Many manufacturers, wholesalers and professional services firms don’t have a marketing plan, and it feels like a daunting task. A bare bones plan should have at least a few pages on the history of your company and what’s been happening in your industry. A good plan will also provide in-depth detail on the services you offer, who your clients are, and a comprehensive analysis of your competitors. A great marketing plan will have many elements and is chock full of research with industry trends, demographic data and lots of charts and graphs. This plan will outline a whole new strategy and approach to take your company to the next level.
A marketing plan is up there on a pedestal next to your business plan as one of those very important documents you have to have. We have convinced ourselves that the significance of these documents should be measured by the sound it makes when we drop it onto our boss’ desk. This document could be the messiah! This is the thing that might finally put an end to those worthless newsletters and trade shows that take so much of our time! This will motivate us finally build a new website! One with all the bells and whistles with recent case studies, an integrated ecommerce and CRM platform, and a schmancy client portal!
Ah, if only we had time to write it…
But there is time, and here is the secret–make the plan an outline of where you are now. An organization’s first marketing plan is not the place to unveil a company makeover. Rather, this is where we draw our baseline. You can do that with just four parts.
- What you are going to do?
That’s right - jump right into tactics. What are the core activities that fall under marketing? Often this includes your website, direct outreach via mail and email, creating printed collateral, advertising, social media engagement, organizing events and proposal development. Go into specifics here - list each ad, brochure, and trade show that will need to be created or managed over the next 12 months.
- When are you doing it?
Map out how these activities fall over the year. Some of your efforts will be constant from month to month. RFPs may often come at a certain time of year depending on your industry and customer fiscal planning. Ad placement in an annual trade publication or participation in an event are non-negotiable in terms of timing. Other activities may have some flexibility. Even at this baseline stage, you can use this as an opportunity to shift things from a timing standpoint to ensure you are making the best use of your time.
- How much you are going to spend in time and money?
If you keep good records, outlining the budget needed for each activity should be simple. Be sure to capture each line item which may include freelancers, postage, software fees, photography, and other needs. In addition to cost, it’s equally important to note how much time is spent internally on each tactic. Just because a project doesn’t incur outside costs doesn’t make it free. This can be done in hours or percentages of the amount of time the marketing team or individuals on the team will spend on each item per year or month.
- What you plan to measure?
If you have CRM and revenue tracking tools, this is straightforward as well. However, depending on the work you do and the systems you have in place, measurement can be more difficult. As a starting point, website traffic may be a good metric for trade shows and social media alike. It’s possible that some of your work can’t be tracked at all, and if that’s the case - note it as such.
An effective marketing plan is one that is frequently referenced and should not be more than a few pages. Once you have the essential elements in place - your organization will be well positioned to assess, strategize and refine your approach.