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Why Your Business Needs An Annual Marketing Plan?
My author, editor, publisher friend Chris White wrote a post on marketing, and it occurred to me I might take opportunity to share my experience and knowledge. As a creative generalist it is easy for me to see the big picture, and as a “gatekeeper” in the design industry who sees startups and ventures often from cradle to grave, I want to share some observations about marketing. As a professional who has implemented local regional and national marketing plans for several organizations, businesses, and promotions (some successful and some not so successful), I have some direct experience. This is not a step by step, or a template. I have written out my notes on the why, how, what and when, and a few ringers to avoid; if you are trying to sell something I think you might want to take the time to review the following:
- Because the only way to empower the team is to not make them rely on your memory and vague ideas that you dumped verbosely on them in a meeting and told them to photograph with their cell phones off the whiteboard. (Any hope of having a team is reliant on a written plan. Team members assemble around a written plan like in Oceans Eleven.)
- Because in the midst of carrying out a written marketing plan, documentation will be required to keep you from chasing your tail when inevitable pivots are introduced. Things on paper look different than in your head.
- Because the act of advertising can be intense and leave you feeling like you have accomplished more than you really have.
- A marketing plan can be a tool that helps you create a rhythm. Rhythms are natures way of sustainability.
- Measurement. Putting out fires leaves business owners no time to analyze success or failures, they are often wrapped up (as they should be) with today—and have no time for past or future thinking. Consequently if you ask someone how business is going, the answer will depend on how they are feeling at that moment, hour, or day. Planning helps you to set aside some time for objectivity and keeps you from managing your business based on emotions, lack of profits, or today’s problems.
- Your marketing plan brings together intelligence, time, and creativity into definition.
- Assemble and produce those materials. (Business cards, surveys, events, videos, etc.)
- Create a reasonable timeline for executing your plan.
- Plan your timeline backwards. (Starting with the perfect day helps you to visualize your goal.)
- Execute your plan. Make needed changes, repeat.
What this requires:
(You can see why so many people don’t have marketing plans.)
Number one marketing plan killer?
No budget. Trying to pull something from thin air and it looks like it. Even if you have no budget take the time to assemble a plan, it is much more likely you will find the money for a defined amount. I have had more than one client literally laugh when I review the financials of a proposal because they do not have the money, only to show up later because the money showed up in some unexpected way. As if the Universe had rewarded them for taking the first step.
2. People who think they can do their own creative work, and find out that after a month of work that just owning Creative Suite doesn’t mean that you can create professional branding, or should.
3. Spending a bunch of cash, on marketing materials without really identifying your market, or how to reach them. Oh look, you have pens, an ad in the phone book, and a spot on the radio? But have you fooled yourself into thinking that takes the place of planning, strategy, and patience?
4. Thinking your idea is so good that people will climb all over each other to find you. But then you figure out that you forgot about competition. In fact, you didn’t even research your competition. Often being in love with your own concept keeps you from doing the needed marketing, since you can see your promotion service, or product’s value, you assume everyone else will.
5. Being yanked like a dog on chain by every marketing product or service out there. It makes you feel like you are doing the business, but doesn’t give an ROI.
6. Impatience, not sticking to the plan. I worked on a year long plan and just as we executed 9 months in it the client got cold feet and made up her own gimmick. She shot herself in the foot as she’d already paid for and done all the hard work. Many of her staff who had been energized by the project became disenfranchised and left the company. Years later that company has never been able to get off the ground.
7. Seeing marketing as a complication that conflicts with the mission of doing your job. Small business has a way of peaking at a certain level of activity based on the person (or persons) energy level. Yes last year you did it all. But next year you may not be able to. Yes hiring people cost money and takes time, but if you let them do their job you will have time to do yours, and will get the rewards of either knowing what went wrong with your plan, or the satisfaction of success.
— Esau Kessler