What’s the risk if you don’t have a thought-through marketing plan?
This blog is for two people. The lead marketer in the business who would like to justify taking time out for thinking and planning. And for those responsible for marketing in their business who aren’t a trained marketer and who are keen to get going on the action.
I’m a big believer in the power of a marketing plan.
I’ve learned over the years that taking a step back and thinking about the marketing strategy and plan before action has all sorts of benefits.
In a LinkedIn poll I ran recently, I asked the question: how many businesses don’t have a marketing plan? Most people answered correctly.
It’s a whopping 50% of businesses who don’t have one.
In fact, I’d hazard a guess that it’s more than that. For two reasons. Some firms have more of a list of marketing activities than a marketing plan.
Related blog: When a marketing plan is not a marketing plan.
Secondly, some firms believe that ‘marketing’ is about generating leads and creating awareness. That is certainly part of it, but it’s only one part of the “find-win-keep” job of marketing.
More interesting still is the fact that a very small percentage of businesses have a marketing and sales plan that link together. No statistics on that, but my guess is that it’s less than 5%.
You won’t know your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
This is one of the key tools I recommend to help people think about their marketing strategy. It’s simple, but effective. Not using this (and other strategic planning tools) means you won’t address strengths and threats. In not doing that you will be unable to properly harness the opportunities that exist for your firm.
Uncoordinated marketing activities
A very common conversation I have with clients is about how they feel their marketing is a bit scattergun. Or ‘yo-yo’ (it comes and goes). Or lacks clarity and focus. Or all of these. The problem with this is that there is a high risk marketing won’t succeed if what you have is a series of random activities that you inconsistently action.
Can’t properly measure success
If you don’t know your route, or the end point, how can you know whether you’re making progress? Because of this, perceived lack of success becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the marketing naysayers. If you don’t have the milestones in place, it’s easy for marketing not to succeed and for some to therefore believe that marketing doesn’t work. Better to link marketing success to a range of metrics, appropriate to each stage of the customer’s buying journey, including the end result, being work from paying clients or more work from existing clients.
You waste money
You can’t fix the problems or gaps if you don’t know what they are in the first place. To find out, part of marketing planning is identifying what works, what doesn’t, where the gaps are and understanding your ideal client well enough to know how to engage them. This is also a reason to revisit your plan regularly so that your marketing activities are not just undertaken because they’ve always been done like that.
Failure to find, win or keep the right clients
This is a symptom of not doing the thinking or planning or the right marketing. A good marketing plan requires that you know who your ideal clients are and where you actually stand among the competition. Why might they buy from you as opposed to another firm? Why might you be the perfect match for them? How do you communicate that? Creating the plan (this specifically relates to honing your proposition) will help you really understand what you’re selling, what problems it solves for your clients and what outcomes they can expect to see.
Helps deal with uncertainty
Planning ahead necessarily asks you to consider the unknowns and helps you lessen their impact by considering how to deal with them. Few of us planned for a pandemic, but many a business has come unstuck by not responding quickly to changes in the marketplace. Consider those firms who lost clients (or at least failed to impress) early on in the pandemic as they hunkered down without reaching out to those clients and offering an ear, a shoulder or some help. That was a failure of marketing, a failure to plan.
One of the key success criteria for marketing is consistency – showing up as much as is needed, at least at a minimum level. However, it’s hard to do that if you don’t have a plan, laying out which activities, when, where and how and what messages. Consistency, and keeping visible, has been (and will continue to be) particularly important through and beyond this pandemic.
I’ve had several conversations recently where marketing managers are making do with less budget or people. A plan helps you manage those resources and determine what’s possible and what the bare minimum is. This helps you to manage your colleagues’ expectations, decide what and when to outsource and what to say ‘no’ to without undermining the marketing and sales effort!