Plan - A Four-Letter Word, but Not a Dirty One
Small business owners hear the words marketing plan and automatically think, "That is something that big businesses do." In reality, they should be thinking "that is something that smart businesses do". Marketing plays a key role in the success of any business, regardless of its size. And a phased, actionable marketing plan is what helps to ensure that your business is building long-term, profitable relationships with its customers. So why wouldn't you have one?
Think of it this way - you would consult with a lawyer if you were having legal troubles, wouldn't you? You would consult a CPA if your business was facing an audit, right? So why for so many small and mid-sized businesses does marketing become an afterthought and developing a plan is ignored? Marketing is too often a side project that you spend some time thinking about once a month or so. That is not to say that marketing needs to equal a great deal of money to see results. But it does warrant attention and expertise and should have a plan.
A marketing plan serves as a foundation to execute your defined marketing strategy. It consists of everything that an organization does to attract and retain a customer - from targeting to offering development, public relations to website design and everything in between.
A well laid out marketing plan sets clear and measurable objectives, details how you will achieve them, sets deadlines, defines responsibilities and ownership, establishes metrics by which you can measure success, and is developed within a budget. Essentially a marketing plan is the action plan of how you are going to increase awareness, drive inbound leads and keep your target audience informed. It drives resource allocation, supports the overall business goals and objectives, feeds the top of the pipeline for sales and phases efforts logically to achieve agreed to short term and long term goals.
One of the most important features of a marketing plan is that it is actively managed. It is not a power point presentation that you generate for a meeting with your board of directors every six months and then set aside. A good marketing plan is reviewed, assessed and revised (if needed) on a weekly and monthly basis. It is not static, it is ever changing. It should be evaluated to see where the company stands against the plan and to determine if they are getting a return on their marketing investment. If it is decided that changes need to be made, priorities shift or opportunities arise, then the plan is revised.
Don't get sucked into picking and choosing your marketing from an a la carte menu. Marketing is not simply updating your businesses Facebook page, sending out an email through constant contact, or walking the show at an industry event. A marketing plan is intentionally tying and knitting together all the different marketing tactics into one integrated marketing plan specific to your business. That is the true essence of a marketing plan. From there it is making sure that the pieces of the plan are phased in the right way to meet your business goals and to work within your budget.
Honestly, marketing is one of the single most important functions in building a successful business. And having a marketing plan can make all the difference between expending your energy on things that will create income and bring in more customers, and those things that are perhaps easier to do but do not carry the same impact to your bottom line. A business without a marketing plan is like a back country hiker without a map - there is a very good chance that you will get lost and never reach your anticipated destination, in this case a more successful business.
This article was written by Mary Honan. To get more great advice from Women's Toolbox Media Diva Mary Honan, visit her website at: http://formarketingmatters.com