Marketing plans – are they a waste of time?

Over a 30 year period as a marketing consultant, I have produced a lot of plans for my 3,000+ clients. I ask a new client whether they have a written, up-to-date business plan? Some do, many don’t. Although I know what the answer is likely to be, I then ask whether they have a separate marketing plan? Almost invariably, the answer is, “No, we don’t.”

Some clients ask me why they should have a separate marketing plan. “Because it requires separate thought,” I reply. “It should be built on the foundations of your business plan. It gives you the opportunity to think about the allocation of scarce resources, i.e. your time and your money.”

In a fast moving, forever changing world, are marketing plans a waste of time? My experience tells me that that are not. It takes a couple of hours to work your through a structured marketing plan template, answering the key questions. Whether this is a plan for a startup, a small business, a new product or service or an off-shoot of a larger business, the process of thinking about customer needs, market segments, differentiation, your key messages, pricing, geographical footprint and your promotional mix is time well spent.

The benefits include a marketing vision that you can communicate to stakeholders (and yourself, during downtime, whatever that might be);  clearer communication with third party suppliers (i.e. your website developer / copywriters); written action points and deliverables.

Here is my advice: 1) Plan your marketing. 2) Work your plan. 3) Measure your results.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? The plan should be written down. Something magic happens when you commit pen to paper / fingers to the keyboard. Yes, I know that this sounds like hard work. Like so many things in life and business, perhaps you have never quite got around to this strategically important task?

Where should the plan reside? Without a doubt: in the cloud. Why? Because it won’t get lost. Because you can access it from any device. Because your marketing consultant can access it. Because there will only be “1 marketing plan in one place.”

Here are some of the key steps, taken (in part) from my book ‘The Marketing Compass‘:

Selecting and building your business model
Money or time?
Specialist or generalist?
Becoming a guru
Embedding the internet in your business model
The three marketing steps

Your marketing strategy

How to work out your USP
Are you selling at the right price?
Repackage your pricing

Standing out from the crowd­  (how to)
Competitive analysis

Your brand (what is the big idea here?)
Values  (your)
Your visual brand identity

IMHO the customer should be at the heart of your marketing strategy and your plan. It is easy to agree with this statement. It is a lot harder to implement this strategy in the real world.

“Planning is 95% of problem solving.” ~ Charles Pascalar

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ~ Dwight D Eisenhower

I tell my clients that: “Your plan will change when the action begins. Adjust accordingly.”

Do you have a written marketing plan? Do you look at it regularly? Do you measure your results and adjust your behaviour accordingly?

Written by marketing consultant, trainer, speaker and author Nigel Temple.
3,000+ clients over a 30 year period.

Nigel offers a marketing plan training course.

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