I have found that organizations spend a great deal of money on advertising, websites, glossy brochures, and other marketing activities yet still are not effective. I recently met with a business that had spent thousands of dollars on a website. It looked amazing. We then checked the unique visit count, and after two months they had less than 250 visitors. I asked about their marketing plan and their goals. I got a blank stare. This is a classic example of spending money on a tool without putting in place strategies or tactics to take advantage of that tool. Poor planning equates to money wasted.
Your marketing plan is your blueprint for success. Imagine trying to build a house without a blueprint. Let’s make it even more challenging: Build a house without a tape measure or level. Just eyeball it! Chances are your house would not be square, the doors would not close, and the windows wouldn’t fit in the window openings. To put it mildly, it would be a mess! Sound crazy? No one would do that, right? Yet that is exactly how many organizations run their marketing department. They try a little of this and a little of that, using marketing tactics without a marketing plan. In that scenario, the costs are high and the results are a big, expensive mess.
A marketing plan outlines the full range of activities needed to achieve your company’s objectives. The marketing plan will, at a minimum, do the following:
Describe your marketing goals-the message you wish to communicate to your target audience
Identify your target market-the demographics of the customers who will most likely want your product or service
Explain how your marketing goals, objectives, and targets will help the company achieve its corporate goals
Communicate a corporate image to the public
Distinguish your corporate brand
Compare your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses
Pinpoint communication tactics
Contain a budget
Evaluate success using benchmarks from baseline to goal achievement
Plan marketing activities, frequencies, and deadlines
After the marketing plan is developed, your marketing tactics are identified. Marketing tactics are the specific actions and activities you will take to help you reach your marketing goals. Marketing tactics are plentiful and can range from inexpensive to budget-busting. Some tactics are well-known; advertising on the radio, in print, or on television is the traditional method. Others are less traditional, such as: trade shows, sponsorships, public speaking, online marketing, and viral marketing. Remember, when you have a good marketing plan your marketing tactics are limited only by your imagination and budget.
It’s important to clarify the difference between sales and marketing, as many people use the terms interchangeably. These two functions-though closely related-are very different. It is impossible to have great success if you focus your attention on one function and ignore the other.
Marketing is the act and activities associated with making your customers aware of who you are and what you do. Marketing includes all the activities in your marketing plan, such as: advertising, public relations, focus groups, marketing materials, and brochures. It also includes networking at business events and use of social media.
Sales refers to the direct sale of a product or service. Sales is transaction-oriented, and sales activities include helping clients make decisions when selecting the right product or service. The sales function results in the exchange of money from the prospect to the company for a good or service.
This is not to imply that sales people cannot participate in marketing activities. In fact, your sales team should be active in the development and implementation of the marketing plan. The idea of marketing is that you will prepare the prospect and assist the producer in the closing of the sale with the prospect.
Just like it takes a blueprint, a knowledgeable contractor, skilled labor, and the right tools to build a house, it takes a marketing plan, marketing and sales leadership, skilled sales professionals, and the right tactics to build a strong, growing business.
Start your marketing plan by answering these five simple questions:
What do we do well?
Who wants what we do well?
How will we tell them about what we do well?
How often do we want to tell them?
How will we know we are doing a good job of telling them?
Remember, your marketing plan is the blueprint to your success. Take the time to create it, study it, double-check it, and implement it with great enthusiasm and dedication. It is the key to successfully marketing your company without wasting your money.