I’ll tell you right up front, there’s a dangerous disease that’s sucking the life out of many company’s marketing efforts. I call it the Tactic Trap. I define the Tactic Trap as the capturing of our attention by shiny marketing ‘objects’, marketing tactics that are the current trend. We’re told that we should have a website, be producing online videos, be active on social media, and our businesses will thrive. I’m here to say that’s not true.
It is true that these tactics and platforms are important in most marketing plans, but don’t let that small but important phrase go overlooked – Marketing Plans. You’ve probably heard the truism that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. This is very true when it comes to your marketing and I’ll walk you through why a Marketing Plan is so vital to not only successfully leverage the right tactics, but ultimately to ensure you’re directing all efforts towards your clearly defined business goals.
Perhaps it’s the nature of our culture today, but we all want immediate results. We read article after article that something is vital to grow your business – for arguments sake let’s say it’s Social Media. Everywhere you go, you’re being bombarded with messages that are saying that your business has to be on social media, and not only that, but that you need to be investing in social media marketing. Is this true? Should you be investing in social media? The answer is maybe. Don’t invest in social media unless you have a plan, but if your Marketing Plan tells you that growing your exposure on Social Media and driving leads to your website will help you meet your business goals, then YES, do it.
Unless you are comfortable taking your hard earned money out of your wallet and throwing it on the bonfire of the tactic of the month, then a well thought out plan is not only the best way to assure success, it is the only way. Any fulfillment vendor for website, social media, SEO/SEM, content development, blogging and branding will tell you that you have to have a plan. The problem is that many of these vendors are focused only on the project plan they’re involved in, so if you don’t have a clearly defined overall marketing strategy, they will create a flawed plan that will spin off on its own. Now imagine all of your marketing tactics as spinning plates all with their own plans. You struggle with your vendors to keep each plate up, and hope that somehow good results will come from all this activity. However, more often than not, plates begin to wobble and start to crash to the ground. But the greatest tragedy is that they’ve invested in tactics that have shown very little return-on-investment because they weren’t aligned with a larger strategy and now the business thinks that marketing takes too much work, costs too much and doesn’t produce results.
It’s at this point that business owners begin to ask around to see what they could be doing differently.
My hope is that I can help save you the time, heartbreak and cost of learning this yourself.
A Strategic Marketing Plan is the overarching framework that all marketing activities will work within. It is a helpful filter for the business owner to pour marketing ideas through to see if each separate tactic will support your business goals. If the tactic doesn’t fit within the strategic framework, than as enticing as it looks, it should be set aside – not later, now.
To begin developing your Marketing plan you need to start at the beginning. With your business goals. What do you want to do: grow the number of clients, be more profitable with your clients, retain clients, steal marketshare from your competitors, stop competing on price. These are just a few common goals to help get your thinking started. Once you’re clear on what your goals are, strategies can then be formulated to help you reach those goals.
Imagine a battlefield if you will. You have a finite army with finite resources, with time being an important resource. You know that you have to take the land in front of you from the aliens (let’s keep it as a non-human conflict). You look at your positions, you look at their positions. You know you have a certain amount of troops, weapons, and supplies. You need to use all these resources to your greatest benefit in order to take the ground from your enemy and move on to your next objective. There’s a cost to every activity you do and a cost when you do nothing. So you surround yourself with the best experts and field strategists you can find as well as your commanding officers for each area and you develop a plan together to accomplish your task. A Marketing Plan is similar to this. You have resources at your disposal; a marketing budget, experts both internal (partners and employees) and external (outside consultants and vendors). You review your business goals and select strategies that you believe will help you reach these goals. Then you select the tactics that fit within your strategies. For clarity all of this information is written down and a Marketing Roadmap is drawn up as well as a Marketing Calendar, this then provides the daily, weekly, and monthly marching orders for your team and your marketing vendors.
Peter Drucker, the great business thinker said “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. What he meant was that you can never do something successfully or with impact if it can’t be measured. Measurement and tracking are a key component to your marketing plan. Once you’ve determined what you will do, you need to know what to measure. Each tactic can be measured in numerous ways, so without going into the minutia in this post (I will write another post on effective measurement), I will simply say that you should focus on tracking the fewest number of factors possible that will tell you if you’re being successful or not. What I mean by this is that you can be overwhelmed by the amount of data coming out of your marketing without producing insights that will guide your efforts. Instead, start with your business goals and how you will measure them (usually it’s very clear). For example if one of your business goals is to ‘increase sales’ then you should be measuring ‘closed/won sales’, and also the phases leading up to the sale so you know what’s working and what’s not. Then move on to your marketing strategies and choose 2 or 3 Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s as the big companies like to call them), that will help you know if your efforts are moving the needle on the things that matter most. For the time being, know that you have to measure results, and there are always ways of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing activities.
There’s a great chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This is absolutely true with your Marketing Plan. If you don’t have an up to date Marketing Plan, get it done now. The marketplace, your competitors, and new players aren’t sitting still, they are constantly on the offensive, and if you don’t have a plan it will be your territory they are taking. Be bullish about this. If you don’t have the skills then find someone who does. Outsourced Marketing and other strategic marketing consultants like us are passionate about helping businesses like yours get this right. We want you to succeed, and to do that you need a great Marketing Plan that will tell you how to get there.
Want to discover ‘How to Build A Marketing Plan’ – click here
Ian Cantle is the President and Marketing Strategist at Outsourced Marketing. His 20+ years in marketing and communications in a variety of industries has provided him with a unique perspective on what works and what doesn't in Marketing. Ian founded Outsourced Marketing to fill a gap in the marketplace between businesses and sound marketing strategies and marketing systems. His goal is to take the mystery out of marketing and show business owners how a systematic approach to their marketing can provide exceptional results while easing the burden on them. Want to discover the Outsourced Marketing difference, book a free discovery call or call us at 905-251-8178.