A Marketing Plan: What It Is & Why Your Business Should Have One
We’re officially into the dog days of summer, and aside from the hot and humid days, summer can be a quiet time for a lot of businesses. Add in the lingering effects of coronavirus and you’ve got enough to keep any business owner awake at night staring wide-eyed at the ceiling wondering when business will pick up again. In the lull, business owners might reboot previously abandoned marketing efforts with hopes of kick-starting some business activity. But as the adage goes, steady wins the race, so instead of having significant ebbs and flows in your marketing, aim for steady and consistent. A marketing plan is key for building consistency in your marketing activities, and a finely tuned one can help you grow your business and sleep easier at night!
Why Your Business Needs a Marketing Plan
Long gone are the days when marketing decisions were made by gut instinct. In years gone by, business owners and marketers would decide where, when and how to market their businesses based on little more than empirical wisdom. And with comparatively fewer marketing channels at their disposal and little in the way of direct measurement of their results, who could really blame them?
The premise of the day was to market where you felt the best opportunity was and if your business grew then you attribute it to whatever marketing you did. And if your business didn’t grow … well, it was either continue doing the same thing and hope for better results or try something different.
Fast forward to today’s marketing ecosystem and it’s a completely different game. With so many ways for marketers to connect with potential buyers and with a huge assortment of measurement, analytics and marketing intelligence tools, marketing decisions are now made in real-time and driven by real data. Many tools provide comparative analytics, so you can compare performance of one period over another to, for example, help isolate the impact a new marketing campaign has from seasonal variations in your business.
Marketing is now much more of a science than ever before. That means businesses can wrap a structured approach to creating and managing their marketing campaigns. Remember back in grade 9 science class when you so science experiments? You would state a problem, form a hypothesis, outline the steps you would take, perform the experiment, list your results, and then draw conclusions about your findings. Marketers can now use that same framework when they’re crafting new marketing campaigns to achieve productive and profitable results.
A marketing plan helps you establish a foundation for your marketing activities as it outlines a broad framework that helps you oversee and manage your campaigns. It helps you stay focused and consistent, instead of sporadic and chasing the next idea-of-the-week that will inevitably come up.
Elements of an Effective Marketing Plan
Marketing plans come in all different shapes and sizes, but here are a few of the most common elements that any good one should include:
- Marketing Goals – Your marketing plan should ultimately answer the question of what goals you’re aiming to achieve with your marketing. While the most common answer is to increase sales, that’s not the only possibility. Some companies might want to build brand awareness, increase their social media following, establish themselves as a market leader or attract and hire premium talent. Establishing clear goals helps ensure that everything that you do can be aligned with supporting these goals.
- Roles & Responsibilities – Your marketing plan should outline who is responsible for what marketing activities such as brainstorming new marketing opportunities, acting on existing campaigns, collecting and analyzing results, and even managing the continued evolution of the plan.
- Campaigns & Activities – As you’re running marketing campaigns – everything from regular email newsletters to social media posting to attending trade shows and networking events – your business marketing plan should describe what activities you’ll do, when you’ll do them, how they’ll be done and what reporting needs to be done once everything is completed.
- Metrics & Analytics – What isn’t measured doesn’t get managed, and if your marketing activities aren’t having a measurable impact in helping you reach your business goals then you might be doing the wrong things and wasting your time and money. Your marketing plan should include what metrics will be tracked and changes you expect to indicate what you’re doing is worthwhile.
- Reviews & Revisions – Your marketing plan should naturally evolve over time. Your company, industry, products and services and customers will, and so too should your marketing plan. Having regular reviews of your marketing plan with an eye for making sure it’s still on-target, productive and effective should be a stated component of your marketing plan. It’s not a bad thing to change what you’re doing, especially if you’ve found a better way to do things, if your landscape changes, or if new marketing tools or channels emerge.
As market conditions change, new people and resources become available and new marketing opportunities pop up, you can use your marketing plan as a grounding tool to make sure whatever changes you make align with your overall goal or fit within your holistic marketing framework.
The Difference Between a Marketing Plan and a Marketing Strategy
The above list of common marketing plan elements shouldn’t be confused with a marketing strategy document, which your business should also have and keep current.
A marketing plan focuses more on planning, performing, and measuring marketing activities whereas a marketing strategy deals more with higher level strategic considerations. A marketing strategy typically articulates who your target market/industry is, who your ideal buyer is, what your company differentiator is, identifies and analyzes your competition, breaks down your SWOT, and includes strategic considerations.
There can certainly be crossover between a marketing plan and a marketing strategy, and both strategic and tactical elements could be included in a larger single document, but a marketing plan is different than a marketing strategy.
TL; DR: Intentionally Good Marketing in a Minute
Any business serious about building a more productive marketing platform must make a serious commitment to marketing. While enhancing your company website, posting content on social media and blasting out email newsletters can all help, aligning all your marketing activities into a marketing plan helps ensure you remain focused and consistent. A marketing plan lays out what marketing activities your business will do, when they’ll be done, who is responsible for them, and what metrics will be tracked to ensure you’re meeting your marketing goals.
If you’re doing marketing activities but you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, you might benefit from a marketing plan to align and focus your efforts. We help business owners grow their businesses through intentionally good marketing, and with a full range of marketing support services we can complement what you’re already doing to build a complete and fully integrated marketing platform. Get in touch and let’s have a chat, or let’s get right into it with a no-obligation marketing consultation!