In the olden days of marketing (the 1990s), we talked about positioning statements, the 4 Ps, marketing plans, branding, etc. Some pundits and bloggers might claim that these old style concepts and practices are obsolete and have been replaced with content marketing, social media, marketing automation, SEO, SEM and so on. I suggest these so-called old style, obsolete concepts, strategies and tactics are more important than ever. As professional marketers, I suggest we go back to the future and embrace the fundamentals before we begin to use the modern tools like content marketing.
Embarking upon a plan to ‘do content marketing’ or ‘do social media’ without first preparing a proper marketing plan is like building a house with no blueprint. Adding rooms (marketing tactics) on a whim without an understanding of how each room supports the overall structure (business goals), the purpose of each room (objectives) and how you will decide if the room is successful (measurement) is a recipe for disaster at worst and poor performance at best.
We manufacturing marketers (all marketers) get excited about new technology, new ideas, new media. It's the shiny object syndrome. We're itching to get started with the next promising tactic or tools we are convinced will launch our business onto the next great growth trajectory. The momentum and the enthusiasm are great.
Before you get started with any tactic, it is critically important to go through the process of creating a proper marketing plan. Why, you may ask, must I take precious time and utilize my already stretched resources to write down a plan. Isn’t that a bit old fashioned? Yes, it is old fashioned and at the same time, more important than ever in this modern marketing age.
The marketing plan, 4 P's, positioning, et al have likely been around for 1000s of years in one form or another. The reason these concepts have endured is because they fundamentally support the exchange of goods. In spite of our modern marketing technology, the basics of business have not changed since the dawn of the first civilization in Mesopotamia. We are still exchanging products or services for some type of consideration. Whether we were a merchant pedaling our wares in the Middle Ages or selling access to a SaaS service today, there is fundamentally no difference. It is an exchange. Success of either the Middle Ages merchant or the modern SaaS vendor depends on awareness of the offering and establishment of value in the minds of the prospective buyer. In other words, it depends on marketing (assuming the sales function is a subset of a broad definition of marketing).
Strong marketing is not based on the tactics chosen or the channels where a message is promoted. Strong marketing starts with a solid foundation built with a proper marketing plan.
Consider the 4 major parts of a good marketing plan as discussed below. This discussion is not meant to be comprehensive education about how to create a marketing plan. It is a starter discussion to show how important it is to have a proper, written marketing plan. It is a simple framework of the components of a good marketing plan.
Definition of a Marketing Plan
A marketing plan is a comprehensive document that summarizes marketplace knowledge and the strategies and steps to be taken in achieving the objectives set marketing managers for a particular period.
What a Marketing Plan is Not
A marketing plan is not a spreadsheet of activities. It’s not an editorial calendar. It’s not a list of campaigns. It’s not a budget or set of goals. It’s not something you think you have in your head. These may all be important components of a marketing plan, but any one alone is not a marketing plan.
These are the 4 essential topics that must be covered in your marketing plan before proceeding with any marketing activities such as content marketing, social media, direct mail, email promotion, nurturing, web sites, landing pages, PPC, etc.
- Assess the Current Situation
- What resources are available?
- Analyze and summarize your market space(s).
- Analyze internal strengths and weaknesses.
- Analyze external opportunities and threats.
- Assess the competition and competitive environment.
- Assess the macro environment; social, economic, political, technological
- Identify critical issues
- Describe the Marketing Strategy
- Mission and vision
- Business objectives
- Marketing objectives
- Target market description
- Positioning statement
- Value proposition
- Marketing Program
- Pricing strategy
- Controls and measurement
- Critical success factors
- Key performance indicators
- Technology and platforms
Many manufacturers and their leading marketers will claim (proudly sometimes) they have the marketing plan in their head or that it is embedded in the culture of the organization. Not good enough! Many other manufacturers will have several disparate pieces of a marketing plan spread throughout the organization. Some parts might lie with the sales department, product managers, marketing department, executive leadership team, strategic business planners or other such places. For Marketing to do its job, Marketing must create and own a proper marketing plan first and foremost.
One of the real tangible benefits of writing a proper plan is in the collaboration between the stakeholders that is essential to writing a marketing plan. This collaboration helps to align the various functions. The process of writing the plan also helps to advance the stature of the marketing department and personnel. The marketing leader and his team are elevated and perceived as valid business participants as opposed to being perceived as a service center reacting to one request after another.The Process of Creating the Plan
The real benefit of creating a proper marketing plan is not in the final document itself, it is in the decisions that are made and the agreements made between stakeholders. The marketing plan is not just an exercise to be done once and then put on the virtual shelf. It is a living, dynamic document which should be referred to on a regular basis and updated as conditions or situations change.
I leave you with a challenge. See if you can find a written marketing plan at your company. If you find one that is current, dynamic and being used as a daily reference upon which to base marketing decisions, bravo! If you can’t find it or if you hear people tell you it is all in their head, step back and begin to craft a proper plan today before you do anything else.