The importance of the humble marketing plan

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The importance of the humble marketing plan

It never fails to astound me how many companies don’t have a marketing plan. Even big, grown up, large corporates. They might have a plan of sorts, but often it isn’t linked to the company’s corporate strategic objectives or it’s out of date and never referred to.
 
Having no plan leads to incrementalism…bumbling along. Now some would argue “well at least we’re doing some marketing!”. I’d like to agree but I can’t. Without knowing for sure that what you are doing is likely to lead you to where you want to go (where DO you want to go – do you all agree?), how do you know if you’re wasting your time or not?
 
The planning process is simple.
 
Look at your current situation – where are you now?

Running a SWOT brainstorm - strengths and weaknesses (internal factors), opportunities and threats (external factors) - is a great way to assess your situation. Involve your whole team. It’s amazing the depth of thought you’ll achieve, whilst at the same time fostering buy in and future accountability from your team members. It’s also a chance for you to see ‘rising stars’ within your team at work furbishing you with ideas on promotion and staff movement. Win win win win.

Tip: flush out the external opportunities and threats by using a PESTI framework – political, economic, social, technological and international.

Set some objectives

Knowing your situation means you can start to decide where you want to hang your objectives. If one of your weaknesses is a low awareness of your company in an area you want to dominate to reach a corporate objective you can set an objective to achieve that.

Tip: objectives must be SMART – specific, measureable, accurate, achieveable, realistic, time bound – or they are worthless and untrackable.

Decide your strategies to achieve the objectives
 
People confuse strategies with tactics and vice versa. I can see why.  Using examples here is the best way to illustrate:

Corporate objective: to sell the business for £5m+ in 3 years time.

One of the marketing objectives to support this could be to increase sales by 10% year on year for three years.

marketing strategy to support (not fully deliver – it is just one of maybe several strategies) this could be:

Increase sales - launch a new desirable product to an existing market.

One of the tactics to support this strategy could be:

A direct mail campaign to existing customers offering a 10% discount if they purchase by a certain close date. 3 mailings within one year. To include phone call follow up of top 20% of best potential targets based on customer value. Collect reason for not purchasing.

The tactic is specifically what you plan to do to support the strategy you have decided on.

From here it’s a case of pulling together a detailed sub plan of the tactics to include:
 

  • All actions to support tactics (design mailing, notify customer services etc)
  • Who is working on which aspects (men)
  • What budget is allocated (money)
  • How long this whole process takes (minutes).
  • What results are expected? ie number of customers netted and value aimed to be generated.

 
Tip: This plan is easily done in a spreadsheet with months and weeks across the top, activities on the right and columns for men, money and minutes.
 
Tip: don’t fall at the last fence – reviewing the plan. Take the time to put into your plan dates on which you will review if you are on course to meet the planned results. If you do this there will be time to take corrective action to either boost the initiative further, tweak it or can it altogether. This can ensure best and safe use of budget and is a supportive way of doing business with your colleagues, as it can avoid someone being “hanged” for “failing”.
 
Sounds painful?
 
All this planning might sound long winded and painful. It can actually be like that at the start. But once you’re in a groove of doing it, it becomes like cleaning your teeth – just something you do as part of your routine. And if you didn’t you’d go …well…septic?