They say that marketing is one of the most widely ill-defined terms in business. I certainly wouldn’t disagree there. However, if you’re looking for a term to take out the overall title, I’d like to nominate the humble marketing plan.
When I meet with a new client, one of the first questions that I ask them is “Do you have a marketing plan?” Quite often I’m met with a “Yes, of course.” The trouble is, once I delve a little deeper, I’m met with a vast array of explanations as to what in their mind actually constitutes a marketing plan.
Sometimes I’m presented with a range of broad statements and objectives that may sound great to the uninitiated, yet have little or no documented direction as to how they will actually be achieved.
At other times, their ‘marketing plan’ may be nothing more than a schedule of activities. I.e, in March we’ll run this campaign, in April we’ll attend this event, etc. Sure, they can show they’re busy, but to what benefit?
In this day and age of digital technology, flexibility and responsiveness have never been more critical. It’s easy to get so caught up in delivering the next campaign, the next blog post, the next tweet, etc, etc that we fail to stand back and look at the bigger picture. We start to lose focus on things like brand equity and long term revenue generation.
The core basics of marketing 101 still apply just as much today as they did way back when Philip Kotler started writing marketing text books. The main difference is the need to build in flexibility and responsiveness. You may well be surprised by just how revisiting some solid structure can very simply turn random marketing activities into real revenue generators.
It has long been my belief that a marketing plan should form all the key links between the business objectives, the products/services and the customer. It should be simple yet cover all areas, easy to follow, flexible and measurable. To achieve this, there is a key process that I like to put in place, which hasn’t failed me yet. It starts at the broadest level, and works its way down to the delivery and measurement, with each level clearly linked to and driven by the previous one. It’s what I like to call the cascading funnel.
Without going into too much detail, here’s a quick overview
- Gain an understanding of the broader business objectives and the customer/market environment
- Develop a few (no more than 4) broad measurable marketing objectives where at the broadest level will deliver on the business objectives
- Define a range of strategies that will best deliver on each marketing objective
- Develop a tactical marketing plan containing all the activities required to deliver on each strategy
- Deliver each activity. (Sounds simple, yet you’d be surprised just how many fall down at this stage)
- Measure the results and gain feedback
- Feed all of this back into the planning process
It is imperative that the business has clear objectives in place for the specified period, and that the marketing objectives clearly link to these business objectives. If not, then clearly defining these should form the starting point of the marketing plan.
When this process is followed, no two marketing plans should ever be identical. Each one is specifically tailored to the business objectives, industry, market conditions and the customer base. There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach
A clear, well-structured, realistic and flexible marketing plan forms the backbone to long term revenue generation.
There you go. There’s the secret.
Author: Cameron McIver