How to make a marketing plan for all seasons

group of confident professional employees in a serious meeting from above

iStockphoto
A marketing plan should be a written document, not scratchings on a cocktail napkin or recalled from memory. To take your business to the next level requires preparing a written marketing action plan every quarter.

Without a 90-day marketing GPS to guide you to your destination, treacherous roadblocks and time-consuming detours can keep you from reaching your goals. Even if you are a one-person sales department, you should know where your leads are coming from.

Try not to look at planning as an obligatory to-do, but as a way to solve tangible problems like generating awareness and improving credibility. Think of it as a way to solve lead generation problems before they arise. Here are some checklist steps to guide you:

1. Attack strategy quarterly. Begin developing a strategy-driven marketing action plan every 90 days. Marketing plays a vital role in successful business ventures, yet its systematic implementation is often overlooked by many sales people. Put down on paper how you are going to do three things:

-- Generate leads for the sales team

-- Build awareness of what your company sells

-- Enhance the credibility of the organization

2. Think strategic first. Too many individuals believe that the tactical plan -- the newsletters, press kits, trade shows, banners, 800-numbers, display advertisements, logos and giveaways -- comes before the strategic plan. Those promotional, publicity and advertising tactics (and there are hundreds to choose from) should be contained within a well-orchestrated marketing action plan. But first create your strategic messages that will generate leads, build awareness and enhance credibility.

3. Update what's happening now. The situation analysis introduces the company and includes:

-- A brief overview of the product or service

-- A brief overview of the personnel involved

-- A past history of the company

-- Its present performance

-- Financial information, if appropriate

4. Profile away. Profiling is a bad word these days, but it works here. The product or service profile provides information regarding the specific items you intend to market. By addressing the following categories, a profile emerges. They include:

-- Position Statement: The niche the product or service is intended to occupy

-- Description: The product or service described in detail

-- Pricing: The methods used to establish pricing. Questions such as, "Will discounts be offered?" are asked

-- Market maturity: The overall market maturity is addressed

-- Quality/Reliability: What level of quality is being portrayed? What's the relation to price?

-- New market potential: The potential size of the market is assessed

-- Delivery of service: An explanation of the service delivery mechanism is given

-- Packaging: Includes overall presentation of the product or service and its delivery

-- Image: The impression customers receive from employees, facility, furnishings, stationary, etc.

5. Make the first the last. The executive summary consists of a one-page, top-level summary of the entire plan. It's placed at the front of the document, but it's the last thing you'll write. Its purpose is to convey the gist of the plan to stakeholders, investors and anyone else who needs to know these facts in a hurry:

-- The scope of the plan in an outlined paragraph

-- The product or service being marketed

-- For whom the plan is being prepared

-- The time period the plan covers

-- The geographic area where the implementation occurs

-- The strategic messages and the tactics to get them to the target markets

If you manage to write two or three paragraphs for each of the topics, you'll end up with plenty. But no more than 10 pages, please. From there, you can refine your tactics. More important, you've taken a big step forward because you've written your strategy down on paper.

Comments