Marketing Plan Myths Revealed

Just do a search for the term marketing plan and you are likely to be faced with approximately 9 million page results. Not only that, but if you go into some of the results you will find differing terms and differing opinions on how to develop the best one for your small business. It can all be a little confusing and could be one of the reasons why you do not have a marketing plan for your small business.

Before we look at the myths, it should be noted that just having a marketing plan will not guarantee success. It is the quality of the plan and importantly the implementation and tracking of the plan that will show you whether you are achieving your goals.

Myth 1 – Only Big Business Need a Marketing Plan
Remember successful big businesses today started as a small business. They know one of the secrets to success is to work on your business and set goals and decide on the key marketing strategies and tactics each year so time and money is not wasted.

Myth 2 – Marketing Plans Can be Developed in a Few Minutes
Wow, could we be so lucky. If you have never developed a marketing plan, then it will take you a little time to actually think through the key issues facing your small business and to work out what is the best plan of action to take. The good news is like everything else in life with more practice it gets easier and takes less time to update each year.

Myth 3 – You Need a Different Plan for Online and Offline
This is false because although the tactics or even the marketing strategies may be different, you will still only need to develop and implement one marketing plan for your business.

Myth 4 – You Only Need to Develop a Plan if You Have a Lot of Money to Spend
Having developed and implemented literally hundreds of marketing plans, I can tell you some of the best plans I have developed and implemented only had a tiny budget. A marketing plan helps you decide where you are going to spend your money and time to maximize your results.

Myth 5 – You Know all About Your Customers so You do not Need a Plan
Unfortunately this is one of the biggest myths. Customers can change the way they think, feel and behave towards your small business without you even being aware of the changes. It could be because there is a new competitor actively targeting your customers, or because of what is happening in the economy etc. Developing a marketing plan each year allows you to look at what worked during the year and what actions can be taken in the next year to ensure your key customers stay loyal.

There are many more myths about marketing plans, but in reality these myths are just misunderstandings. As growing a small business successfully is a journey, a plan just helps to make sure that each important goal during the journey is achieved more easily.

© Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

Beware of Following Poor Marketing Plan Examples

All too often a marketing plan is an after thought. People seek out marketing plan examples from the Internet or books when they are required to develop one for work or as part of a business plan. Then as soon as people plug in their own name and numbers, it is put into a drawer never to be referenced again. Yet, a quality plan will supercharge a company’s sales.

Understanding a marketing plan is vital. It is much more than a brain dump of creative ideas or a list of marketing wishes put into some sort of order. The plan should stem from deep research of a business’s market and profit margins. The research will help decide which forms of marketing to get involved in. Then the research will help lay a plan how to go about marketing, rather than merely following what one’s competitors do or following one’s intuition. Doing research rather than merely writing will make a plan an asset rather than a chore.

One of the worst offenses of marketing plan examples are their scarcity of numbers. A sample plan cannot show how to gather numbers. And these numbers are what will empower a business’s marketing. Knowing how big one’s potential market is vital. Then one must know their own dollars. What is the current average cost of acquisition of a customer? What is the average lifetime profit from a customer? These two numbers will go a long way to deciding how to direct one’s marketing. Perhaps the cost of acquisition is too high so examining the current forms of marketing is an imperative. Or the profitability is good so a major marketing campaign is in order. Let the numbers tell story.

Another shortfall of using marketing plan examples is that one person is mimicking the example’s writing. A marketing plan should have the buy-in of an entire business. After all, it is the employees who will be executing much of the business. Even if employees will not be directing involved in the marketing, they are the one’s conducting business. If they were the one’s to decide on a marketing plan, they will take ownership and responsibility for it. An example is a one-man business plan says to buy a $100 worth of custom printed pens. The employees not being vested either do not get them out in circulation or just trash them at a trade show. Employees who decided to spend $100 on custom pens will help get pens out in circulation on own their time or will care enough to bring back any remaining pens from a trade show for future use.

Hopefully, one can now see that simply and mindlessly following a marketing plan example will do little for a business. A marketing plan like so much of business, needs sweat put into it to be effective.

Is Your Marketing Plan Really Ready? 3 Key Steps to a Marketing Plan Audit

As I’ve reported many times…many of you do not even HAVE a marketing plan-at least not a documented plan you use to execute and measure sales and marketing success on a monthly basis. And most companies who do have a documented plan (I’m sorry to say) have not done the job they need to do in order to achieve big aspirations on limited budgets! There is a lot of waste in most marketing plans I audit.

So I want to address those of you who have made the effort to develop a marketing plan. I want you to be the BEST that you can be! Have you reviewed your past successes and failures, evaluated your target markets, competition, and brand position? Have you established a structured sales process and marketing mix? Do you have an adequate budget allocated?

Follow these three steps to my Marketing Audit process and make sure your marketing plan is ready for prime time:

1. Assign Auditor(s). If you are the main architect of your marketing plan/strategy, you shouldn’t be the auditor. You can’t be objective enough. Find colleagues who you respect to audit your plan. This could be an internal contact, an external influencer, or both. Make sure whomever you choose can be candid, honest, and constructive.

2. Define Audit Criteria. Define the key criteria you wish to have your marketing plan judged by. Make sure your list is complete and covers all key sections of a strong marketing plan-goals, research, organization, brand, products/services, target market, competition, sales process, marketing mix, implementation calendar, and budget.

3. Create a Marketing Plan Audit Template. Use your audit criteria to develop a template you can provide your auditors. For each of the marketing plan sections you are evaluating, create questions meant to assess the completeness and effectiveness of that section. For example, in goals you might ask, “Are the business, sales, and marketing goals defined clearly?” and “Can each goal be measured and tracked?” Make sure the template is comprehensive, easy to use, and includes a scoring system to determine the overall readiness of your marketing plan.

Following this process, you will ensure you have developed what will be a successful marketing plan. But make sure you go into the process with an open mind and thick skin. You don’t have to take every recommendation your auditor makes, but if you don’t seriously consider each, you are selling your potential…and the process…short!