News & Events
#001 – The power of a marketing action plan
- 19th February 2017
- Posted by: Nicky
- Category: Episodes
Today’s podcast is all about the plans you need in place to grow your business. Business, marketing, and action plans. And as a tough subject, we’re going to talk about what you really need as headings in the plans because, let’s be honest, if you’re about to produce a huge marketing plan, it’s just going to sit on the shelf and never be looked at again.
I think a lot of people in business fear planning; they think it’s a bit of a time suck, or that it’s only needed when you need to go to the bank for finance.
But I believe that by having a plan, it’s as much about telling you what you’re doing right just as much as about saying what’s gone wrong.Download transcript pdf 401kb
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Yep, you need a plan whatever stage your business is at, whether it’s just starting out, growing, or exiting, and it should be the blueprint for everything you do. It is simply too important just to stay in your head.
But there are different plans for different exercises so let’s look at that. Nicky, what do you think they are? As we’ve said, this is a meaty subject but it is, of course, the bit of your business that underpins everything, right?
Well, I’m a firm believer in smaller plans over larger, time heavy business plans. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for each, but I guess I like to break the idea of planning into smaller chunks.
So what are those?
This is a meaty subject so pin back your ears.
So, first off there’s the business plan, which will probably look at a period of between 3 and 5 years. This should provide a thorough examination of the way in which the business will start and develop to fulfil your goals and aspirations, whether that’s simply to turn enough to make a good salary, whether it’s sustaining it to employ others or whether it is to build a portfolio.
Then there’s the marketing plan which supports your goals, which is all about how you’re going to get your product or service to market, what your strategy is regards pricing, product placement and then, finally, there’s the hugely important marketing, smaller month by month action plans. I guess the marketing plan is the master document of where you want to get to, and the action plan is the more immediate actions as to what you’re going to put into action to achieve this, but we’ll come on to this in a bit.
Preparing any one of these plans will help you to set clear objectives for your business and clarify your thinking. They also help to set targets for future performance and allows you to monitor finances and profitability. It should help to provide an early warning for when you might need to reconsider the plan.
Ok, I agree, so what goes into each? I guess we should ask people to have pen and paper at the ready here? Remember, these are the bigger more strategic of the plans and always bear in mind that anyone reading the plan will need to understand the essentials of your business quickly and easily.
Now we’ve said we’re not believers in long plans, but this sounds like quite a heavy document to me?
It doesn’t need to involve oodles of paperwork, but it does need to be a concise, easy to follow strategy for your way forward that you can tweak over time. I recommend the plan being no longer than 4-6 pages for the business plan and 4 sides for the marketing plan. But that’s enough from me I guess. Liz, what would you aim to put in a marketing plan then?
So, pen and paper at the ready these are the standard things you need to include
The first heading is Current Position. Where are you now? Your sector, your market, state of growth and future potential.
Next heading is Future Changes. What changes will you face? Competitors, technology change, buying habits, legislation, stuff like that.
The ever popular SWOT is next. It may be a pain to do, but it does pay off in identifying what your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. You can easily get a template by Googling SWOT.
Next heading is Competitors. Now it might seem a bit weird to look at the competition but if you don’t know what they’re doing, how do you know how your product or service measures up? How are your competitors doing and how are they addressing the same issues as you, as far as you can tell? Worth spending some time on this one.
What specific marketing activity have you tried or would like to try? This is the next heading. What’s worked well and what hasn’t.
You may or may not have heard of the marketing term ‘The 4 P’s’. It stands for Product, Price, Place, Promotion, and for a service we can add in a 5th P for People. These make up your next headings and are fairly self-explanatory. The product is what you make or the type of service you offer. Price is how much it costs you to make the product and is where you can outline your pricing strategy. Place is where you sell it. And finally, Promotion is how you are getting your marketing messages out to your customer.
Wow, there’s a lot of work here so, just to recap, the Marketing Plan sets out how to achieve the aims of the Business Plan. So, how are we going to drill down into the day to day activity that’s needing to be done?
Well, this is where the Action Plan comes into play. Remember the Action Plan is the daily list to help your Marketing Plan objectives to be achieved. We all have different ways of creating an Action Plan. How would you do it, Liz?
