Did anyone else just lift your head and realize the holidays are over and we’re almost half way through the first quarter of 2017? Every year, November through January seems to have a mind of its own, with no regard for what I need to get done. Our last couple articles have focused on helping you fight back and make the most of these important months in the life of your business. If you haven’t carved out the time to evaluate 2016 and plan for 2017, then this article is for you.
It’s common, by the way. With all of your year-end responsibilities, those planning sessions tend to get pushed back further and further.
In today’s article, we will discuss the advantages of a marketing plan. This process takes your year-end evaluation and planning a step further.
What is a Marketing Plan?
Before we highlight the advantages of a marketing plan, let’s quickly define what it is. Every business utilizes marketing to engage their target market. But, maybe you don’t map out your marketing for the year; maybe you approach it as you go. A marketing plan does exactly what it says, it plans your marketing and puts a strategy in place. It has three phases: (1) the discovery phase, (2) the creation phase, and (3) the implementation phase.
The discovery phase is an important step that is often skipped. It does several things:
- Evaluates your branding and current marketing
- Evaluates your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT)
- Interviews key team members
- Studies your analytics and other data
- Studies your target market
- And a few other things
When your discovery phase is complete, you will have the research needed to establish your marketing plan and begin putting your plan into writing. This phase will map out every detail – target, message, timeline, budget, and responsible parties. A marketing plan should be a road map for your business’ marketing. The final stage is the implementation, which is usually spread out over 6-12 months.
So, let’s dig in and discuss why you need a marketing plan for your business.
Reason #1: Maximizes your Marketing Budget and ROI
If you’ve ever renovated your home or business, you understand the importance of a budget. We recently completed an extensive renovation of our downtown office and we lived by our budget. It kept us grounded, helped us make educated decisions, created accountability between us and the contractor, and allowed us to better evaluate the end result.
A marketing plan does the exact same thing. If you approach the new year without a marketing plan you are also approaching it without an accurate marketing budget. You may have a number listed on your spreadsheet, but how did you arrive at it? Setting a marketing budget involves more than calculating a percentage of your gross revenue.
Until you complete your discovery and establish your plan, it’s impossible to have a true budget. Maybe you have multiple markets and some are costlier to reach than others. Or maybe you have a new service or product launching this year and you need to allocate more financial resources to it. Or maybe your customer service is dipping and you need to invest in marketing to your current clients. Each of these scenarios impact your budget.
When your budget is determined by your plan, you will maximize your budget and produce a higher ROI. That’s what happens with a strategy. A strategy eliminates quick decisions that aren’t in line with your plan and keeps you on track. A plan also helps you measure your success because you know where your money went. If you’ve ever ended your year with no idea how your budget was used, you know how ineffective and frustrating this is.
Reason #2: Creates Consistency
A marketing plan also increases the consistency of your branding and messaging. When we help clients plan for their marketing, the real priorities quickly surface. As we work through those areas and move into the planning phase, we create campaigns focused on these priorities that consistently utilize all the recommended marketing platforms.
When your messaging and graphics are consistent, they are more likely to resonate with clients and stick with them. A great marketing plan will have a consistent message that is aligned with your branding, will be laser focused, and will better reach your target.
Reason #3: Encourages Deeper Thought About Your Business and Marketing
The first step of discovery is a great exercise that forces you to think deeply about your business. Despite its value, it’s difficult for business owners to allocate the time to discuss and plan.
My business partner and I recently met for planning and here’s a look at our itinerary:
- Wins & Losses
- Current Services
- New Services
- Culture & Community
- Carryover Goals from 2016
- 2017 Goals Divided by Quarter
Focused evaluation creates a much deeper understanding of your business and pays huge dividends for your business. It also creates measurable goals that can be evaluated monthly or quarterly to ensure you are staying on track.
If you don’t have a business partner to plan with, include some of your senior staff, a trusted colleague, or a business consultant.
Reason #4: Unifies Your Team
If your company is anything like ours, you have a team of experts who are passionate about your business, clients, and industry. Your team also interacts with your leads and clients differently than you do as a business owner, especially if you’re a delegate. There is a wealth of information within your staff and you should explore it.
As you involve your team in the marketing plan, it not only improves your marketing but it also unifies your team. When they contribute, they also become invested in the plan and take ownership. As you evaluate your team, you’ll find clear areas of the marketing plan that they are best suited to monitor, carry out, and own.
This is an asset that is often overlooked. Don’t make this mistake. Share your vision and plan with your team, seek their input, and engage them in its implementation. I think you’ll find this adds a lot of value to your business and your culture.
Reason #5: Improves Your Chances of Accomplishing Your Marketing Goals
There is ample research about the value of writing your plans down. When you put something in writing, you immediately increase your chances of accomplishing it. One study revealed that you are 21% more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.
Here’s some great news – a marketing plan does way more than simply write down your goals. It maps out every single detail of the plan – target, message, timeline, budget, and responsible party. When your marketing is set to this level of detail and is implemented by a knowledgeable team who meets regularly to discuss progress, you’ll be setup for a strong performance.
Ready to get started? This is a rewarding process, but it requires time and dedication, and with an infinite number of responsibilities, it can often be hard to complete this process alone. For many of our clients, we lead this entire process – the discovery phase, marketing plan establishment, and the implementation. If you need help getting started, we would love to discuss it with you. You can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the Full 3 Part-Series
This is the final article in our 3 part series. Be sure to check out the first two articles: Planning for Next Year: How 30 Business Owners Set & Achieve Their Goals (here) and 3 Ways to Make your Business Goals Stick (here).