5 Steps to Building a Successful Marketing Plan

The new Financial Year is almost upon us, so now is a great time to build a powerful marketing plan for your company.

A marketing plan is an absolute must for your business.  Over the next few articles I’ll write in detail about 5 Steps to build a Successful Marketing Plan – one you can be pretty sure will deliver a great return on investment.

The 5 Steps are:

  • Set your goals
  • Do your research
  • Create a Powerful and Unique Value Proposition
  • Add Discipline: Your Marketing Budget
  • Test, Review, Adapt and Repeat

Step 1.  Where are we going?  Set your goals

Synopsis: There’s a hierarchy to goal-setting that it’s important to understand.  Whether you’re a business owner or a Marketing Manager, when you follow the simple (but challenging) process you’ll end up with a marketing action plan that is easy to implement and which achieves a good return on investment.  In this article I describe the goal-setting process in detail.

If you’re an owner then before you begin drafting your marketing plan you need to decide on your vision for your own life in the years ahead.  Do you want to sell the business?  Do you want to stay at the top or hire a General Manager?  Do you plan to travel?  Do you want to perform charity work?  Questions of this kind are important to help you decide what you want out of the time you’re investing to grow a business.

This step is fundamental.  If you don’t have a strong vision for what you want to do in your personal life, you won’t be able to make decisions about your business that are geared to achieving your future.

I like the story that Natalie Cook, Olympic Gold Medallist tells.  She and her beach Volleyball partner, Kerri Pottharst, when they set out to train for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, used to envision themselves with a gold medal around their necks.  They surrounded themselves in items that reinforced the gold medal vision, like gold shoes, gold clothing and painting a refrigerator gold and their commitment to their personal goal then dictated what they were prepared to do to achieve it.

Your personal vision set, it’s time to establish goals for the business that help bring it all about.  Doing it this way ensures that the business is going to work for you and not vice versa.  If your business goals and your personal goals are not in alignment, guess what will happen?  Ultimately, you’ll gravitate towards your personal goals and the business will lose value.

If you’re a Marketing Manager, then your outlook is typically shorter and the business goals you need to achieve have probably been handed to you.  Note that if they have not, then you should encourage and even lead your business owner(s) through the process of setting personal goals as you will find that it makes gaining agreement on future initiatives a lot easier when you can link business strategy to personal goals.

Set SMART Goals

You may have heard the acronym, SMART to describe your goals.  Let me explain it if you haven’t.

Your goals should be Specific.  “To create 12 new clients per month” is a specific goal.  “To win new clients”, is not.

They should be Measurable.  “To create an average of 12 new clients per month” is a measurable goal because we can look in the sales records and prove that it occurred.  “To win new clients” is not an easily measurable goal because it lacks a yardstick by which to measure success.  If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage towards it.

They should be Achievable.  Creating 12 new clients needs to be something that can be done.  If each new client is worth $100,000 and it takes a week of full-time work to create a pitch, then a business that can only afford one full-time staff member to prepare pitches won’t be able to pull off 12 new clients per month.  The goal needs to be related to the resources available to achieve it.

They need to be Realistic.  Closely tied to the Achievable element, the goal needs to be a realistic representation of what is possible, not a blue sky estimation of what might be possible if every single thing went right for a whole 12 month period and you fluked several extraordinary contracts.  Realistic goals are motivating to the staff charged with achieving them.  Unrealistic goals are demotivating because the staff will see the goalposts moving further away every month.

They need to be Timebound.  Putting a deadline on the achievement of the goal adds pressure of a good kind.  If the goal is already Specific, Measureable, Achievable and Realistic, then you will commit to achieving it by the deadline you apply to yourself.

There are lots of other goal-related acronyms, but if you master this basic technique you won’t need them.

Once you have your goals, you create your objectives, strategies and your tactics.

I’ll explain what these are, quickly.

Objectives are a breakdown of your goals into smaller, more manageable actions on an everyday basis.  If your goal is to bring on 12 new clients worth $100,000 every month, one of your objectives might be to profile 50 prospects every month.

Strategies are the fundamental descriptions of how you are going to achieve your objectives.  If the objective is to profile 50 prospects every month, the strategy might call for increasing human resources by two new staff members

Tactics are the individual steps that are required to execute strategies.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  If the strategy calls for recruiting two new staff then the tactics might be:

  1. Profile staff members who are currently doing the job and create a job description
  2. Prepare advertising
  3. Engage a recruitment agency
  4. Shortlist applicants
  5. Conduct interviews
  6. Make a decision
  7. Send offers
  8. Prepare inductions
  9. Execute inductions

It’s important to add one final step, and that is to add a deadline and a person responsible for the tactic.  Without that final, critical element, all the rest of the planning will be worthless.

It’s as simple and as hard as that.

You can see how when you get down to the Tactics, all the steps are clear and easy to implement by the assigned staff member. Each level of the goal-setting process has been derived from its predecessor in a logical, simple process.

It’s hard because it’s time-consuming and it requires a bit of imagination to visualise your goals. An average business turning over, say, $6 million would need to spend up to a week following the process from start to finish and in subsequent years probably a good three days. Using your imagination to think about your business being different from how you observe it on an everyday basis is tiring work and it’s really hard to find the time when you have the business clamouring for your attention.

Can you shortcut the process?

Yes, of course you can. You can cut it down to Objectives, Strategies and Tactics. It’s faster and probably 80% as effective. For a Marketing Manager whose business goals are set, this is an acceptable approach.

For a business owner there’s an important trade-off to accept. If you bypass the time spent contemplating your personal goals, then ensuring your business goals are in alignment, your objectives won’t be derived correctly. It’s a recipe for a less-than-anticipated result unless your objectives are completely aligned to your goals.

Is the process better with an external agency?

Undoubtedly yes because your consultant will have done the process many times before and will help you get past obstacles like being unable to imagine the future (it happens) and separating goals from strategies and strategies from tactics. Good goal-setting is a new discipline to learn, and just like learning anything new it helps to have a guide the first time.

In Part 2, I’ll talk about research.  Whether it comes before or after the setting of goals, it’s an important step that can’t be bypassed if you’re going to achieve a good return on investment.