(Tenth in a series about fundamental marketing documents every business needs. The ninth was: Making a TOWS matrix: It’s a SWOT analysis on speed.)
Everyone in business knows that flying by the seat of the pants is a bad idea, but when it comes to marketing, so many do it anyway.
Marketing does not work like this. For your marketing to succeed, you need a marketing plan — a map that will show you how to get to the buried treasure.
People who wouldn’t think of running their finances, human resources or legal matters without a plan, make marketing and communications decisions willy nilly, depending on how much “extra” cash they have or which sales rep calls on them that month. Then they give up on that tactic the following month when somebody new comes along promising them the moon, because the last thing didn’t work and the next thing will.
Dumb. Resist the urge to fall in love with every bright shiny object that comes along. Develop a marketing plan and stick to it.
Building on the marketing documents
Many resist making a plan because it seems too daunting. However, if you have been following along this blog series and completed the documents described in each, you have done much of the legwork for the marketing plan already. Along the way, we’ve covered developing and writing mission, vision, values and brand positioning statements; taglines; elevator or story speeches/pitches; personas; key messages; and SWOT analyses/TOWS matrices. All of these documents should become part of your overall marketing plan and should guide you as you complete the remainder of your plan.
First, set a time frame for your plan. Six to 18 months is the range of most plans, with a year being the average length of most plans. Less than six months does not give you enough time to implement your plan and see results, and plans longer than 18 months tend to lose focus and need updating.
Next, set a realistic budget for your plan. This budget needs to be an amount you can consistently dedicate to marketing, not an amount that is left over at the end of your bills. It needs to be set aside for marketing, just like payroll, rent and utilities.
With that comes the question, how much should you be spending on marketing? On average, 10.4% of revenue was spent on marketing in 2012, according to B2B Marketing. That includes salaries, internal and external costs. You may need to spend more if you want to grow faster, or you may not have the budget for that — the important thing is that you decide on a percentage that you can live with and stick to it.
Next, with your personas in mind, list two to four main, over-arching goals for your marketing plan. Some plans call these “objectives” — they’re the same thing. These should be “big picture” goals, but they should be SMART goals — if you recall from our earlier post, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-limited. An example of a SMART goal is:
To increase our revenue by 25 percent from online sales in 12 months.
Developing your marketing strategies and tactics
Once you have established your goals, go back and look at the strategies you developed from your TOWS matrix. Which strategies that you identified fit under the goals you have listed for this marketing campaign? Pull them out and set them under each of the goals where they belong. Do you have goals that do not have strategies?
Go back to your TOWS matrix and look again for patterns to see if you missed something in your earlier analysis. Where can you match strengths and opportunities? Where can you use a strength to mitigate a threat? Can you fix a weakness to prevent a threat from causing your downfall? Perhaps fixing your weaknesses need to be addressed in your list of goals. Continuing our example from above:
Goal #1(or objective): To increase our revenue by 25 percent from online sales in 12 months.
Strategy #1: Use our large online database of seniors to market our natural health products to aging baby boomers. (A combination of a strength and an opportunity)
Strategy #2: Use our reputation for animal-free testing for our skin products to co-market with PETA and other animal rights organizations. (A combination of a strength and an opportunity)
Once you are satisfied with your goals and strategies, then you need to plan the tactics — how the strategies will be achieved. Then, and only then should you consider spending your budget on marketing activities such as websites, brochures, events and advertising.
Consider which specific activities will help you achieve the strategies you have outlined and what the key messages are for each tactic. Build in specific measurements you want to achieve and how you will measure them.
Goal #1: To increase our revenue by 25 percent from online sales in 12 months.
Strategy #1: Use our large online database of seniors to market our natural health products to aging baby boomers.
Tactic A: Send monthly electronic newsletters to all seniors about healthy aging, featuring our natural health products. Maintain open rate of 25 percent and click-through rate of 3 percent.
Tactic B: Develop a custom Facebook page for seniors promoting healthy aging with daily tips about diet and exercise offering discount coupons for our products. Obtain 5,000 fans within six months and 10,000 fans within 12 months. Obtain 2,500 coupon fulfillments within 12 months.
Key Messages: Our products are all-natural and contain no harmful chemicals. Our products help seniors stay healthy and look and feel better.
Strategy #2: Use our reputation for animal-free testing for our skin products to co-market with PETA and other animal rights organizations.
Tactic A: Obtain PETA endorsement and redesign product packaging, point-of-purchase displays and website copy to make more visible on all skin-care products.
Tactic B: Develop ad campaign about our commitment to animal-free testing and run on Animal Planet in the Northeast. Increase awareness of our animal-free testing among young adults who identify themselves as environmentalists by 25% in the within 12 months. Use independent research study to confirm.
Key Messages: We believe that animals have rights, too, and we are committed to animal-free testing. You can depend on us to always make ethical, environmental decisions.
There are many different ways to achieve success through your tactics — there’s no one “right” answer. There are also many ways you can execute poorly. This is where many organizations decide to call in pros from marketing, advertising or PR firms. There is an art and a science to producing great creative work, and you don’t want your brand image to come off looking amateurish.
Monitor, measure and adjust
Build out a calendar that shows when various activities are due and who is responsible for doing them. Monitor your results throughout the year, and be flexible. If, after six weeks or so, you don’t seem to be making any progress toward your goals, do a deep dive and try to determine why your tactics don’t seem to be working. Sometimes you just need to make adjustments to get better results; other times, you need to abandon them and get new ones.
But don’t abandon them too early. Often businesses abandon tactics just as they were gaining traction. For example, it takes multiple exposures for an advertisement to “register” with an audience. Don’t pull a campaign early because you haven’t seen a groundswell of customers right away.
Writing a marketing plan needn’t be a dreaded, painful process, especially if you have followed the steps I (sneakily) laid out for you over the past 10 days or so. Once you have your plan in place, you will be ready to start digging for the gold buried in your business!