3 reasons why you need a marketing plan

One of questions I’m asked most often is what marketing works best? 

The real question is what marketing activities will help you sell more of your product or service?  Because at the end of the day, that's the point right?  If only it were that simple!

In my experience, most people find it difficult to pinpoint which sales are a direct result of their marketing efforts. 

Part of the reason for this is that marketing is often viewed as a single activity.  If things are going well, then you assume your “marketing” is working and delivering you customers.  But what if things aren’t going well?  Or what if you could be saving yourself time and money and stop doing those activities that aren’t contributing to the growth of your business?

The reality is effective marketing is a combination of different activities that all work together to connect your business with customers who need your product or services.  And because it’s a combination, it’s really easy to become a bit of a marketing magpie and be seduced and attracted by the latest ‘bright, shiny thing’ (think Facebook Live, SnapChat, mobile apps, or the ‘Uber’ of anything…)

This is where a marketing plan can help – it will keep you on track, allow you to measure effectiveness and make better decisions about where to spend your time and money.  If that’s not enough – here are my top five reasons why you need a marketing plan:

Reason 1 – nothing is free and sometimes ‘cheap’ can cost more in the long run

The beauty of so many digital options available today is that small businesses can access software and other resources that were traditionally reserved for big business, at a fraction of the cost. But beware – even ‘free’ often comes with a cost – usually your time! (and believe me I know that is a precious resource to most business owners) 

A marketing plan will help you map out exactly what needs to be done and then you can make a better assessment on how much time is needed to achieve it all.  You can then figure out if you have the time, or if you’re going to need help or additional resources.

Reason 2 – what get’s measured get’s done

This is a big one – if you’re not measuring the effectiveness of your marketing, you are simply wasting time and money.  The beauty of all these digital marketing options today (aside from their lower cost to access) is the fact that you can track just about anything – who clicked when, where they were, what else they’ve looked at etc. etc. etc.

A good marketing plan will have metrics set for each activity to allow you to gauge how effective that activity is in delivering you new sales.  It can also help you figure how just how long it takes for customers to make their buying decision and convert to sale – which can help enormously in managing cash flow.   Don’t rely just on digital metrics either – there is huge value in actually asking customers for feedback and where they heard about you or your product.  This is often the best way to capture metrics on more traditional marketing activities.

A point here – you also need to be brutal – if the metrics show something’s not working you need to tweak, try something else or simply stop doing that.  Again, don’t waste time on things that just aren’t delivering you value. 

Reason 3 – stretch your shoestring budget

It’s really easy for costs to creep up if you’re a marketing magpie – before you know it you’ve spent a few dollars here, here and here and while each expenditure might seem relatively small or inexpensive, it doesn’t take long for costs to add up.  

By setting out your planned activities (and measuring effectiveness) you can make sure you are getting the most ‘bang for your buck’ and concentrating your efforts on those activities that give you a return on investment. 

A marketing plan should always be accompanied by a marketing budget – and you should make every effort to stick to it!  It’s always good to be flexible on how that budget is allocated across your activities but be strong and stick to your bottom line – you set it for a reason!  If new opportunities pop up during the year – assess their cost and value against your plan and your budget – and if it fits – then go for it!  This will help with cost blowouts and also mean you get a better return on investment for your marketing spend.

So, what are you waiting for?  Get started on your marketing plan!  If you’re not sure where to start – begin with a review of all your current marketing activities and factor in time, effort and cost to deliver on them.  Then decide what is realistic for you to deliver in the next six months and how you’re going to measure each activity. 

Stay tuned for our next blog on how to create your marketing plan on a page.


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