Technically, anyone can create a marketing plan – and that’s the problem with most marketing plans. They have the ELEMENTS but not the substance that would make them powerful. The POWER in a marketing plan comes from beginning not with techniques, nor even opportunities, but with the intellectual and emotional state of mind of the stakeholders. That’s why it’s a challenge to do it right, because not just anyone can get at that information. Sometimes you have to nudge, or even push, and it means resisting the temptation to just spin out generic answers like “yeah we should do a little social media and probably have a newsletter and a blog”. So here are 4 questions for a more effective starting place that are PART of what goes into an empowered marketing plan:
DIRECTION: How does it tie to your objectives?
How clearly can you define your business goals? If it’s just “more clients” or “sell more product”, it’s not wrong, but it’s also not precise enough. It’s like saying “I want to lose weight” vs. “I want to lose 10 pounds in the next 5 months.” Getting precise about your business goals is critical to motivation, to aligning the process with the premise of your marketing, and to measuring results. It isn’t just bottom line sales numbers, though numbers are useful ways to be specific. Business goals need to be segmented. Maybe there are certain kinds of foot traffic you want, with certain types of demographics. Maybe you want to focus on certain membership types and focus differently on introductory programs for new clients. Don’t create a marketing plan without STARTING with business goals that are precise. Segment, and make it achievable.
VISION: Where do you want to be?
This is different than precise business goals. This is the big picture. Believe it or not, there are businesses that don’t even HAVE a big picture. How much success does that portend, regardless of a marketing plan? You can’t sit on vision without initiative, energy, and action. But neither will taking initiative, spending energy, or jumping into action be effective without a guiding vision. Where do you want your company, your business, your enterprise to be in the next year, five years, and so on? What is the core motivational path you’re on. “I just want more clients; I can only think about now” is self-defeating. The key to staying hungry is just living and looking for the next meal. The key to getting out of hunger is looking BEYOND that, and setting up a future of abundance. So it’s absolutely the role of a marketing plan to include and express your vision for the future, and it’s your role to be the source of that vision.
PASSION: Why is it important to you?
It’s amazing, but common, that some business owners have lost the passion for their enterprise as surely as one might lose the passion for a lover or a television show. In fact, it can be that severe and that flippant. A marketing plan isn’t a panacea or a magic bullet that will fix your business in some automated or mechanical way. It requires YOU. If you’re checked out, you’re kidding yourself in creating a marketing plan until you address that effectively. On the other hand, if you’ve got passion or vision – either one, and the energy to put into seeing those have tangible results, you NEED a plan. Passion without energy is mythology. If you’ve got one, you’ve got the other. They’re distinct but synonymous in practice. Vision without energy is pathetic. But combine vision with sufficient passion or energy, and no one can stop you; now we plan just to channel those things into effective action. It’s a dirty secret that should be shouted from the roofs: marketing requires soul.
CURIOSITY: What do you want to learn about?
Too often, the only thing we’re thinking about in our marketing is results. That’s a hand-to-mouth mentality, and it actually short circuits our ability to market effectively. Marketing has an EMOTIONAL life, and we need to take a step back and get at it, in order to be effective. Part of that emotional life is curiosity – the pure joy of discovering something new. What are those things you want to discover? What do you want to learn through this process? It may not be learning a skill (or it might be). It might be learning something in particular about your audience. It might be learning something about human behavior and motivation. If there’s no curiosity in your mix, there’s no humanity, and that will ensure it’s sterile and merely mechanical. So this question must be asked.
These questions are a starting place. Sure, it gets much more detailed, and drills down into the momentum we already have, the opportunities where the momentum hasn’t yet flowed, the selection of operational priorities, and the orderly execution of next steps. More than that, an effective marketing plan is never static – it evolves as it is executed – which is why it’s not effective to just stamp out one for a whole year, and not budge from it or grow it in the meantime. The direction evolves, the vision is clarified, the passion won’t be restrained, and the curiosity keeps digging – the plan must keep pace. The plan doesn’t really dictate the action – these four things keep the action coming, and the other side of things – the audience response – dictates how we adjust. And adjust we must. But start here. Start with the big questions BEFORE you drill down, and it’ll pay off better dividends.
To construct and oversee an effective marketing plan for your business, contact me here at MadPipe.