Well, I’m an old-fashioned girl, and as it is just me, I would work from a written bullet pointed list, although I have just discovered Trello which is an online project management tool. Other project management tools are available! It’s great for listing individual tasks and recording them at each stage through to completion. How about you, Nicky, what would you recommend for a larger business?
In an ideal world, if you have a team, involve them as you never know who will come up with a killer suggestion. So I suggest running action planning sessions which you can rerun either monthly, or at least quarterly, so you can then divvy up tasks and assign actions to individuals so that it does not feel too heavy a workload and then in this way you’re working to everyone’s individual strengths.
Think about all the things you can come up with individually and then put them individually on post-it notes, take each of these in turn and discuss the pros and cons of each, thinking about costs, staff implications, audiences you name it. This is probably the area where you are going to spend the most time.
What you then need to do then is draw up an action plan by putting each of these actions under a must/could/should heading. Must is fairly obvious; could is we’d like to, but we’re not convinced; and should is we’re not keen but we really ought to.
For example, we could run a Facebook page for our business, but we’re not convinced that it’s right for our business audience, whereas we’re not keen on doing email campaigns but we know our competitors are and we should be doing them. Record by taking a photo of the results.
Finally, take each of these post-it actions again and put under three headings for each post-it note. These headings must be timed, for example Now – in the next three months; Soon – within six months; Later – in 6 months to a year – you can adapt these timings according to the business pressures, capabilities and capacity.
Yes, this sort of planning is often seen as a one-off exercise undertaken only when a new business is starting up or when you’re heading off to the bank. But by repeating this over time, you can see how it builds up a good picture of past successes and failures and how it allows you not to rely on memory alone.
You’ll also start to think about your marketing costs and assign a real budget, but we will look at this in greater detail in future Marketing Menu podcasts and especially our next one the do’s and don’ts of pricing.
So just to recap, the Business Plan is the blueprint of your business, what you’re going to do and how. The Marketing Plan is the activity and strategy for taking your product or service to market, and the Action Plans are the elements of action you’re going to do to make it all happen. So is there anything else we can add?
Well, I guess we can look at some common mistakes that might be helpful at this stage:
Okay then. So I’d say try not to imitate your competitor. Why dilute your market share? Plan to be unique. Celebrate your difference. And don’t be restricted by last year’s marketing plan, but do cut back on elements that did not produce high returns. Evaluate as you go, give things a second chance but if they don’t materialise, move on.
- Always stick to a budget, you may be able to afford it now but did you plan for it?
- And consider efficiency. If planning improvements in production, marketing or staffing, what results are you aiming for?
This comes down partly to reviewing activity on an ongoing basis. Easy to do when things go wrong, less likely when riding high. Remember the good times as well as the bad, review periodically and use this when moving forward. Don’t rely on memory.
Overall though I’d say make sure plans are realistic and achievable. It saves being disheartened, and it will ensure you have the right resources, and energy, to achieve your aims.
As many as half of all businesses fail in their first three years of trading.
The main reason for the high failure rate of small, newly established businesses is when the owner lacks experience in managing all aspects of the business so if you need help or feel out of your comfort zone, the best advice is to get just that.
Planning is extremely important. It can be said that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail.’
Yeh, wow that was a killer first topic thanks, I enjoyed that. What a great way to get us rolling! Admittedly there’s a lot here to take in, and I guess people may need to re-listen, but it’s worth pointing out that we are also offering a free transcript of our conversations. All you need to do to get this is head over to our website themarketingmenu.com to download.
Just to remind you we’ll be running bi-monthly podcasts and, of course, we’re here to tailor the content to your needs so if you’ve any questions, please do get in touch but most of all please share our channel with others who you feel may benefit from what we’re talking about.
Before we wrap up we just want to say a big thank you for tuning in; we’re both super excited that you did! We know there are loads of podcasts and webinars out there and we’ve specifically designed the marketing menu to offer practical, accessible marketing ideas that you can put into practice.
And I think we’ve certainly done that today.
We very much hope that some of what we’ve shared today resonates with you and allows you to make real business changes. Let us know how you get on.
Yes, so tune in again to our next podcast when we’ll be discussing the thorny subject of “The Do’s and Don’ts of Pricing Strategies” and how to build this into your marketing. Thanks, guys, so this is a goodbye from me, Nicky Matthews, til next time.
And me, Liz Gordon, goodbye.