A marketing plan belongs in the realm of large Corporates surely? Well, not really. Any business that takes itself seriously should have a marketing plan, whether it employs one, 100 or 1,000 people.

Because if you don’t spend time planning, you’re actually planning to fail.

A marketing plan is all about knowing where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there – without going off track, something that is all too easy to do when you’re busy running and working ‘in’ your business.

Writing your marketing plan doesn’t have to be a daunting task and nor does it have to be pages and pages to rival War And Peace. In fact there are actually only a few key questions you need to address…

Review where you are now and what has worked for your business over the last 12 months

Take a good, long look at what marketing has worked best for you and then focus your effort on these methods. It might be your website with good search engine optimisation, Google Adwords, publishing testimonials or client case studies, email newsletters, networking, or social media like LinkedIn or Twitter. Different things work for different businesses – but you need to know what works for yours.

And don’t get distracted by trying lots of new things without really thinking through the benefit – that telesales person who keeps hounding you to buy last minute ad space may be persuasive, and they might be offering a deal, but is it right for your business?

I advise most of my clients to focus on 4-5 core marketing activities and to stick at them for at least 6-9 months – you need to do this to see the results coming through. One advert in one magazine just won’t cut it.

Where do you want your business to be in the next 6 to 12 months?

Do you want to grow brand awareness or convert more sales from your existing customers? Or perhaps your goal is to get five new customers each month. Set yourself clear and specific goals that are realistic and achievable (those lovely SMART objectives again!), and then measure your progress regularly against your criteria. You may find that your marketing plan needs to be reviewed and refined over time – that’s fine, it’s a working document after all. Not something to be filed away once completed, never to see the light of day ever again!

Do you need to put communication tools, resources or training in place to support your marketing activity?

Perhaps you need to overhaul your website and add social media or video capability, invest in some decent business cards even, or create a promotional leaflet for your networking events or door dropping?

Perhaps you’re struggling to make your e-marketing effective – so why not look at investing in software that will allow easy management of your customer database and email marketing campaigns I can recommend some great tools to help you – check out some of my earlier posts.

Or perhaps you’re lacking in certain skills that you know you need – so organise some training or 1-2-1 mentoring with a marketing consultant. Thinking about these issues now will save you much time and frustration down the line when you realise you can’t action what you have spent so much time planning.

How much will all this activity cost?

Review your cash flow forecast and budget. If you need to phase in some marketing activity later in the year to balance the necessary investment against your projected income, that’s absolutely fine – it’s much better than existing in a panic, where every marketing activity feels like a knee-jerk reaction.

The secret to a good marketing plan is clear goals and sticking to your guns. Your marketing plan is, in fact, your battle plan! Some quality thinking now will pay dividends in the future, keeping you in control of your marketing and proactively growing your business.

Think you’d like to tackle this but need some help? If you’d like professional guidance on planning your marketing activity, I can assist in the creation of a marketing plan – just give me a call or send me an email.