Elements of a Marketing Plan

Every organisation would love to enjoy the success of a viral marketing campaign such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but these types of campaigns intentionally follow a plan that was laid out in advance. Likewise, think of your marketing plan as a roadmap that’s going to guide you to a chosen destination.

As with any journey, you begin with your destination in mind, and then start by charting your route from your starting point.  There is no sense in beginning unless you know where you want to finish.
Before you start to create a marketing plan, put your communications into perspective. Frame your perspective on your overall communications strategy with a simple statement.

For example:
• Our goal is increasing sales. Our marketing communications will relay our USPs
• Our goal is fundraising. Our marketing communications are donor communications.
• Our goal is member services. Our marketing communications are intended to nurture member engagement.
• Our goal is recruitment. Our marketing communications help manage volunteer experience.
• Our goal is trust. Our marketing communications will contribute to building trust between us and our constituents.
• How Do You Attract, Inform, Inspire, and Engage Your Intended Audience?

Imagine that your goal is more than marketing. Instead, imagine that your goal is to build relationships through engagement, ultimately arriving at engagement. Marketing becomes a means to that end.

Marketing is too often a one-way, short-term, transactional exercise; relationships are built through conversations and interactions to engage your audience. Marketing may tend to drive one-time interaction; relationship-building encourages long-term engagement. Marketing has the potential to be superficial; engaging your intended audience over the long run helps to develop deep affinity and meaningful relationships.

Marketing is just one component of your comprehensive communications strategy. The most successful organisations focus on nurturing relationships; employing a marketing plan and applying it to specific campaigns helps you attract, inform, inspire, and engage potential customers.
It is likely that as you implement your plan, you will find what you consider to be “marketing” will actually decrease, while your relationship-building will increase.

But….how Much Will my marketing Cost?
The “cost” of any marketing plan must be measured in personnel time, creative investment, print, online and media expenses. How much will vary depending on the extent of your marketing plan.  Do not forget to consider the value of your investment as you evaluate your ROI (return on investment) and ROE (return on engagement) as marketing is very much an investment.

Whatever you decide and whatever your marketing objectives, one option could be that before you get overwhelmed with creating a comprehensive marketing plan for your organisation, consider the establishment of micro-plans that help you focus on specific goals to achieve. These micro-plans can be campaign-specific or audience-specific; together they will form a complete marketing plan.

Hope this helps.

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I am a business owner and need to do some marketing

The majority of people who read the articles in our marketing help area are “professionals” who might not necessarily be experts in marketing or selling so it is up to us to try and provide direction in how they can improve their knowledge and/or skill set to help them reach their marketing goals. Marketing for Small Businesses

In some (larger) organisations, there might be a sales person or a BDM as well as a marketing manager, but in the SME world, it is quite common that all these vital elements are grouped together and performed by the owner. If this is the case, there is always a danger that the whole process of marketing slips down the list settling behind IT or the accounts function!

In the case where you are doing the sales and marketing, a lot of the skills and techniques required have been outlined in this blog. However, whether it’s you or you are motivating others to take ownership of marketing, try and see the activity in the context of a marketing plan. Remember marketing is not about getting a brochure done or designing and building a new website. In fact, the process of marketing should include most if not all of the below:

Understanding your market – what am I offering to who and why?
Building your brand and proposition – what is my USP and what does it look like?
Planning your marketing strategy – what activity and/or platforms am I using to get my message across?
Internal marketing – does everyone in the company know what marketing activity we are undertaking and why?
Manage existing clients – making sure you have quality deliverables that have been outlined and fully costed.
Winning new business – test initiatives, but aim to create a discipline of running multiple activities each month.

A big feature of marketing is laying the foundations. You have to set out your stall correctly so that you’re appealing to the right people. Know your customer, but also, do you know if your market has any sub sectors within it which you can target which might add another string to your bow? Try not to get drawn into delivering knee-jerk, bulk newsletters to just tick a box. The words “so what” are used frequently in the briefing process by Bath Marketing Consultancy!

Going forwards, what Bath Marketing Consultancy has always advocated is that having a dedicated marketing function can make the difference between a business success and a business failure so allocate time and or budget to getting it right at the start.

Getting the best out of advertising

If you make your advertising professional to look at and I would bet that your ad will stand out from the crowd especially when a great deal of media houses seem to offer “free design” if you book an ad – how does free design ensure that your ad is on brand and is delivered with the due care and attention it needs?

