I’ll get to it when I have time’ approach is that the time doesn’t ever come around. This, coupled with a lack of understanding about what the Marketing objectives of the organisation are, how these could be achieved and over what time period, is often what is putting business owners from investing adequate time in Marketing.
So, what’s the solution? Creating a Marketing Plan detailing what you’re going to do, when and who by, creates a framework for Marketing activity which is thought out, timely, realistic and most importantly, measurable.
But before discussing what to include in a Marketing Plan, you’ve got to go back to basics. Creating a Plan without a solid Marketing Strategy behind it is a bit like building a car with no engine. One of our previous blog posts concentrated on Marketing Strategy and what is included in this process of strategic planning, so take a look if you’re struggling to make the link between strategy and planned action.
Assuming for now that your Marketing Strategy is place, we can now outline the key components of a Marketing Plan, and the Big Ticket Items that you should be thinking about.
You might not think you’re doing much in terms of Marketing, or you might feel that you’re investing heavily but it’s not working, whatever your situation it’s always good to audit what is actually being done. Some of your current Marketing activity might be working perfectly or might just require small tweaks to improve effectiveness. This part of the planning process allows you to evaluate and measure what is currently being achieved in order to move forward with a sound plan.
So, what’s going to work? Assuming you are clear from your Marketing Strategy about your target audience, routes to market, positioning and overall aims, the bulk of your Marketing Plan should contain research and a tactical overview of what Marketing activity is best-suited to achieve your objectives. This could include, but not limited to; paid search, relationship marketing, advertising, PR, content marketing, search engine optimisation, exhibitions etc. The list goes on…
The big eyebrow raising question. There’s simply no point in putting together a Marketing Plan without knowing what you’ve got to work with. Setting a budget at the beginning of your financial year as part of your strategic planning process allows you to 1. Plan for the spend within your cash flow, 2. Evaluate the ROI of particular Marketing initiatives and projects, 3. Identify and ringfence a level of Marketing investment that you’re comfortable with. The agreed budget doesn’t have to be set in stone and can flex when needed, but being clear about resource gives you a foundation to work with and a control measure in which to make decisions.
A Marketing plan needs measurement, and capturing targets (even if you don’t know exactly what they should be but start in a sensible place and review later) is key to understanding if your objectives are achieved. Incorporating measurement into your plan allows you to track progress, plan for the following year and spend money on what’s actually making a difference. It depends on the type of organisation as what you measure, but can include direct sales, web traffic, brand awareness levels etc.
Always a difficult one for small to medium sized businesses but there’s no point in planning a programme of activity if you’re not going to allocate the appropriate resource and agree who’s going to do what. This isn’t just about accountability (although that’s important in terms of skills and development) it’s also about ensuring that Marketing is an organisation-wide approach and not just down to a few who know it’s worth.
So, you know what you’re going to do and how much it’s going to cost you, you’ve also allocated resource and have the right people doing the right things. Project managing your Marketing plan, particularly if your tactical activity includes a meaty project like a website redesign or new campaign launch, is often completely overlooked. Setting a time plan and estimating when projects will start, finish or continue throughout the year ensures there is enough resource available at the right time.
If you’re a ‘I’ll get to it when I have time’ business owner or a manager who wants to bring some rigour to your company’s Marketing approach, please get in touch. We work with small to medium sized organisations on unique Marketing Strategy and Planning projects and would love to show you how we can help.