You're sat at your desk. You've got a blank computer screen in front of you and you want to develop a marketing plan which is going to help you to drive that double (or treble) digit growth you're after. So what does a great marketing plan look like?
It could only have been written for your company
Your company is unique. No other company will have the same history, the same products and services, the same staff and the same customers. A successful marketing plan will take all of this into account so that all activities are right for both where you as a company have come from and where you want to be.
But how do you make sure this is the case? If you've taken account of the below, then your plan will be specific to your company and has the greatest chance of success:
It's clear about why both your current and potential customers should buy your product or service.
Too often marketing plans can ignore the most important thing of all - what makes your company and its' products or services special?
What is it that means your customers bought from you in the first place and will keep buying the in the future? If you don't know the answer to this question, then close down your computer right now and ask.
Whether you ask face to face, on the phone or by e mail will depend on your type of business, but asking the right questions and getting truthful answers is the initial step on the way to a successful marketing plan. At Sugar Bullet I always start a marketing plan for a client by surveying current customers if they have them or target customers if they don't - and in many cases this has not only influenced the marketing plan, but the strategic direction of the business as a whole.
Once you truly understand what makes you special, this needs to feed into not only what you communicate but how you communicate it.
It learns from the past
This almost goes without saying. If you have done activities in the past which have or haven't worked well for you, then review why this was. You'll notice I haven't said if something hasn't worked before then don't do it again - because the reason it didn't work may be down to the way it was done rather than the actual activity. Also marketing landscapes change - and just because something did not work for you three years ago doesn't mean it won't now.
It's clear about where you want to go
Another question I will always ask a client is where they want to be in the future - both short, medium and long term. For example I recently did a piece of strategic work for a small company which was looking to treble its' business in 3 years, after a number of years of single digit growth.
For this company that level of growth would only be achievable by significantly changing its' business model which in the end formed part of my suggested plan for them (and which they are taking on board). If their goals had been less ambitious then the plan would have been very different - so it is vital to know where you want to be in the future.
It understands your target customers and their buying cycle and taps into it
Who do you want to buy your products or services? Is it the same as the people who are currently buying them? By this I don't necessarily mean demographics, although there my be a demographic element. It might be more about an attitude to purchase in that sector - for example they could be conservative in their purchases or risk takers. How important is price to them? Why are they buying - is it something they have to buy (for example due to health and safety) or are they buying something to give themselves or others pleasure? Who are they buying for? When do they buy? How often? If they've bought one product or service from you is it likely that they'll need another or your products or services (e.g. a service for a piece of equipment)?
Only by understanding a bit about your target customers' buying habits and what's important to them, can you put together a marketing plan which will communicate with them with the right message at the right time.
Every activity is there for a reason
So you know who your are targeting, why they will buy from you, what you should be saying and where in their buying cycle your customers are.
By taking all of this into account when considering what marketing activities to undertake then you should ensure that your plan is effective at reaching the right people at the right moment with the right message so will be successful.
Then take a step back - are there any activities you are thinking about doing that you can't explain why you are doing them? Is there anything you are doing because you think you should (social media is a common culprit here), rather than because you really understand how it is going to help your business? If there is then this is the time to be ruthless - if you don't know why you're going to do something, then you probably shouldn't do it - take it out!
This is not saying you shouldn't be creative - creative ways of reaching your desired target are often the most successful ways of all - as long as they have good strategic reasons for why you are doing them in the first place.
So open your mind to new ideas, allow yourself to develop wild and wacky ideas and activities - but just make sure that the reason you are doing them is clear.
If you've read this and would like a chat about how you can ensure that you develop an effective marketing plan for your business, please give me a call or drop me an e mail. The first meeting is always free - so what have you got to lose?