5 Reasons You Absolutely Must Have a Marketing Plan!

I am always amazed when I become involved in new business situations and learn there is no marketing plan in place.  Even a brief or ultra high level plan is better than no plan, yet many businesses live without a plan at all.

I’ve had all the conversations and heard all the “explanations”  of why there is no marketing plan in place.  These explanations soon start to sound redundant and point to the same recurring fears that executives have about marketing plans.  Now, in talking to these folks, I believe these fears are real to the executive, they just don’t hold water upon an inspection of the facts.

Marketing Plans

Marketing Plans are very important!

Here then, are my Top 5 Reasons You Must Have a Written Marketing Plan:

  1. It really doesn’t need to take long.  Developing a marketing plan can take a long time and often does. There may even be reasons to take more time and gather data, talk to customers, etc.  However, there are techniques that can create a viable marketing plan in a day or two.  Many businesses need this type of quick plan and execution to capitalize on market opportunities or to refocus the marketing effort immediately.
  2. No business is too small.  Many folks think that a formal marketing plan is the domain of the large multinational firms and not for a very small business.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If your business needs customers to survive, then you need a plan to get them.
  3. It’s more than a just a document.  The process of putting together a plan will include many stakeholders who gradually understand and buy in to the plan as it’s developed and aspects are discussed.  Getting the team in alignment is an important goal of a marketing planning process.
  4. Planning is the only time you focus on the big picture.  Growing a business is often an exercise in firefighting.  Solving this morning’s problems.  No time to worry about the big picture.  All the more reason that periodically you step back and chart a course for the future.  Otherwise you may find yourself with a rudderless ship you cannot control.
  5. “Failing to plan is planning to fail”  I hate to roll out this old cliché, but in this case it fits.  Your likelihood of any success is much higher if you set the goal and create a plan to get there.  Hope is not a strategy.  Without a plan you will waste resources, be forced to make panic decisions and, since you have no clear goal to reach, will ultimately fail.

Looks like I have presented a pretty poor prognosis for anyone who does not use a marketing plan.  I do so because it is the largely the case.  Marketing is one area of business that needs to be carefully planned and results examined and the plan continually adjusted.  Don’t wait!  Begin today!

Do you have a written marketing plan in place?  Do the points above address the reasons why not?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

5 Things You Must Know About Marketing Plans

Marketing plans.  It seems some marketing professionals love them and well, some don’t.  But we’ve all had to deal with them.  Everyone wants to see the document and we must submit budget numbers, so we create marketing plans.

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I just completed a marketing plan project for one of my clients.  It’s a process I’ve done a hundred times, but this time I made a point to think about the big picture as I went through the process.  The observations I made may help you as you develop your next plan.

  1. You are never done.  As you think through all of the issues and choices in your plan, you realize that you could continue adding detail, thinking new angles, etc. almost literally forever.  We all feel that way.  But we must recognize the difference between planning and executing and draw a line and say “done!”
  2. The more time you spend planning, the better your marketing effort will be.  It probably goes without saying that the better you prepare, the better you execute.  The marketing plan is both the result and the process of that preparation.  When you have completed a marketing planning process properly, you’re ready to take on the world.
  3. No matter how hard you work, the plan is out of date before you know it.  It’s unfortunate, but your plan will be out of date almost before you use it.  It’s unlikely it will last a year, unless you are in a very stable corner of the business world.  In my career I have made a habit of redoing my marketing plans every 6 months.
  4. It’s only partially about the document.  Yes, a marketing plan is a document and an important one.  However, it’s more than a document; it’s really about the process of thinking it through, discussing it among the team, getting everyone on the same page.  If everyone on the team has their input and embraces the plan, execution will be so much easier.
  5. It must match the budget dollars.  I know, it seems obvious but the expenditures in a marketing plan must match the expenditures in the company budget.  Ideally, you create the plan in advance of submitting budget numbers, but often it doesn’t really work that way.  If you’re a 6-month planner like me, you know it’s a process of moving the dollars around, but keeping the total the same.

So for my client’s marketing plan, I’ve decided to call the plan done.  For now, anyway.  There will be discussions, there will be additional needs added by the sales or executive teams and we’ll recast the  plan again and add new information.  Then we’ll execute the plan and start the process all over again next year.

I’m reminded of an old cliché about plans in business: The only thing we know about our plan with certainty is that it will be wrong and it will not go as we planned it.  There’s some truth to that.  But it doesn’t diminish the importance of the marketing planning process.  Make sure you embrace it and give it proper respect.  You’ll be rewarded when you’re executing.

Do you create an annual marketing plan?  Does your company have a formal process?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

Trouble Writing a Marketing Plan? Here are 4 Easy Ways to Get Started!

