“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where…,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
From Alice in Wonderland
In this somewhat confusing yet metaphoric scene from Alice in Wonderland, Alice was looking for direction, yet seemed uninterested in defining a final destination, from the wise Cat. Perhaps it was her whimsical style, existing distractions, or need for purpose that drove her to asking this seemingly “incomplete” question.
Deciding on marketing planning for your business is not so dissimilar from Alice’s inquiry for direction. We understand it as urgently needed yet, when lacking a clear destination, may lead us down the wrongful path.
Marketing Planning – Why Not?
I’m sure you have heard of every reason why you should have a marketing plan however I bet the last time you checked your files, one did not exist. So, why not? Perhaps it’s because your business changes so rapidly that the moment you would commit to a plan, it would no longer be relevant? Good excuse. Or maybe it is that you are not a marketing expert and simply don’t know how? All right, understandable. Maybe, as a successful entrepreneur, you’re a doer and not a planner and you’ve managed to this point without one so why start now? I have to respect that, but tomorrow may be a different story. Or, perhaps it’s because you are so starved for time and each minute is so precious that developing a marketing plan would take from valuable company time away growing business and doing ‘what you do best’.
Whatever the reason, let’s keep in mind that marketing helps drive sales. Therefore, planning marketing to drive successful sales is a vital business necessity. In addition,
- A marketing plan is a working document and should change regularly along with your business
- You do not have to be a marketing expert to develop a marketing plan
- Always, yes, always, commit your plan to paper so you have a record of it, can refer to it often and can generate buy-in if/when needed. Writing your plan on paper also supports its believability and, in the long run, will help you execute and closely track the plan for results.
The 24-Hour Plan
Where I can appreciate the depth and breadth of a comprehensive marketing plan that glows with analyses of the market and your competition; shines with specific marketing strategies including mission, positioning, marketing mix, etc.; overflows with financial data, budgets, break-even and sales figures; and supports it all with controls such as milestones and contingency planning: (Whew!) let’s face it, we may not have the time to do all that at this point. Furthermore, this level of marketing planning can be downright intimidating.
Don’t fear. Following are some suggested questions to start answering on paper that will get you quickly on your way (remember “…to drive successful sales”). Consider it the Cliffs notes version of marketing planning! (When you have the time, you can read the full version of the book as I’m sure you intend to…) You may not have all the answers right now, so, by all means, feel free to make ‘intelligent’ guesses. However, be sure to write them down.
- Define Your Company Background: This process starts easy with the one thing you know better than anyone else – your business. So just who is Company ____? What is your business? What do you promise? What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or the dramatic difference that makes your company unique (see Feb issue of Business Currents)?
- Understand Your Market and Your Competition: Solicit trade publications or the Chamber of Commerce for some ‘general’ information on the size of your market and key market segments for your product or service. Is there a clear need? Is it growing/shrinking? Is the need currently unmet or underserved by the competition (determining the profitability of that market)? Who is the competition? (List the top three competitors and how they position themselves.)
- Know Your Customer Intimately: Who are they? (List their profile information such as age, sex, geographic region, household income, or, if a business, title/function, industry, company size)? What do they want? What motivates them and what do they respond to? (promotions, low prices, etc.) How do they purchase similar products/services? Who is the decision maker? Are there any key influencers that should be noted? What types of media do they read and/or subscribe to?
- Develop Your Key Marketing Message: This is very important and is usually that “elevator speech” (in most cases a run-on) that is translated into everything you do. It should include your value proposition, the problem you are solving and need to solve now for your customers. In addition, the key message should include the benefits you offer and your USP. For example, “SMART Marketing Solutions, a leading full service integrated marketing agency, delivers to medium to large-sized businesses over seven years of strategic, high-return, marketing execution and experience (Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, NYU, and others) in marketing planning, website development, email marketing, and other tactical marketing services at competitive prices to support clients looking to gain and/or sustain a competitive advantage.”
- Identify Hurdles/Obstacles/Risk: What are some of the hurdles and obstacles we need to overcome with our marketing? Could it be that we’re new to the market and suffer from little to no awareness? Do we have a negative past that we should admit to in our document and will need to combat with our marketing? I’m not suggesting an opportunity for a pity party here. However, it does help to know ‘internally’ what marketing risk, if any, we are truly up against and how we intend to overcome any and all obstacles to success.
- Decide on Your Media Weapon(s): Determine how you want to reach your target audience and what media you plan to leverage (in order of priority) that will yield the greatest return on investment. Some examples include television, radio, classified ads, email marketing, word-of-mouth, tradeshows, direct mail, telemarketing, etc.
- Set Sales and Marketing Goals: This is critical to your success and probably the most intimidating part of any plan. Be sure to include financial elements such as revenue, gross profits, revenue per sales person/territory, etc. In addition, you may include non-financial goals such as customers acquired, customers grown, units sold, press received. If you don’t know specifically, take a guess and write it down. Spread it out first by the first year’s months or quarters and then five years out, if you can. Even though this may be a guess, be sure to make it sensible, attainable, realistic, and measurable.
- Determine Your Marketing Budget: What’s your cost to acquire one customer? And/or, what’s your cost to sell one product? If you’ve executed some marketing over the past year you can compute this by dividing annual sales and marketing costs by the number of units sold (or customers acquired).Then simply take your cost to sell one unit or acquire one customer and multiply it by your respective sales/marketing goal (units or customers). This should give you some idea on what it will take to meet your goals for the upcoming period.
This abbreviated process should not take more than 24 ‘painless’ hours. What I’m sure you’ll find out, via this exercise, is that you actually know a lot more than you think you knew about your business, your competition, your customers, and your goals. In addition, you will be well equipped to execute successful marketing and drive successful sales with this new, “working” document. And, unlike Alice, you will now have a clear understanding of how (and why!) to get where you want to go.
About the Author
Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasismartmarketingllccom (abiasismartmarketingllccom) , visit www.smartmarketingllc.com or call 239.963.9396.
- David Frey, President of Marketing Best Practices Inc, a Houston-based small business marketing consulting firm. David is the editor of the Marketing Best Practices Newsletter.
- Palo Alto Software, “Marketing Plan Pro”, 2004.
- Kennedy, Dan S., “The Ultimate Marketing Plan”, Adams Media Corporation, Massachusetts, 2000.