Who Needs Marketing Planning?
Do your business goals require that you are communicating with others? If you answered yes, you need a marketing plan.
When a business first starts, it has a limited number of products and services. It’s easier to manage the list of marketing activities you need. As your offerings and audiences diversify, whether you have one or two products or a wide, growing variety, you’ll need to take time to map your marketing activities and intentions.
You likely have organization-wide strategic goals and objectives. I hope you do. Perhaps you even have a strategic plan in place, or you have some huge dreams for expansion. Regardless of what form these strategic objectives take, you need effective marketing activities to support them.
Marketing done without purpose is not helpful. It seems so obvious; however, it happens all the time. We don’t define the goal of our activities, or we slap on some obtuse objective like, “I wanted to promote the business.” You can do better than this. Marketing activities follow your objectives, not the other way around. If you want to grow a division of your company by 40% this year, your activities should align with that goal. If you want to increase your customer retention, your activities should support that goal too! All marketing activities should be able to answer the question, “What goal is this supporting and what do we hope to accomplish?”
In 2000, at a nonprofit church camp in Nebraska, the Marketing Director went to her boss with an idea. “We should create weekly videos of our campers and sell them to parents when they pick their children up at the end of the week.” The idea was based on solid projections, and it went well. Parents purchased more than 200 VHS tapes over the course of the summer, with gross profits of more than $3,000. However, like most small nonprofits, there wasn’t a plan for using this any further than sales. It was a huge missed opportunity. With thoughtful marketing, this could have been so much more than sales. What if they had made an extra copy for every church that came and asked them to share it Sunday? What if they had given the videos away instead of selling them, knowing that they would get shown to so many more people? In this case, the dollar signs got in the way of a higher value, and nobody asked the question, “How can this have the best possible impact on our strategic efforts beyond sales dollars?” (PSST – that marketing director was a much younger and naive me.)
When we chase marketing activity after activity, we can’t have a real sense of the total effort, the cost, or the results. These “random acts of marketing” aren’t sufficient. When we start with our strategic goals and align our marketing activities to them, we can more clearly see whether or not we are doing what it takes to have the impact we desire, what these efforts cost and how we can track our returns.
Value of a Marketing Plan
Roadmap to your goals
Your marketing plan is going to give you a strategic roadmap to reaching your goals! With the principles of marketing taught in T3 Marketing Blueprint, you are going to align specific marketing activities to your goals. When you do this, the chances of reaching those goals skyrocket!
When marketing plans are in place, you can effectively manage them, knowing they are each supporting a specific goal. Being intentional with your plan will save time for all involved. You will no longer panic at the thought of a stakeholder asking, “What are you doing to support our goal of a 20% increase in customer retention?” When you have your plan in place, you don’t have to remember every detail or create answers on the fly; you can simply refer to your plan, saving you time and stress.
Measure activity, costs, and ROI
You ought to have a good idea of how much your marketing costs and whether or not it is effective. Sometimes that is tricky, especially when we start working in people-costs (salaries, time, etc…). You will need to have some conversation about how you measure cost, so that it is consistent with all tactics. Will you include time and salary expense or will you only include billable items? Your marketing plan should have a framework for tracking efforts, costs, and ROI measures all in one place.
Build confidence from your team, investors or board of directors
When leaders are in chaos, so are teams. When leaders create a plan that is well communicated with strong buy-in, teams follow and feel confident in the work.
Paws & Pals Pet Resort shifted to the T3 Marketing Blueprint in 2018. Without a designated marketing professional managing their efforts, several subcontractors each took on their assigned roles and operated independently. The owner had the big picture in his head but never documented or thought through the plan. This practice had worked okay for several years, but the business was gearing up for a big growth spurt in the elite day care program and needed more coordinated efforts. Using the T3 Marketing Blueprint, the owner gathered all of the subcontractors in one room and together created a dynamic and powerful marketing plan. Each of the subcontractors was so thankful for the process that created a clear picture of how their function fit into the bigger picture. They were each also able to add value to the big picture because they knew the goals that the whole team was working to accomplish. With the new plan in place and the team all working together, they increased sales of their elite day care program by more than 200% over the next year!
Components of a Marketing Plan
Anyone over 30 has likely heard of the four P’s of Marketing – product, price, promotion, and place. Today, more than four have been identified. Depending on the source, there may be as many as 12. For the sake of your planning, we are going to work with seven key components. While they are in a neat order below, you will define them as you work and they will be scattered throughout the process. Through 20+ years of working in the field, I’ve discovered that this way is easier to follow and captures the best results.
This book is not about product development. It assumes that you already have an amazing product, you know it’s valuable to your customer, and you are ready to sell. If you aren’t confident of this, work harder to get it right. Marketing may get you an initial sale, but it will not keep customers if your product is less than what the customer wants or needs.
Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, by Tim Brown
Summary: This resource teaches you to align people’s needs with what you can provide. It preaches innovations and understands that the best ideas come from process, time and trial and error. Design thinking is all the rage in new product development, and this book captures it well.
All of these P’s affect one another. The price of your product determines who will buy it. You can’t set the price unless you know your people. If you are marketing a luxury product, intended to be sold to the upper echelon of society, an amount too low says that it isn’t special. If you are selling to every person who walks in a gas station, a $9.99 candy bar isn’t going to work. Set your price for the consumers you wish to attract.
Value-Based Pricing, by Harry Macdivitt and Mike Wilkinson
Summary: This book teaches you to understand the value you offer to your customer and build your price around this.
Promotions are the activities that most associate with marketing. What will you do to communicate with your customers? We live in a time where promotional possibilities are endless. It can be both exciting and terrifying. For many small business owners, the options are so paralyzing that they do nothing, or they adopt a strategy similar to throwing a handful of spaghetti on a wall and see what sticks. Of course, neither is effective.
Once you know who your audience is, you need to find out where they are and how they receive information. That is where you place your promotion. We will walk through this in Chapter 4 when we talk about the audience.
There are so many fun options in packaging. I don’t just mean the physical outer wrapping of your widget. I mean the variety of ways you can sell your products and services. Packaging can refer to the beautifully designed wrapping or display you use to sell your product, or it can be the bundling options you offer.
I am not fond of the word ‘positioning’. Let’s call it messaging. In my opinion, messaging is the single most crucial part of marketing. You have to get this right. Before you even dive into marketing planning, spend time on this. Of course, in order to have your messaging nailed down, you need to also have the answers to the other P’s. It all works together!
Building a StoryBrand, by Donald Miller.
Summary: By understanding the elements of a story that capture and keep an audience’s attention, Don Miller has created a seven-bucket formula for sharing your brand’s message.
Your audience is your people. This is whom you had in mind when you created your product. Without these people, your product doesn’t exist. You need to know them intimately. You need to be able to articulate who they are and what they want. You need to understand how your product makes their lives better. You need to know where they live and work and buy their toilet paper (especially if you sell toilet paper).