Your small business needs a marketing plan
Marketing plans are just for big businesses aren’t they? Wrong! A marketing plan is a vital document for a business of any size to keep on track and achieve defined business goals. The role of a marketing plan is to map out all aspects of an organisation’s marketing intentions and activities for a set period of time. A marketing plan is a summary document that provides an important framework to ensure that marketing activities are carried out in a controlled way, and results maximised. Even if you have been in business for a while without a plan, it’s a good idea to create one.
Whilst marketing plans are often mistakenly perceived as relevant to business life only in the corporate world, they are in fact hugely beneficial to small businesses also. Taking the time and effort to create a marketing plan really is a must for all small business owners. So what are the key benefits of a marketing plan to your business?
1. Creating a focused & forward-thinking business
Taking the time to build a marketing plan requires you to sit down and really think about the direction that your business is heading in. You’ll need to give consideration to important questions around where are you now and where do you want to be? How are you going to get there and what resources do you have available? You’ll also need to think about the wider environment – your competitors, customers, and current issues in the world that might impact the marketplace within which you operate.
A very real danger of not having a plan or an awareness of what is happening in the world (and how this might impact your business), is not being able to react successfully when challenges arise or consumer demand changes. There are many examples of failed businesses that have been caught out in this way.
2. Enabling clear decision making
Dedicating time to understanding your business and how it fits within the wider marketplace will enable you to make clear, informed decisions. Knowledge of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges that lie ahead will support you in investing funds and resources in the right places. The ability to make controlled, logical decisions will help you drive your business forward with confidence.
3. Integrating long-term planning with short-term implementation
As a small business owner it can sometimes be overwhelming knowing where to start with marketing. What opportunities should you explore? What can you actually afford and what will give you the biggest return on your investment? Creating a marketing plan allows you to document all your potential marketing options and to stagger them in a controlled way that will help you achieve your business goals. For example, you might not be able to afford a PR campaign in your first year of business, but it is something that you would really like to do. Create a 3 year marketing plan and you can park it as a future activity in year two when you have built up more funds from implementing other less-costly marketing activities.
Integrating long-term planning with short-term implementation will help you to feel more in control and able to rationalise the choices that you make. Unless you are incredibly lucky, no start-up or small business has endless pots of money to invest in marketing – so well-planned, controlled and measurable strategies are essential.
No marketing plan? Expect a bumpy ride
“I don’t have time to write a plan!” “I don’t need a plan things are going really well just now!” “Marketing plan? I wouldn’t know where to start!” These are just some of the justifications frequently cited by businesses as reasons for not having a marketing plan (or perhaps worse, a business plan!). If you want your business to grow, you will need strategic direction and a plan to get there. I recently read a great analogy between marketing plans and a road map. The question raised in the analogy was, ‘You wouldn’t start a long journey without a map, so why would you start a business without a marketing plan?’ This strongly resonated with me and prompted me to write this blog as without a marketing plan, you should expect a bumpy ride with lots of wrong turns and missed opportunities.
A simple plan is better than no plan
You don’t have to create a mammoth document. A simple, well-thought out plan that keeps you on track (and is readily available for you to refer back to) is better than no plan at all. With lots of templates and guides on how to complete a marketing plan freely available on the internet, creating a plan may be easier than you think.