Classic marketing plans can run to 200 pages. That’s a problem. At that length, people won’t read it. Also, anything that long tends to go into too much detail so the most important things get lost. Another critical issue is that any document as big as that is difficult to change. That can be counter- productive in a fluid market where customers come and go and new trends emerge.
Good marketing plans are clear and concise and built around rigorous analysis. Who are my current customers? Who else will buy my product or service? Why will they buy it? How many will they buy? Where do they live? What is the size of the market? Is it growing? Are there segments of users who are not happy with the competition? And do any of these segments present an opportunity?
Resellers cannot create a good marketing plan without understanding customers, the competition and the market. These insights are critical. Resellers can only create a powerful plan if they know their business inside out.
Solid marketing plans are built around three foundation stones: goals and objectives, strategic initiatives and tactics.
Every marketing plan needs these three sections. Ideally, this document should run to no more than one page showing each of the three.
Goals and objectives need to be clear. There is no room for vagueness. For example, a marketing plan might talk about “quality”. How do you define quality? What is the company doing about it? It might mention innovation – but what kind of innovation? As for understanding your customers, that’s a great mantra. But what exactly will you do with those insights? That has to be spelled out in the plan.
The marketing plan’s goals and objectives need to drill deep and answer these questions. Goals and objectives should be linked to profit and cash flow, otherwise they are meaningless for any business.
As Jim Kilts, former CEO of Kraft, Gillette and Nabisco, wrote in his book, Doing What Matters: “I want rigorous analysis and thoughtful assessments, but I don’t want complexity.
“If strategies and plans aren’t easily understood by everyone, they will be acted on by no-one.” Or as General Electric chief executive officer Jeff Immelt once noted: “Every leader needs to clearly explain the top three things the organisation is working on. If you can’t, then you’re not leading well.”
Every marketing plan needs to be closely tied to the company’s business plan or vision statement. These documents spell out in full detail what the company is about, how it goes about its business and what its goals are.
It is important to involve everyone in the marketing plan, everyone from finance to HR. These are the key people who will provide insights into potential marketing opportunities.
For example, if you don’t involve the sales team you might not discover that more customers are asking for discounts. If you don’t involve human resources, you might not realise that there are some potential skills gaps emerging in your organisation as older and experienced hands move on and retire. If the packaging group isn’t consulted, you will never know that it could take months to print new graphics and logos.
The great advantage here is that the marketing plan can pull the organisation together and by doing so, it creates focus. A well formulated plan eliminates everything that should not be done and focuses on the important stuff.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs put it best when he said: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the 100 other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.
Tactics are about the four classic Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion and place. The tactics section needs to explain how each initiative will be implemented. If the initiative, for example, is about increasing sales to core profitable customers, the tactics need to spell out the programs that will make it happen.
You need to refer to the marketing plan at least quarterly, but it is even better if you do this monthly. You also need to leave space for monthly reports on items like sales and manufacturing. By doing that, you will be able to track performance as you follow the plan.
No marketing plan should be set in stone. Things change, people leave, markets evolve, customers come and go, so there needs to be room for adjustment to meet changing conditions.
It is also important to remember no plan is foolproof. Military leaders have always pointed out that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Still, if there is no plan the reseller cannot move forward. And even a slightly inaccurate plan is better than having no plan at all.