MArketing Plan concept with workstation on a light green wooden desk

It sounds like an idea from the past – the 1990s, even 80s. A marketing plan. Why should you have one?

We work with many small and medium sized companies to help them improve their marketing and very few have a plan behind the marketing they do. Needles to say, step one is indeed to do a marketing plan.

An investment plan for growth

A marketing plan is really an investment plan. Think about it: marketing is the one function in your business that “always asks for money”. This is the biggest frustration most business owners have with marketing – it feels like a pure expense item.

But a marketing plan can turn this expense into an investment.

The idea with a well crafted marketing plan is to provide clarity on where the low hanging fruit are in terms of business opportunities, and how a coordinated set of activities can be used to target these and unlock real value, both top-line, as increased sales, and bottom-line, as greater profit.

What do you do, as a business owner, when you consider making an investment in something? You study the opportunity at hand and determine an underlying value for it before putting down the money. The same should be true with marketing.

What should be in your marketing plan?

A good marketing plan is not a static document that you file away. Rather it is a living one that should be reviewed monthly. Importantly, it should cover the following:

  1. A brief overview of the market you compete in.
  2. The one competitor to keep an eye on.
  3. The ideal customer you are trying to attract.
  4. The key points of difference that sets you apart, as captured by your brand.
  5. The purchase journey, or sales funnel, that your customer engages in before they buy.
  6. The marketing activities, or tactics, you are going to use to have the maximum impact on the above journey.
  7. A budget
  8. Key tracking measures

Critically, the above document should give you, the business owner, line-of-sight into how marketing expenses should translate into a return, hence transforming it into an “investment”.

The thing with a marketing plan is that you, as the business, should take the lead in doing it. No marketing agency is going to apply the necessary objectivity to first look at your business and only then select a set of activities. What if the right activity, or approach, is not offered by the agency?

You can’t be jury, judge and executioner at the same time. Someone needs to put a marketing plan in place and someone else needs to execute on it and report back to the business on the “return on investment”.

Marketing shouldn’t just be an expense. Otherwise why do it? It should be an activity that is driven by a plan and aimed at a positive outcome in the income statement – the side that says sales, and the bottom-line, that says profit.

What to do with your marketing plan?

  1. Don’t file it away. Use it!
  2. Refer to the plan monthly
  3. Put in monthly reports on sales (this will help in tracking performance as you follow the plan)
  4. Make the plan visible to all parts of your business- finance, manufacturing, personnel, etc. This will help everyone to be on the same page, understand the goal and work towards that