Anyway, at the risk of me repeating myself from previous posts, DON’T forget the response mechanism – one of your aims when running an ad campaign is to generate some sort of response, so make sure that your ad contains your organisation name, the address, a phone number and possibly a website URL. (You would be amazed at the amount of times I have seen ads that miss out this sort of vital information…..including a competitor of a client of Bath Marketing Consultancy‘s client in the legal sector who saw fit to run an ad promoting a particular person within their firm, but omitted the persons details in the ad as well as the address of the business!!)

I digress. When purchasing advertising space there is one key word to keep in mind……negotiate! I have yet to meet any company that has paid “rate card” for its advertising space so nor should you. If need be, just make an enquiry and sit back as the sales person will call you time and time again to clinch the deal often making the deal more attractive each time! Sometimes you can wait until the very last minute before agreeing by which time the sales person is desperate! (don’t forget sales roles are commissioned based so every sale is vital for a sales person).

In addition, you have other “deals” which you could try in order to get the best value for your spend. Such as, you should be able to negotiate on colour and positioning as well or maybe even a full page for the price of a half page or a premium position for no extra cost!

One platform to be aware of is the enhanced directory listing such as Yellow Pages or maybe an online directory. Sales people will be looking to “up sell” a free listing and will usually quote all manner of increased visibility possibilities. However, it is very likely that they are approaching your competitors with exactly the same pitch so the pitch might live up to what actually occurs. In addition, if you approve a number of these enhanced listing sales, your total spend might become way beyond your budget.

Following on from media advertising there is advertising on the internet……..but that is another story!

“Marketing, marketing, marketing……

..when does it ever end?” Was a question I was asked recently. The person I was with ran a niche, online retail business dealing with a specific type of beach clothing and he was exhausted at the amount of marketing initiatives he had to learn and then juggle to get his business where he wanted.

The initiatives he was running were SEO, Social Media, Events, PR, Sponsorship and product trials and he was exhausted!

My advice was to try and put in place certain disciplines where he did certain things at certain times and to try and make these disciplines part of his routine. “Easier said than done,” was his reply! I cannot stress enough how important marketing is to a business and how, if done correctly, it can make the difference to a business succeeding or failing so that extra effort to make time for it can really pay off!

“What do you do then?”
“All of what you do and probably more” I said as even more colour drained from his face!

In all seriousness, marketing has always been something that shouldn’t have an “end.” It is a process not a singular event and, if you are in business and want to establish yourself as a creditable brand, the hours must be put in. You are the one person who knows the intricacies; what your company stands for, why you are different etc.

In addition, you are very often a large part of the brand so do go to networking meetings, invest in a decent online brochure that you can amend as your business changes and be proactive. Once thing a business can sometimes find it has in abundance is time and using it as a positive rather than a time to panic can make a huge difference not only to your chances of success, but to your levels of enthusiasm.

It still amazes me when clients of Bath Marketing Consultancy tell me how great they feel to see their new website climbing the rankings, or see a magazine with their ad in it!

What is the best form of marketing for my business?

This question has raised its head a number of times recently as we are entering a time where seasonal fluctuations for some businesses can mean a downturn in business, but, in all honesty, it is very tricky to answer this one.

As we all know, each business is different and therefore is likely to require different results from its marketing activity. i.e yes, sales are key, but what sort of sales and would increasing repeat business be a quicker way to increase revenue rather than driving new client acquisition?

So……….how do I answer this question of the “best marketing” without possibly coming across as evasive?? Well, I tell clients and prospects that the only true way of discovering what works for their businesses is to test initiatives. For example, don’t fall victim to the Chinese whispers that direct mail doesn’t work or advertising doesn’t work, try them and see what happens. Include reference numbers and/or unique phone numbers to gauge response levels.

Also, I have found that, as marketing budgets shrink, ROI expectations seem to be increasing and some clients seem to pin all their hopes on a quick fix to a problem. 

Talk to someone!

Stop this now! Marketing is all about identifying and fulfilling a need and this takes time. Don’t think of marketing as spending unnecessary money. Think of it as investing in the future of your business and building your brand. 

The true success of a brand is measured in years and decades not months so don’t give up at the first hurdle and, if need be, talk to someone outside of your business to see what he/she thinks.

