Fast Company declares this as “A Nearly Complete Marketing Toolkit for Startups.” Great. Now what do you do with it? Integrate those tools with your marketing plan? Ha! Admit it. You have no plan.
Don’t feel bad. Most businesses don’t. Heck, even marketing consultants who sell marketing plans don’t have a marketing plan.
Some companies like to say, “Maybe not. But we do have a strategy.” C’mon, man! Admit it. You have no plan. It’s ok. The marketing plan police will not show up at your business some day to fine you for operating a business without a plan.
The Major Causes of No Marketing Plan
According to one study, up to 64% of small businesses don’t have a plan. I think that’s grossly understated. Do you wonder why you don’t have one? A marketing plan? I do. Here are some of the reasons experience has taught me.
Major Cause: You have been lured by free tools and promises of automated marketing. “It’s free! It requires no effort!” Just set it and go, and watch the results magically appear. Hooray for marketing!
Major Cause: Not enough time. Hey, you have a business to run.
Major Cause: Unwillingness to commit to a direction and stick to it. There are so many shiny marketing objects out there. Why should you just commit to one?
Major Cause: You hire someone to help you, but you don’t want to take all of their advice. I see this a lot. Clients think they want a plan, but what they really want are some good ideas.
Major Cause: No long term perspective. Many businesses operate without a core ideology. Their purpose is to make money. Without a core ideology, there is no long term vision, and thus no direction. Consequently, there is not pressing need for a marketing plan.
Major Cause: You have the wrong idea about what a plan can do for you. You want a plan to increase sales, but marketing plans are about building a sustainable business by creating relationships with customers.
Is a marketing plan necessary?
Maybe not in the traditional sense of what you think a marketing plan is. I’ve always tried to package my client marketing plans as a series of initiatives rather than a strict marketing plan. Still a tough sell.
In the nifty little ebook, Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday, you will will not find the words “marketing plan” adjacent to each other one time. Holiday’s take on marketing is that,
“…a growth hacker doesn’t see marketing as something one does, but rather as something one builds into the product itself.”
The product is the plan, marketing plans be damned. Holiday’s statement is true, but also incomplete. What he advocates is planning on the run; building a strategy over time by learning what works and doesn’t. A marketing plan evolves rather than being formally written. That’s one approach.
A direction is definitely necessary.
This is the part where I could use some clever metaphor to make you believe that you need a marketing plan. The rudder on a ship would be a good one, or maybe the sails on a sailboat could be another. But I’m just going to ask you to trust your intuition. If you’ve read this piece all the way to this point, I think your gut is telling you that you need something. A formal marketing plan is obviously not a necessity, but a direction definitely is. And it would help if you wrote some of that down, or recorded it in Evernote.
Start with your core ideology: What is the central organizing idea behind your business?
What does that mean you want to do for customers?
From there, decide how you want to communicate that meaning to potential customers and and how you will let them feel it. That’s your direction, and it’s the beginning of your marketing plan.
Does it frustrate you that you don’t have a plan?
Do you want a marketing plan?
What do you think a marketing plan should do?