Lancashire based marketing consultant, Neil Chatterjee looks at the importance of marketing planning and provides some tips to help businesses take their first steps in the planning process.
The ‘raison d’être’ of a marketing plan is to give your business a clear vision of your market place and to outline the key strategies that will not only help to keep your current clients but also to attract new ones.
It does not have to be a long drawn out affair, but it is worth investing some time in developing the plan as it will offer you the opportunity to look at an area of business that is often misunderstood or indeed ignored.
Many business people tend to put faith in their instincts and experience to give direction. While this certainly has its value, it does not always reveal all of the information that would aid better decision making.
Though there’s not a standard version of how to develop a marketing plan, it is critical to carry out some form of analysis. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis is a great tool that can help you to identify the direction your business needs to take and can facilitate your goal setting activities.
It is vital that your objectives are realistic in terms of what you hope to achieve and the time frame you want to achieve them. If you set goals that are out of reach and impracticable then you will definitely fail. As well as being realistic, your marketing objectives need to be specific and measurable. You can use revenue figures or new customers gained as a benchmark to help you measure. Make use of SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) goals to help you to clarify and cement your objectives. I would advise that you do not do this in isolation, but take the views of those around you such as staff, suppliers and/or customers.
Reaching your audience with a small budget
Importantly, having a marketing plan can strengthen your focus on whom your target market is, which segments have the greater value and the actions you’d need to take to reach them. It is always worth the time and effort to define your target audience. This can save you money and help you be more accurate in your marketing activities.
As for a lot of businesses at present, there are considerable constraints on marketing budgets. Therefore, it is vital that you have a fixed idea of what you can afford. Review what marketing you did last year and identify what worked well and what did not. Once you know this, you can focus on the most successful marketing activities. I would advise that you consider only targeting a segment (subgroup) of your market rather than opting for a scattergun approach. This way, you can make your money work harder for you and reduce your exposure to risk at the same time.
The process of marketing planning can you help you and your team to understand your business better. In part 2, I will look at the importance of flexibility in your planning and why you need to better understand your product or service.
If you need help in developing your marketing plan contact us directly or Contact Us.
Read Tips for Developing your Marketing Plan (Part 2).