A strong marketing plan needs to start with a clear understanding of the Vision of your company or business unit. Marketing is a powerful tool when used properly, but it will not get you anywhere unless you know where you want to go. Therefore the first step in your planning exercise is to establish a Vision for your organization. You can define Vision as what you want your business to be in 1, 2 and 5 years with respect to sales, image, products, customers and staff.
From this point you need to set some Vision oriented goals. These goals can be very simple, but should be written. Examples are sales in units or dollars, sales growth, profit, change in image, number of leads generated, changes in customer satisfaction, etc.
Next comes the tactical plan. That is, what are you going to do? Advertising, direct marketing, PR, promotions, etc. Write them down with some expectation of what they are to accomplish and who is responsible for doing each activity.
Infrastructure improvements follow. Tracking systems, the creation of a sales process (Create image & interest, get leads, and make sales), training, sales & distribution channels and location are all areas were the marketing function might find improvement.
Now create a timeline. What is going to be done, when and by whom? This can be done on a spreadsheet or written on a chalk board I conference room. It really doesn’t matter how it its recorded, just make sure that this is done, and review it once a month. Don’t panic if the timeline starts to change. As a matter of fact you should start getting concerned if it never changes. The timeline as well as the entire marketing plan is a fluid entity and it will change over time. Things will get pushed back, some will get completed ahead of schedule, others will get deleted before they get started and new items will be added. As long as all of this is done in a deliberate, intelligent manner change is good.
Finally create and use metrics. Use your vision-oriented goals to create measurement criteria that will gage the success of the plan and its implementation. When all is said and done, no one marketing activity is terribly difficult to accomplish. Likewise, no single activity will make or break an organization. It is the continuous cycle of learning, thinking and doing that makes the difference between long-term success and failure.
Everyone has an uncle they like to tell stories about. I am no exception. My uncle’s name is Marty, and he just happens to be an accomplished sales and marketing professional. Despite the fact that we do discuss our common profession when we get together these days, I want to share something I learned from Uncle Marty when I was a kid. You see, Uncle Marty taught me how to ski, and two of the things he taught me apply in the world of marketing as well as in life in general.
Lesson one: Keep your knees bent and stay out of the woods. It’s obvious how this advice would come in handy while skiing. Keeping our knees bent teaches us to stay flexible, and adapt to our terrain. In marketing as with skiing we will have our steep slopes, bumps, and icy patches, and flexibility enables us to keep our balance and continue to move forward. Those who are rigid crash. Staying out of the woods is common sense safety. In marketing this principal teaches us that companies have distinct paths cut out before them, and we need to take the company where it is meant to go. That’s not to say we should not take risks (after all skiing itself is a risky endeavor) but our risks should play to the strengths of our organization.
Lesson two: If you’re not falling down, you’re probably not trying hard enough. There is no set formula for marketing. It is a long-term experiment in which we use the information available to us, make the best decisions we can and see how it works. We then use the results of that experiment to improve our next effort and so on. When we do this we will fall down from time to time and make a marketing mistake, but using this method allows to continuously improve our marketing, and it helps prevent us from getting blind sided by unexpected changes in the market.
Gaetan Giannini is the Department Chair and Assistant Professor at Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa. He is also an independent, marketing speaker and consultant. He can be reached at 610-606-4666 x 3427 or firstname.lastname@example.org