Running a successful business is not like a field of dreams; you can build it but they might not come. Marketing is all about letting people know about the product or service you offer, and persuading them to buy or use it. And for effective marketing you have to let people know about your product or service repeatedly.
To do this, you're going to have to come up with both a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.
Marketing Strategy Versus Marketing Plan
The marketing strategy is shaped by your overall business goals. It includes a definition of your business, a description of your products or services, a profile of your target users or clients, and defines your company's role in relationship to the competition. The marketing strategy is essentially a document that you use to judge the appropriateness and effectiveness of your specific marketing plans. The CCH Business Owner's Guidebook has an excellent explanation and checklist that you can use to work through your strategy.
To put it another way, your marketing strategy is a summary of your company's products and position in relation to the competition; your sales and marketing plans are the specific actions you're going to undertake to achieve the goals of your marketing strategy.
The marketing plan, then, can be thought of as the practical application of your marketing strategy. If you look at my article, Writing The Marketing Plan, you'll see that the marketing plan includes details about your business' unique selling proposition, pricing strategy, the sales and distribution plan and your plans for advertising and promotions.
So in effect, you can't have a marketing plan without a marketing strategy. The marketing strategy provides the goals for your marketing plans. It tells you where you want to go from here. The marketing plan is the specific road map that's going to get you there.
Developing a Marketing Plan
If you were going to drive from Vancouver to Halifax, would you really just glance at a globe and then head out? Expecting to implement a marketing strategy without developing a marketing plan is just like this analogy. The more detailed information that's been collected beforehand, and the more planning that's been done ahead of time, the faster and more pleasant the trip - and the more effective your marketing plan will be.
Follow these steps:
1) The first step is to create specific marketing objectives and write them down. What do you want your promotion efforts to do for you?
If you're selling herbs, for instance, perhaps you want to increase your monthly sales by 25 percent. If you're a realtor, a good marketing objective might be to get 10 new listings each month. My own marketing objective is to gain a new client each month. Whatever marketing objective you set, be sure it's realistic; you need to be able to achieve the marketing objective if it's going to motivate you or serve as a good benchmark to evaluate your success.
2) Now the hard part. Under each marketing objective, write as many specific things as you can that you are going to do to achieve the objective. If I want to increase my monthly sales by 25 percent, one thing I might do is place some ads. But when I'm working on my marketing objective list, I need to take the time to think it through so I'll be able to follow through effectively.
Just "placing some ads" isn't specific enough to serve as a marketing objective. I have to consider what type of ads and where I might place them to increase my monthly sales. For instance, I might write, "place an ad describing specials in the local newspaper" as a marketing objective, or "put ad on local TV station".
Then I have specific actions to follow that will help me achieve my marketing objective rather than just a vague idea. If you're having trouble with coming up with these specific activities, or seeing how each marketing objective fits in with your marketing plan, reading The Advertising and Promotion Plan will help you fit all the pieces together.
3) Go over the list of specific activities you've brainstormed and check them against your marketing plan. Choose the ones that fit best with your marketing objectives and do the best job of targeting your potential clients or customers.
4) Then, using your calendar, decide which promotional activities you're going to do when. You can break your marketing plan down by month or by quarter, but be sure you include not only a description of the activity or event, but also a reference to which marketing objective the promotion activity or event is related to, and a cost estimate.
Regularly Update Your Plan
Once you set up your marketing plan, remember that it needs to be an organic, living document, not something you put into a nice folder and file somewhere and never look at again. Take fifteen minutes every day to review your goals and specific activities; what did you do that particular day to help you achieve the marketing objectives you've set?
What do you need to do tomorrow? Too often we make plans or list objectives and then get so enmeshed in all the things we have to do to run our businesses that we shunt them aside. Taking fifteen minutes a day to review your marketing objectives, marketing plan, and marketing activities goes a long way towards helping you stay focused and on track and market your products or services effectively.
Where to From Here?