Well we’ve all heard the phrase; if you fail to plan you plan to fail, 100%. If you don’t plan to get somewhere on purpose the chances are, you won’t get there by accident, you’ll most likely end up somewhere you never intended to be.
It’s true that things very rarely go to plan but a marketing plan acts as an anchor to your marketing goals, that keeps you focused on the goals even when the plan goes awry.
A plan is essential in life and business, however, in life it’s normally sufficient to just plan (to map a series of steps to your desired destination) in business it rarely is. Business requires ‘strategic planning’, marketing planning that considers the external environment and likely challenges that will be faced. A plan shows you the way, a strategic plan prepares you for the unexpected along the way.
Sun Tzu put it this way;
The general who wins a battle makes many calculations, the general who loses a battle makes few calculations beforehand, thus do many calculations lead to victory and few calculations to defeat, how much more no calculations at all?
So here’s a few tips to guide your marketing planning:
- Decide where you want to go – no purpose, no plan, so what’s the goal?
- Consider the moral law (not just the legal law)
Plan to take care of your customers and your people. The new economy demands this more than ever before. The rise of the ethical and social consumer means that people pay a premium for brands they respect, trust and look up to. Books like the The Thank You Economy and Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust have highlighted this in recent times, but it’s an age old truth. The Bible puts it this way ‘trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live safely in the land and prosper’ (Psalms 37:3). The most profitable way to do business is to consider people before profits. Put the customer at the heart of your marketing planning.
3. Know your shape, find your voice
‘Keep it real’ and ‘do you’ as they say. Capitalise on your natural strengths and what you’re good at, then promote your business in your own unique way – Some of the best modern marketers are not trained marketers and if they are they don’t conform to text book marketing models, they are authentic, they spread the word naturally. Examples include Seth Godin, Sandi Krakowski, Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m a huge fan of these folks, I and many, many others actually take the time to listen to what they have to say and invest in what they have to offer. I look forward to receiving Chris Brogan’s weekly email on a Sunday morning, how many businesses can say that their customers look forward to receiving their emails, on a Sunday at that! Such is the art of effective marketing.
4. Consider the climate
What external circumstances exist that could help or hinder you? Look at market trends, the economic climate, recent events etc. leverage these opportunities and guard against the threats. Ask questions like;
- Can you spot an under served niche market?
- What does the economic climate mean for your business?
- Is there increased competition?
- What are current and future market trends that might affect you?
5. Know the other army (notice I did not say enemy)
- Where are they stronger than you?
- What are their unique skills and specialisms?
- What are your comparative weaknesses and strengths?
The answer to these questions will determine whether your marketing strategy should be offensive or defensive. A defensive strategy may be to focus on a niche market, leverage your expertise and focus on key target customers (e.g. niche retailers like modcloth.com). An offensive strategy could be to go head to head with a key competitor offering the same or similar products (e.g. Supermarkets).
6. Harness Humility
Let the other side boast. Spend your energy focusing on performance and continuous improvement - let your light shine naturally. Formerly it was those with the biggest budgets and brightest advertising campaigns that won, now it’s the brands that are most in touch with the needs of their customers, engage with their customers and offer the best service. If you find your target customers and serve them well, you’ll see how easy marketing becomes, in fact your customers will end up doing most of the marketing for you.
7. Be disciplined and methodical
Proceed with your marketing planning in an orderly and consistent way, take small steps on a regular basis, don’t try to launch the world’s most amazing marketing campaign in one day. Build your marketing activity over time, plan each step, take the time to learn along the way – prepare, act, review – and again – prepare, act, review.
As always feel free to ask questions or comment below.
Look out for the next instalment early next week entitled ‘Waging War’.by