Can your business survive without a marketing strategy and plan? Yes, probably.
Will your marketing efforts be as effective and focused as they need to be to get maximum return on the money and time invested? No, probably not.
Where do you start?
Even if you’re planning on outsourcing your marketing to a marketing consultant or freelance marketing manager, there is one essential question you, as the business owner, will need to answer…
1. Where do you want your business to be in 3 to 5 years’ time? Point B
Without a goal to aim for, you and your co-workers will have no vision of the future and nothing to strive for.
Your goal could be a financial objective of £x turnover or £x profit or, a growth goal. It could be any number of customer or market position related metrics. It could, indeed, be a combination of financial, growth, customer, market or, for example, business performance metrics.
Whatever your business goals and objectives are, they form the foundation of your marketing strategy and what it needs to achieve. If you have not defined and articulated your goals, your business has no clear direction of where it is heading, nor does your marketing activity.
2. Where are you now? Point A
So you know where your business is heading and what needs to be achieved.
In order to determine what marketing is required to get you there, you need to create a strategic marketing plan.
The starting point of this plan is having a clear picture of where you are now in your business environment? In other words, conducting a marketing audit.
Whilst establishing where you want your business to be is your remit, conducting a marketing audit is where you can draw on the services of a professional marketer.
A marketing audit that includes, albeit is not limited to:
- Who your existing and prospective customers are;
- What your current market position is;
- Your brand, its position in the market place and how you think it is perceived versus how it actually is perceived in the minds of your customers, your employees, your suppliers and your strategic business partners;
- What resources you have available to you, both directly and indirectly (people, technological, financial) and, importantly, their capacity, capabilities and effectiveness;
- The economic and market environment and context in which your business operates in, both now and in the foreseeable future;
- Who your competitors are, what they’re doing, what plans they have (that you know of or can find out);
- The product and services you offer;
- The prices you charge and incentives you offer;
- What routes to market you use to get your products and services to the end consumer;
- What the features and benefits of your products and services are;
- The promotional tools and communication channels you use when, how often, by whom, why and saying what.
One key takeaway from this audit is your SWOT analysis: your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This shouldn’t just be you documenting what you think you’re good at or not and where you feel you’re least and most exposed.
It should incorporate what your staff at all levels think and know. It should include what your customers think and have experienced. It should include the interpretation of facts, figures and trends derived from your own and/or third party market and competitor research.
3. How are you going to get from Point A to Point B?
This is where your structured, well-thought-out marketing strategy and plan comes in. It takes your business goals and marketing audit, identifies the gap between the reality and the desired, and determines what needs to be done to realise the desired.
From generating new, quality leads to establishing and retaining the loyalty of your existing customers and, ultimately, achieving the golden chalice of business and marketing success…long term customer advocacy.
Whilst I am of course biased (being a freelance strategic marketer!), this strategic marketing plan should be put together by someone who knows what they’re doing.
Marketing isn’t just a series of silo’d, ad hoc initiatives. It’s an entire jigsaw made up of thousands of inter-dependent pieces that affect every part of your business in some way, at some point in time.
Each and every piece needs to be carefully considered individually and together amongst its ‘siblings and cousins’. Each dependency and its effect needs to be known and understood. Each planned and co-ordinated initiative needs to have a viable, justified reason that links back to a tangible business goal.
Do you have a documented strategic marketing plan that you and your staff work to or is it ‘in your head’, acted on when time and resources allow?