Help, I need a marketing plan! (Or do you, just yet?)

If you’ve ever had to develop a strategic or tactical marketing & comms (action) plan, it’s always a challenge, even if an enjoyable one.  It can be quite a creative project and at the end of the day, it’s about ‘selling more stuff’.  

Regardless of whether the ‘stuff’ is products or services, it is intended that the marketing plan, if implemented well, will create momentum for the business by default.  Whether that turns out to be the right sort of momentum and delivers the desired results, is another story all together. 

Having gone through creating and implementing marketing plans with both my own businesses and now being exposed to many other businesses through my line of work, it’s got me asking some questions.

Do you leap into action when you think you need a marketing plan or rather, do you pause and consider what else you might need to review within your business, before deciding what course of action to take with your plan?

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not wanting to place any roadblocks for businesses wishing to sell more products or services that people need (or want but don’t necessarily need, although that is a different story for a different day).  Quite the contrary.  My objective is about creating a sustainable business, with ideally less stress for all involved, as a result of having a better overall plan.

Rather than a roadblock, I think of the suggestion to pause as more of a judder bar that makes you slow down, consider your environment, check in the rear vision mirror to make sure you the person following close behind won’t hit you, make some adjustments if necessary and then when all is clear and you’re over the bump, put your foot on the gas.

So, what am I suggesting might be worth considering before launching into and investing in a marketing action plan (or even considering that next big tech project that you’re thinking needs investment)?

1 – What’s my Value Proposition & USP?

e.g. What are you or do you want to be famous for?  What’s unique about you?  What are your core competencies?   Are you offering the right products or services? What are the barriers to entry for potential competitors?  What is going to realistically be the difference that ensures you get you to where you need to get?

In other words, what is your right to win in your space and how do you take advantage of that, to ensure you have a runway ahead that allows you to continue to build a good business that ideally becomes great, delivers healthy returns and is saleable?

2 – What are my Assets and where is the true value in my business?

e.g. What Asset is or Assets are the business creating/growing or wanting to create/grow, that someday, someone might value enough and want to buy, when you wish to exit?  What IP do you own, both tangible and intangible?  Are you scalable?  Are you recession proof?

In other words, if you’re just on the hamster wheel, starting from scratch each month and have to always sell, sell, sell and yet you’re busy doing the doing and can’t both fill the funnel fast enough and execute well enough so that if you stop, the business stops, then reconsider what the actual asset is that you’re pegging your asset value on.  

This alone can help you change your business model if need be before chasing more customers, in a never-ending battle, until you simply get too tired. 

3 – What are my key Relationships and where else should I be looking?

e.g. Who are your core strategic relationships with or who would you like them to be with?  Are there supplier or distributor relationships that you could cultivate? Are there new and up and coming suppliers etc. that you feel longer term could turn into something more and even be a buyer?  Are there end customers who share your vision?  Are there relationships that you can cultivate in non-competing environments who can form alliances with?  How do you increase the odds of forming those relationships that can help take you from A to B?  

As a specific example, in my previous business we focused on the 50+ market, however to attract new visitors initially we worked with websites that focused on the baby market, teen market or (what for some reason is more often than not seen as the nirvana of markets), the 18-34 market…those people all had older family or friends who might have been attracted to our own 50+ website and likewise our demo had relationships with younger friends and family who they could also introduce to our ‘alliance’ partner products and services.  This worked wonders and was instrumental in our rapid growth.  At no cost.

Our business ended up selling to one of our advertisers. You simply never know where a buyer might come from however you can certainly ensure that you don’t burn bridges and that you are always thinking a couple of steps ahead.

In other words, think about how you can create mutually beneficial relationships and outcomes.  Consider how you might minimise marketing spend by thinking laterally and negotiating how to help each other via utilising your own existing databases and introducing them to a non-competitor’s products, services or offering. 

Relationships are fundamental to success.

This then leads to – 

4 – How do I build a loyal Community?

e.g. Having a real idea of who your customers are and how you can provide a community for them, that creates loyalty. This is different from a marketing plan; this is about providing the structure for your customers to want to remain and do business with you.  It’s about your Value Proposition, doing what you say you’ll do and utilising Word of Mouth. It’ about attracting people who can help you to grow your business by you providing something in return, often also for free.

To me, these are 4 fundamental building blocks that should be considered before diving into those other business building blocks that start in at 5thplace. 

5 – All of the other fundamental business building blocks need to be considered of course, such as Revenue, Technology, Ops, People & Culture, Capital, Governance, Risk, Life Balance…the list goes on, however this is where I’d suggest that you are ready to embark on creating your marketing & comms action plan).

At the end of the day, if you haven’t got a clear picture of 1-4, then it might be worth considering pausing or even pulling over to check your business roadmap thoroughly, before deciding which direction to take and how you’re going to get there ahead of the competition.

Ultimately, it can save you a whole lot of money, time, stress and heartache.

Good luck!

Photo credit: photo taken from a Google search results screen

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