A Marketing Plan that Works: Part 1 of 3, Where to Begin

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This is a 3 part series that gives you the fundamentals of a sound, workable and effective business marketing plan. Part 1 covers the essentials of your plan and the necessary steps to get started.?Part 2 is where we get into the meat of your plan and break down each element. Part 3 brings it all together and discusses how to implement the plan for maximum success.

Whether you’re starting a new venture or have an existing business, these are the essential steps you must take to achieve your sales goals.

Your Road Map to Success

For most business owners, having a workable marketing plan is among the most important undertakings of operating a business. It is also one of the most misunderstood and neglected. Often, we get caught up running our day to day operations, putting out fires and working “in” our business so much that it seems we never have time to work “on” our business. Consistent growth rarely happens without a marketing strategy, however, especially when budgets are tight and customers are scarce. It is for this reason that I wrote this series.

The Truth About Business Planning

There is a whole lot of jargon and hyperbole on the Internet about marketing plans; the different types of plans, the different formats and so forth. Much of it is nonsense for many entrepreneurs because it causes business owners to get caught up in the details and minutia of planning when you really ought to be out there selling.

Not a penny is earned until a sale is made. The quicker you get to making that next sale, the closer you will be to achieving your dream as a successful business owner.

I am a big believer in solid, workable plans, but I also know that too much planning can often get in the way of success. Don’t let the planning process—or anything for that matter—stand between you and a sale. You need to set time aside each week for your strategy, but it’s even more important to make time for sales. I have often found myself neglecting my marketing plan because I was heavily involved in sales. Well, there are worse problems you will face as a business owner.

That being said, we can’t just fly into this venture blindly, without direction. You need goals, but more importantly, you need a road map to get you to those goals. So, here it is. If you spend more than a week on it, you’re losing money so get through it and get out there making sales as soon as possible.

Marketing Plan vs. a Marketing Strategy

What is the difference between a marketing plan and a marketing strategy? Nothing. My intention is not to be flip, but the difference is splitting hairs and you’ll notice that I use both terms interchangeably. Some consultants will try to distinguish the two, but lets spend our time on more important things (see below).

What Every Business Owner Should Know

Before we get into the details, it is important to note that in 2013, your plan must have a digital marketing component to it. The old ways of driving consumers to your business are waning fast. Yellow Pages advertising, cold calling and even sales for print and broadcast media advertising are way down. Consumers are turning to digital sources to find the products and services they need. According to Google, 97% consumers search the Internet when looking for a local product or service. That’s huge and it’s where you need to spend a large portion of your marketing budget.

There are many ways to market your business digitally; search marketing, social media, email, mobile, online video, paid search advertising, online display advertising, daily deals, forums & communities and others. Some of these methods you can do yourself. Others, you may need a consultant. Search engine optimization consultants can help you get online visibility, so can search engine marketing specialists. I’ll get into both later in this report.

Your Marketing Plan and Your Business Plan

There will be some overlap between the two plans, but that’s alright. I’m a marketing junkie. Unless you need a business plan to raise venture capital or to get a loan, I believe your marketing plan is far more important than your business plan. I’ll even confess that I have often operated my businesses with no business plan at all. Having both can be a little daunting for many start-ups and will just delay the important stuff even more – generating sales.

A good trick I’ve used in the past is to combine both my marketing strategy and business plan into one document. You’ll see that after creating your marketing strategy, you’ll have most of the important parts of the business plan covered anyway.

The Elements of a Marketing Strategy

Granted, making sales is the name of the game and your marketing plan is created to do just that. It will describe how you get new customers and retain current customers. A good plan will help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as they relate to driving more consumers to your business.

Some companies have elaborate marketing strategies that cost them thousands of dollars to create. They have charts and statistics that help determine precise outcomes of sales and marketing tactics. For most of you, this is overkill.

It is absolutely essential to create a working document and not a report.

Unless you have a large and complicated business, your marketing strategy should be a straight-forward document between 6-10 pages long. Keep out the fluff and statistics that are just there to make you look smart. We want only the information that is going to keep you growing. If you want to make it more elaborate, be my guest, but it is probably unnecessary.

Why Your Plan Will Fail

Most marketing plans fail because business owners and entrepreneurs spend countless hours putting together the details of their plan, stick it in a file somewhere and forget about it until a year later when they dust it off to see how they did. It’s like making a New Year’s resolution that lasts for a couple of weeks before you lose interest again, settling into the same old habits. What a waste of time and money!

It is absolutely essential to create a working document and not a report. Your plan will simply not work if you do not review it on a regular basis. The best way to do that is to create milestones and short-term objectives that lead to mid-term goals that enable long-term success. This plan will show you how to do that.

Who Should Write a Marketing Plan?

Anyone who is trying to grow a business, organization or network should implement a marketing strategy. Sales people and entrepreneurs alike should create a plan with attainable objectives and a strategy to achieve those objectives.

My first job out of college was as an entry level sales executive for a marketing agency. I had no accounts and no real income. The first thing I did was create a workable marketing strategy and before long, I was bringing in more new clients than any other sales representative in the history of the agency. This stuff really works.

Sample Plan 1, Sample Plan 2, Template, Template Worksheet

Next Up: Putting Together Your Marketing Plan

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A Marketing Plan that Works: Part 2 of 3, the Nuts and Bolts

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