A good marketing plan is like a battle plan or a game plan; it should serve as a guide and a blueprint for the actions you need to take to grow your business. It should also have some flexibility because as you start testing and measuring tactics, you will need to shift strategies from time to time, to capture or gain share in a particular market.
There are some things, however, you should avoid when putting together your own marketing plan for your business. Remember, the best marketing is a synergistic combination of good strategy and tactics, and you can’t do either one effectively without the other. Do not be tempted to stray from these fundamentals. Enticing yet highly subjective ideas like ‘image,’ ‘branding’ and ‘creativity’ are important marketing tools, but they are not as vital as getting a firm footing in the basics - which ironically start on the accounting end of things.
When putting together your marketing plan for the first (or umpteenth) time, here are some things to avoid:
1. Filling your plan with fluff: ‘Fluff’ is anything not specifically related to a number, strategy or tactic. Generalities also qualify. Saying your target market is ‘everybody’ or ‘adults 50-plus’ isn’t specific enough and will lead to problems down the road. Start to think in terms of a niche. Instead of ‘everybody,’ scale down to ‘young males 16 plus who play video games and follow cricket.’ Instead of ‘adults 50 plus’ turn this into ‘adult women at least 50 years of age who shop online at least three times a week.’
Remember, marketing is all about buying customers. This means buying your ideal customer with the resources you already have. So figure out who your ideal customer is and how much you can budget to buy that customer. Then come up with a plan and stick to it. Know that most of your competition will not have the discipline to do the same thing, or will follow a plan that has been filled with too much fluff.
2. Not doing the numbers: Marketing is all about maths, and maths is all about numbers. Taken a step further - business is all about numbers. If you don’t know your numbers, you will not succeed in business. Creating any marketing plan without knowing how much it will cost to acquire your customer, what your average sale needs to be, what your profit margins need to be and how many times your average customer needs to buy over a lifetime, will set you up for failure. If you are going to run a Rs 1 lakh advertisement, how many leads and sales will you have to make to cover the cost of the ad, let alone make a profit?
3. Relying too heavily on creativity: Creativity is fine, and in my opinion, there is nothing more creatively fulfilling than succeeding in business. But focusing too much on creativity at the expense of tactics and outcomes can hurt your business. It pays to know the numbers that ultimately drive your business.
4. Thinking marketing is only advertising: While advertising is part of any marketing plan, marketing is much more than strictly advertising. Marketing is not only how you sell your products or services, but also the way your receptionist answers the phone and how you set up your internal company culture. In addition, it’s the strategic and tactical aspects of identifying and segmenting your ideal customer base, discovering your competitive edge and USP (unique selling proposition), setting your pricing strategy, sales strategy and promotional strategy, creating and tracking a system for repeat business, and testing and measuring all of these to leverage effort and maximise ROI (return on investment).
Note that if your advertising doesn’t yield an ROI, you have fallen into the ‘creative’ trap, and that is both expensive and wasteful. You will know you are in it when you find that ‘Half of your advertising works, and half doesn’t - and you don’t know which half,’ or the even more famous, ‘it takes 17 weeks for people to get brand recognition and then they will start buying from you.’
5. Forgetting to market to existing customers and prospects: For businesses that have moved beyond the start-up phase, there is no better or quicker way to massive growth than your current customers and ‘warm’ pool of prospects. Generally, it costs up to six times more to get a new customer than to sell something to an existing customer. So if your plan doesn’t include initiatives to tap into your current customers, you are missing out on a huge untapped resource.
Many marketers get so caught up in chasing new markets or customers, they forget the goldmine that exists within their current business. Do not make the same mistake; develop strategies to tap into what could be your most valuable and profitable resource.
As the quarter end approaches, take some time to start setting objectives and clarifying how to make this year your best and most profitable yet. A large part of that success will depend on the actions and decisions you make now in the form of your marketing plan - and avoiding the costly mistakes that cause most businesses to abandon their efforts early and often.