You’ve done your due diligence and completed the purchase of your new business. Now you’re keen to start realising all that potential you’ve identified through the purchase process. Or maybe you’ve decided on your exit strategy and want to position your business for sale in a year or two. These are two quite different scenarios that call for a similar response – making a plan to achieve the goal or goals you’ve set for yourself.
If your business is facing a situation like this, or otherwise looking to grow, it’s very likely you’ll need a marketing plan – and you’ll want to implement it. Many business owners have this on their ‘to do list’, but can’t make progress for a range of different reasons. Here are some tips to help simplify things, get you thinking about ‘marketing’ and help you build a marketing plan.
First things first
Starting with the customer. The cornerstone of any marketing plan is a sound understanding of who your customers are – current and potential – and what services or products they want. If you have this information you’re off to a great start. If you don’t have this information or it’s a bit sketchy – which is not uncommon – one of your first action points could well be to improve the quality of your customer and market information over time so that you can make better-informed decisions.
Armed with good customer and market knowledge you’ll be better equipped to ask and answer the three questions your marketing plan needs to address.
Three key questions
- Where do you want to get to? The answers to this question will define the marketing objectives for your business. Your business could have one objective or it could have several depending on your circumstances and business maturity.
- How are you going to get there? The answers to this question describe your marketing strategy and will usually have a 2-3 year – or possibly longer – horizon. Defining your marketing strategy requires you to make strategic choices. For example, your business could decide to focus on particular customer or product segments, to launch a new brand or re-launch an existing brand, diversify into new products or services or to partner with certain distributors or customers.
- What do you need to do? Decide on the tactics or action steps you will take within a specific timeframe (usually one year) and how you will measure performance. Your tactics are ‘bite-sized’ actions or pieces of work that drive your strategy forward and help you reach your objectives.
Make time and space to do the thinking
For owners of small and medium sized businesses it can be challenging to take yourself out of day-to-day operations for an hour or so at a time. But to plan well it’s important to provide yourself and your team with enough time to think and to share the thinking. Your thinking should be informed by analysis of your customers, your competitors and understanding those external factors and trends that influence your target market and your business.
To make good choices you should assess your business as objectively as you can to understand what you are good at, and understand what your business isn’t so good at so that action can be planned to make improvements. Critically look at the opportunities and threats you identify and work out what options you have to deal with them.
Good thinking, good planning, and good engagement with your employees and your suppliers will all help you to align your business to the needs and expectations of your customers so you can focus on improving the ways you deliver value and a consistent brand experience that will keep your customers coming back for more.
Planning your marketing is a process not an event
Marketing planning isn’t a one-off event, it’s a continuing process that requires regular review and for adjustments to be made to build on the wins, to correct anything that isn’t working as planned or to account for changes in the competitive environment.
But it’s a process that needs a start point and if you’re wondering where to start? Start with the customer and the knowledge your business has about customer need, how well your business does in delivering to those needs today and what you need to change to meet those needs in the future. That should get you thinking.