PLAN is not a 4-Letter Word

Nothing creates fear in business owners faster than asking them for a marketing plan. Most are eye-balls deep in operating their business and can’t fathom having the time to take a step back and PLAN.

The truth is that taking time to plan your marketing efforts in advance will save you time and money in the longer term. This is a quick and dirty approach to marketing planning, designed for those who otherwise wouldn’t do a marketing plan. We stripped out all the extras to showcase that anyone can start planning their marketing efforts.

Assess where you are. For this step you will need to gather information about the past year. General information like marketing budget and profit margin. Ideally, you will have the budget breakdown on dollars spent for different initiatives so you can accurately compare the value received. If you don’t have that level of detail, don’t give up. Gather the information you have to whatever level of detail you have. You have to start somewhere.

You should also gather input from the stakeholders across the organization. Salespeople typically have great insight as to what makes your customers happy and unhappy. They can also be a great source of information about what your competitors are doing that can be used to identify threats and opportunities in your business. For example, if a major competitor has reduced the size of their salesforce covering a specific territory, that represents an opportunity for you to pursue that market share.

There are so many potential metrics to track and measure that will vary significantly based on your product or service; it can be daunting. Stick with the simple and focused efforts to collect this information and don’t get distracted by jargon.

Measure what matters. We like to start at the very beginning with our clients. Our holistic approach to marketing strategy means we can advise you on where to put your emphasis, where to test new options and what to measure.

Don’t overthink! You can easily be overcome with ‘analysis paralysis’. Set a couple of basic metrics for each area, figure out the metric and how you are going to measure it. And most importantly, be sure the metrics offer actionable insights for you to change your marketing or your investment levels.

Get new customers - Look at all the ways you get new customers and come up with a metric that will allow you to measure the cost of it. Conversion rate is a good basic metric. You can use conversion rate to calculate an ROI which will be important when comparing marketing program options.

Get more business from existing customers - Once someone has bought your product, you have many different options to sell them more products/services. It is a proven that it is cheaper to keep a customer that to get a new one. So with that in mind, a good basic metric to track is the percent of your business that comes from existing customers versus new. This is a broad metric that allows you to understand your current mix of new versus existing and build upon it to calculate metrics like average spend per customer (comparing new versus existing).

Reduce the cost to serve existing customers. Over time you will be able to track the lifetime value of your customers, but you can start by measuring your cost to serve existing customers. This is another broad metric that allows you to track how much you are spending to serve customers, ensuring that number doesn’t surpass what they spend! The rise of apps or kiosk service over in person, is an obvious example of how companies reduced the cost to serve customers and it contributed to their bottom line.

Focus efforts. We are all victims of attention deficit, but it takes discipline to write a marketing plan and stick to it. There always seems to be a ‘new and improved’ way to market to your customers.

If you have marketing programs that consistently deliver leads or sales, stick with them. We recommend you carve out some money to test new and different tactics every year, to be sure you have the opportunity to take advantage of new options that deliver a higher return rate that one of your tried and true programs.

It is easy to get distracted with new and different options, but we recommend you perfect a smaller number programs and secure solid measurements before trying something simply because it is “new”.

The best wrap up advice for your marketing plan is; it is okay to say “no”. Dividing your time and dollars across more programs does not ensure you will increase the ROI of your efforts. Doing fewer things well with solid tracking, is a better approach. If you set aside dedicated marketing dollars to always be testing one new program per year, you won’t miss anything.

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