Experts say you need a business plan. Tim Berry of Bplans.com goes so far as to say
“Marketing your business without having a plan is like shooting a gun without having a target. Not only is it difficult, but it’s also reckless, ineffective and even dangerous.”
The real debate is not whether or not you need a marketing plan, the question is, what goes in your plan? In my exposure to formal marketing plans, There’s too much focus on numbers and goals, and not enough on what really matters. You don’t need forecasts and metrics, you need foundations and initiatives. Here’s what you should include.
Marketing Plan Foundations
These are the building blocks of your plan. The foundations include the promises and concepts that form your business identity. This foundation will guide your decisions. Your key foundation building blocks come from the four essential spots of small business marketing:
Your Brand Promise – What do you promise your customers above and beyond the product/service you happen to sell?
Your Tagline – I call it your signature. It’s your best brand communication tool. A tagline succinctly tells customers what you’re all about and reminds you of the promise you make.
Customer Experience Promise – What will the customer get from their direct experience with you?
Customer Experience Theme – How will you tie all the elements of your customer’s experience together. You should have a cohesive theme that delivers a consistent experience.
Customer Experience Map – This key marketing plan tool maps out your customers’ experience.
Word of Mouth – Your conversation spark (what you want people to say about you), word of mouth strategy,
Social Media – Social media participation. Which channel will you use and how will you use it?
PR – What are your publicity objectives? What you want in the media and how to get it.
Advertising and Promotion – The message you will use to court customers, your preferred advertising medium, promotional activity calendar.
Marketing Plan Initiatives
The primary reason that marketing plans don’t get used is that they too are long and complicated. Filled with detailed step-by-step systems and instructions. Problems begin when you miss just one well-planned step of the carefully coordinated plan. Eventually, you get too far behind and the plan is no longer practical. At that point it gets filed and rarely used.
Replace intricate step-by-step plans with initiatives. Projects that you want to complete. Again, break these up in to the four essential spots of small business marketing. Here are some examples.
Branding – Get a new logo. Write an ebook that serves as a manifesto for your brand promise.
Customer Experience – Create home instruction manuals that show customers how to use your product when they get home.
Conversation – Create a YouTube channel and post weekly how-to videos.
Promotion – Send out direct-mail postcards to our customer list on the 15th of each month.
Think of your marketing plan as a tool, not a document. This tool holds you responsible for important projects, it reminds you of your foundational building blocks. With your plan in place you can focus on important marketing activities and say no to everything else.