To blog or not to blog…

…..that is the question! For the first time in years, I have genuinely found myself at a slight loss as to what to write about this week. Since 2009, “The Marketing Expert” has written some 180 articles for this Blog; most of which have been dedicated to helping the small to medium business with their marketing by providing tips and/or sharing experiences and the feedback I have had has been incredibly positive so many thanks to my readers and keep the emails coming!

Anyway, I digress. In a nutshell, I have found the marketing industry has changed hugely in recent times and a great deal of initiatives that can now be employed are “free.” This might be considered a good thing by the business owner who can very quickly set up a website, a Twitter account, a Blog, a Linkedin account etc and start their online marketing.


Leave a good footprint

BUT, with these sorts of platforms being so readily available, I feel it is even more important to make sure that using them becomes a part of an organisation’s overall marketing strategy. Remember, everything one does on the world wide web leaves a footprint which can be seen by anyone or any organisation. This means that the emphasis for leaving a quality footprint is incredibly strong. 

So, what does putting a marketing strategy together actually mean and why do I need to do one? Well, the short answer to this is that a marketing strategy is about thinking and planning what your business wants to achieve.

In my opinion, an adhoc, knee jerk marketing campaign very quickly becomes inconsistent, hard to monitor and can yield very little actual value for your business. To me, it is absolutely paramount that any business gives serious thought to exactly what it is offering, to who and why before putting together a logo or any brand identity. In addition, just putting together a quick (cheap!) logo and bunging it up on a WordPress website and then Tweeting is not what I would call a creditable way forward. Cheap can sometimes work out to be very expensive.

My suggestion is to talk to a marketing professional about your plans; bounce ideas off someone so that you have a second opinion. I have lost count of the amount of times I have met a client who has been 6-12 months into their business having jumped straight in with both feet and pulled in every favour possible from friends and relatives who might “know computers” and have now found themselves wanting to back track and do it properly.

Clarity and authenticity are key elements for a business and investing (and I stress the word “investing”) in your business initially by working with a professional could make all the difference.

Marketing Consultancy – what, how and why??

I came across a well known advertising agencies’ mission statement recently and it read something along the lines of –

‘It makes a lot of sense for a small business to retain the services of an advertising agency.’

This is something I have to whole heartedly dispute! To me, better work at more reasonable prices is available from marketing consultants. And now I will tell you why….

If I take myself as an example (I don’t miss a trick do I?!), following a marketing degree, I spent over 16 years in the main stream advertising and marketing industry before becoming a Consultant. This is not untypical. Most Consultants have followed a similar path. This means that, despite a not very nice job title ‘Consultant,’ the customer is likely to be working with someone with a huge amounts of industry experienced gained from large and sometimes, very well known agencies or possibly in house marketing departments.

Taking this experience and allowing smaller businesses to access it at what is often a fraction of the cost compared with the agencies these Consultants came from, is surely very desirable.

Consultants, like myself, usually work with or have alignments with a number of industry people who may well have ‘gone solo’ in an attempt to concentrate on their specialism. For example, the people I work with when I identify certain marketing requirements like web design, brand identity or search engine optimisation are, in my opinion the best at what they do and I have worked with them before wearing different hats. These people also only offer the specialist work they do allowing the Consultant to take the brief, identify the need, plan the activity, deal with the client, manage and deliver the work all effectively and efficiently. Simple.

This way of working should also be attractive to the potential customer as he/she has an experienced, singular point of contact who invests time in getting to know their business (the Consultant) and all the tools to deliver the marketing objectives.

Not unlike an agency structure I hear you say. Well, actually you have a point. However, what an agency does have is overheads; lots of them in the form of office costs, employee costs, insurance costs, travel costs, running costs etc that all have to be covered usually by the client even if they are not actually used by this client. When working with a Consultant, a client is typically operating a pay as you go type structure not covering agency costs.

In addition, the people employed by the agency almost certainly will not have the industry experience that the Consultant has or the level of expertise offered by the industry specialists brought in by the Consultant if required.

When applying all this to the small business, it is likely that the business owner is the person driving marketing. He/she will not have the skills to deliver effective marketing and therefore may (reluctantly) have to bring in a specialist. The right person for the job is not an agency, but an experienced professional who can work with that small business on the areas it needs = Quality marketing, added value at a proper cost.

After all, why use a sledgehammer to crack a nut?

Put me to the test?