There is One Thing You Can Definitely Count On
Just like every January:
- People make wild predictions.
- New things will happen.
- Mobile will get more mobile.
- Websites and apps will have more opportunities to put your message in front of people.
- Someone will come up with the next “it” marketing catchphrase and trick.
Book it. It’s a sure bet… Yeah, right.
There is (and never will be) one “silver bullet” for marketing. Although people will think there is. Or at least hope there is… We want to find the one thing that we can do that costs $1 and results in $1M in sales.
It doesn’t exist.
Still, I will make a prediction that is a sure bet for every year: the companies that operate their marketing and sales strategy out of a written marketing plan, tactic map, and content calendar will be the most successful at marketing.
That is a sure bet. Because it is a sure bet every year. Here’s why:
A plan defines clearly what you’re trying to do.
If you’ve ever been in a company, you’ve probably heard someone say, “I’m not sure what management (the boss, the owner, insert colloquialism here) is doing.” That is often true of marketing and sales, as management bounces from one idea to the next. A plan, when implemented and managed, lets everyone know what we’re doing:
- Grow sales by 10%
- Develop a new prospect lead system
- Launch two new products
- Successfully cross-sell 50% of our current customers
- Launch a new website… etc.
Whatever the initiative, from a simple marcom tactic (we will create and distribute 6 press releases) to a major undertaking (we will launch a new product), it will be better understood in a plan that is mapped and put on a calendar. It helps us stay on task as an organization and as individuals.
A plan gets things done.
No, the plan doesn’t do the work, but when a plan, map, and calendar are developed all of a sudden everyone knows what needs to be done… and when. Managers put resources toward completing the planned tasks. Staff discuss what needs to be done and who, how, and what will be done to meet the plan. When we don’t manage out of a plan, the urgent tasks of the work day, week, and month mean marketing and sales activity deadlines are missed or forgotten altogether.
The classic example is the newsletter (printed or emailed). Issue one is terrific. Issue two is pretty good. Issue three never happens. Why? There was no plan for content, who would do the work, and a calendar deadline for production/distribution. Everyone throws their best stuff at issue one, issue two gets the rest and we’re far too busy to worry about issue three. And so it goes with marketing and sales when there is no plan, map, or schedule.
A plan creates integration.
Should a marketing plan be developed, it will include tentacles that reach into every department of the company. New products mean operations and manufacturing need to know when launch dates will be. Promotions mean accounting has to have a budget. Sales support means marketing and sales will need to talk and coordinate prospect and customer contact. The marketing plan, which should naturally evolve out of the business and financial goals and plan of the organization, will help drive the organization out of its silos and into meaningful work toward fulfilling the mission of the company.
A plan creates accountability.
When no plan exists, it’s easy for everyone to work in a silo and do all the right things for their department or division. Yet that could be at cross purposes with the mission, goals, and strategy of management and the activities of other departments. When a plan exists, activities and budgets all must be bounced off the plan: “Is this task something that will help us meet the plan?” A plan then naturally creates a feedback loop to the plan manager (in most cases for small organizations the business owner). The different people and departments of a company report on how they are doing towards fulfilling the plan. If it doesn’t happen, the plan manager can drive accountability by requiring updates and status reports against the plan and calendar.
A plan eliminates surprises.
Too many times I receive calls stating that “We need a show booth.” Or “We need a brochure.” The reason for the call? The show is next week. Or Sales got an important appointment scheduled and need something to give the prospect.
No one likes surprises at work. They are fun for birthdays, but not when the financial well-being of a company, or the future work situation of staff are at stake. By developing and operating out of a plan, we can cover most (not all) of the needs that will develop in the course of the business cycle. Of course, new situations occur during a year that must be addressed. Plans must be tweaked, and adjustments made. It is still better to react in the context of changing the plan than to be reacting to external stimuli.
Practice makes pattern.
This is the saying of a coach I used to assist. His goal is never perfection. No one is perfect. Practice rather creates the pattern that makes an athlete not only better at his/her sport, but also develops the pattern of how to become better. The same is true for companies: planning grows into the repeatable processes that make a company great.
Developing and delivering a consistent brand and value message will always be the best way to maximize marketing spend and effort. Consistency comes from processes. Processes come from planned activities. There are two parts of planning: 1) developing and 2) executing the plan. Start small and put your emphasis on actually delivering on the plan. The results will come.
Have a great marketing new year!
Convinced your organization needs a plan but not sure where to start? Contact me, I can help!