In a previous blog, I reflected on all the reasons some companies don’t have a marketing plan in place.  In this blog, I’ll address some ideas to stimulate the plan development process.  You can find outlines and question-based marketing plan designs elsewhere; my goal here is to present tools to help break the creative block that prevents adequate discussion on the marketing strategy.

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Here then are four easy ways to begin that marketing planning process:

Start with the goal.  How much of an increase in sales is expected this year?  How many new leads will be required to make these sales?  Work backwards from the goal and determine how many and what kinds of marketing programs you’ll need to make goal.  You can get down to how many leads are needed each month.  This ends up being a numbers-based approach to start, but once you divide into quarters and individual campaigns, you can start to get creative.

Perform a competitive analysis, including your firm.  Create the analysis and review the results in a group.  Discuss what each competitor must do to grow.  Keep it all third person and keep track of each firms’ interfered strategy.  Then spend the most time on your company, creating strategies to counter each competitor.  Once you roll it all together, a tactical plan falls out quite naturally.  How will we execute to counter our competitors strengths?  In a saturated market you’ll want to spend some time determining where your new customers are going to come from and why they will make the switch.  This will give you clear direction on target and message.

Do a “SWOT” analysis of your company.  Once you have the SWOT laid out for your company, you create a plan by addressing every item in the SWOT and how it relates to your marketing.  Are we capitalizing on each strength in our “go to market” strategy?  If not how can we?  Same thing with the weaknesses; have we chosen target markets to minimize our competitive weakness?  This approach covers a lot of ground quickly and can yield a strong plan.

Bring in an outside resource to drive the process.  Sometimes having an outside party lead the process and ask the questions can be stimulating.  Moreover, an experienced consultant can streamline the process and help create a complete plan in days instead of weeks or months.   This is an area where outside resources make sense and can make a real difference in the quality of the plan.  Since you’ll be executing the plan for a year, making it right is important.

As with many business issues, there are several ways to solve the problem of starting the marketing plan.  But it can and needs to be done.  Each of these techniques works and can be worth a try in your organization.

How do you create your marketing plan?  Do you have trouble getting started?

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm

6 Steps to Develop a B2B Content Marketing Plan

I’m sure you have noticed that content marketing has become a hot topic.  B2B marketing has evolved significantly over the past couple decades and it has advanced to the point where the focus is back on what you say rather than how or where you say it.

This places pressure on each marketing organization to up its game with regard to content.  To do this, you’ll need a plan.  Follow these easy steps and use a tool like the simple matrix presented below to detail the needs and execute and you will be well on your way to mastering the art of content marketing.

Content marketing matrix

  1. Define and segment your audience.  I know it seems really simple, but in order to create useful content, you first have to understand who will be reading it.  What is it that the audience wants to learn at each stage of the sales cycle?  You may have more than one audience description, because you may have more than one type of audience.  For example, some products will have a technical audience and also a non-technical audience.  These two groups will need different content at each stage of the process.
  2. Map content requirements throughout the sales cycle.  Start by breaking your sales cycle into its logical grouping.  Longer sales cycles will have more steps.  This doesn’t have to be complex, you just want to break down the sales process in order to understand what types of content are needed at each stage, to which audience segment.  The slide above illustrates an example matrix of content needs.
  3. Inventory the content assets you already have.  Chances are, much of the content you already have works well in a content marketing world, sometimes with some small modifications.  You’ll likely want to tone down the sales aspect of some content and cut others into smaller chunks.  Odds are that you’ll find that you have some of the content you need and you can quickly adapt it to the needs of a content marketing world.
  4. Identify gaps in content.  After you have mapped the needs and taken a look at what you already have, you can easily identify the gaps and thus, what you will need to produce to be fully functional in content marketing.  You’ll also want to weight the stages based on how long prospect customers stay in them.  You need a lot of content to nurture a prospect for 9 months, if that is the sales cycle.
  5. Fill current content gaps. Once you’ve identified the gaps, you’ll need to make sure all the bases are covered in terms of having the right quality content for needs you’ve identified.  This will generate a one-time project to create the missing content.  Basic content marketing rules apply here; tone down or remove overt product sales, keep content in a consistent voice, define and follow length guidelines, break big topics into smaller ones, etc.
  6. Create ongoing content plan.  Go to your audience and understand what they need and want to know on an ongoing basis.   Then, develop a plan to create ongoing content that is interesting, engaging and useful to that audience.   A plan would include topic lists and an editorial calendar.  You’ll want to always have some amount of current content in use and be adding new items to your content library.

Of course, the plan only details the real work of writing and disseminating the content.   You’ll make that aspect so much easier by following the steps outlined here and create a detailed content pan.

What level of content plan do you have?  Are you focused on “content marketing?”

You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/ericlundbohm/

Follow his updates on Twitter @lundbohm