Many Small Business Owners Do Not Appreciate the Importance of a Marketing Plan
Why is it that so many small business owners do not appreciate the importance of a marketing plan? After all, most of you would not begin an across country trip without mapping out your route nor would you let a contractor build your dream home without hiring an architect to design it first. You understand that without a plan, you’re likely to experience costly delays and frustrations and not achieve your goal, whether it's getting to your final destination or ending up with the home you hoped for at a price you can afford.
Planning is equally important when it comes to small business marketing, yet many small businesses make up their marketing as they go along with no real focus or rationale for their actions, much less any consistency and follow through. Too often in other words, their marketing is hit or miss, and then they wonder why their marketing dollars don't get them the results they want.
Benefits of a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan helps your business take a systematic, coordinated approach to its marketing and makes it more likely that your business' marketing activities will succeed. It's your business' marketing road map or blueprint.
Here are some other benefits to developing and implementing a marketing plan:
• Gives you an opportunity to help everyone in your business understand that although they may not be directly responsible for marketing, how they do their jobs can affect the success or failure of your marketing activities. The most effective marketing programs are top to bottom efforts.
• Provides you with an opportunity to improve communication and teamwork among your key managers. All of them should be involved in the plan development and implementation process.
• Helps ensure marketing consistency over time. Although your employees may come and go, your business plan remains, providing everyone with a written record of what you want to accomplish and how you intend to do it.
• Makes it more likely that marketing at your business will be an on-going effort, not a stop and start affair. Therefore, it's more likely that your business's marketing activities will produce good results.
• Helps you identify which marketing initiatives work and don’t work for your business. Your plan also helps you determine which initiatives should be retooled or refined.
What Your Business' Marketing Plan Should Do
Among other things, your marketing plan should:
• Define and analyze your audience.
• Identify and assess your competition.
• Identify your business’ strengths and weaknesses vis a vis that competition.
• Establish clear and measurable marketing goals and objectives for your business.
• Identify the specific activities you will carry out to achieve those goals and objectives. Also, figure out the resources you will need.
• Make it clear who is responsible for what.
• Indicate whether any of your employees need additional training and education to effectively execute their plan responsibilities.
• Establish a timetable for taking each action.
Review, Revise, Reflect
Once you've completed your marketing plan, don’t file it away and never look at the plan again. You’ve probably spent weeks if not longer developing it, so use it!
Here are some tips for making effective use of your plan:
• Educate all of your employees about your business' plan. Make them aware of what they can do to help it succeed.
• Schedule regular meetings with key staff. During the meetings review whether particular goals and objectives have been met or on target to be met.
• Identify stumbling blocks. Then figure out ways to get around them.
• Constantly assess what is and isn't working. Based on your assessments, decide what you should do differently when you are developing and implementing next year’s marketing plan.
• Revise your plan when necessary.
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