Five Steps to an Effective Marketing Plan

Plan blueprint

I’ll just start this post with some quotes I dug up:

“All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination.”

Earl Nightingale (1921-1989) American Radio Announcer, Author & Speaker

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
George S. Patton (1885-1945) American Army General, WWII

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

Plato  (BC 427-BC 347) Greek philosopher.

Okay, no more famous dead people quotes but there’s nothing here that any of us don’t already know, it’s just easier said than done.  Many times we just don’t know where to begin, or if we do, we need a guide to help us along the way.  Most important though, it’s better just to get something down in writing.  By writing it down, it memorializes your thoughts and makes commitments to your goals much more definable.

So, where does one begin when putting together an effective marketing plan?

I have outlined below some very general, basic steps to follow to help you get started. Knowing that there are many very smart people out there, I prefer to use the wisdom of two authors, Roman G. Hiebing, Jr. and Scott W. Cooper from their third addition of “The Successful Marketing Plan” for reference.

Step One-Business Review

This first step is probably the most involved and perhaps the most important as this entails building the database that you will use year after year as your benchmark.  Various sources for gathering this data exist, not the least of which are your own sales records and will include analysis of your company, your competitors, your product and the marketplace respective to whom you are trying to target.  It is also important to look at the philosophy of your company, your goals and aspirations, and how you want to make a difference.  Your business plan is a great place to start but you may need to do secondary research from industry reports. Surveys and focus groups are also sometimes involved. From this research you can start to analyze your Problems and Opportunities.  Some people refer to this as the SWOT analysis (stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).  The more information you can include here, the better.

Step Two-Marketing Objectives and Sales Objectives

No plan works without clearly defined and measurable objectives.  With the thorough understanding of your target market and its demographics and buying patterns, you articulate what it is you want this target market to do.  What action do you want your target market to take?  How will the target market use your product or service and what are their buying cycles and habits?  Once you’ve established what you want them to do (your marketing objectives) you can now quantify how these actions translate into sales and profits.  If you haven’t defined exactly what kind of sales you hope to achieve, it will be difficult to know how the plan is performing.  What kind of sales must you have to make a profit and stay in business?  What kinds of margins are you able to command?  Be as specific as possible.

Step Three-Plan Strategies and Communication Goals

Here you are defining the desired perception of your product or service within your target market relative to your competition.  This is brand positioning and helps you decide how you will communicate with the target, what awareness and attitudes will be necessary to deliver on your defined objectives.  While the marketing objectives above are specific, quantifiable and measurable, the marketing strategies explain how these objectives will be met and will guide the tactical marketing tools you establish later in your plan.

Step Four-Tactical Marketing Mix Tools

It’s not uncommon for many business owners to jump right to this step.  Do you need a new website?  Is email or social media a better way to go?  Should you buy television advertising time or use outdoor billboards?  Will ads in trade magazines build more awareness?  If you have done a good job in the previous steps, this step should almost build itself.  You will have a clearer understanding of what marketing tools to use with the information formulated above.

Step Five-Budgets, Payback Analysis & Calendar

Clearly you must know what the execution of the plan is expected to cost as well as whether your plan’s marketing programs will generate the projected revenues that will exceed expenses.  This is also the step where you establish the calendar of when certain tactical activities will take place.  It is here that you can establish those tactical activities that should bring about a faster result and therefore a quicker return on the investment versus tactical activities where the results are longer term.  This kind of prioritization will determine your calendar.  It is important to stick to this calendar and budget in order to track the plan’s overall effectiveness.

If it seems like the seventy hours per week you are already putting in simply doesn’t allow time for creating this kind of marketing plan, don’t feel alone.  It is where my passion for helping business owners took me and why I offer to help with this important business process.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments.

Next time I’ll talk about your Marketing Plan Execution.

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