There are literally volumes written about marketing planning. It boils down to developing your roadmap. What paths will you take, which turns will you make and, most important of all, where you are going? Unless you have an endpoint on your road map, how do you know which path to take? In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra, "You got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going because you might not get there."
A plan offers a simple strategy or set of strategies, a marketing calendar, an evaluation system, and a selection of weapons and tactics that give you complete control of your marketing.
A good plan conveys your company's vision to target markets, customers and employees. As part of this vision, your plan should emphasize your company's long-term goals and the path to get there. Stops along the journey, in the form of initiatives and actions, are key landmarks on the roadmap to executing the plan.
To create a good marketing plan you need three basic things (besides the guerrilla marketing prerequisites of time, energy and imagination). You need lots of information. You need thinking time, analysis, ideas, creativity and imagination, all wrapped up into "brain power." Finally, you need initiative: the ability to want to do something, and the ability to get it done.
Marketing plans range in form from the back of an envelope to bound editions. The guerrilla rule of thumb is to lean toward the brief side, but with enough meat that it can be used as a guiding tool along your marketing journey. A good guide will provide plenty of information for you to develop the initiatives, actions, follow-up, accountability and measurement to run your business effectively, and in this case, your marketing.
Here's a simple process to creating a marketing plan using just seven sentences:
Sentence 1: What is the purpose of your marketing?
Sentence 2: Who is your target market?
Sentence 3: What is your niche?
Sentence 4: What are the benefits and competitive advantage?
Sentence 5: What is your identity?
Sentence 6: What tactics, strategies and weapons will you use to carry out your marketing?
Sentence 7: How much money will you spend on your marketing; what's your marketing budget?
These sentences represent your marketing plan outline.
"Build it and they will come" isn't an effective marketing plan or strategy. A successful plan boils down to two essentials:
1. Knowing your market inside and out, including what customers want and expect.
2. Identifying what's in your way to satisfy customers: e.g., competitors, barriers to entry, costs, outside influences, budgets, knowledge, etc.
Armed with the knowledge of these two essentials, you can develop all the necessary marketing strategies that'll allow you to attract, obtain and keep customers. In addition, you'll also be ready to react to any marketplace changes when they happen. A good guerrilla marketing plan must be flexible enough to respond to changes. Markets change, customers change, and company intentions and activity change. Flexibility is an inherent characteristic of a guerrilla marketer.
The outcome of this planning process won't just be your total plan, but will be your total planning perspective.
Here are some distinct actions you can take to ensure that you complete an effective marketing plan:
- What portion of each day will you devote to reviewing your plan and any necessary revising?
- Write a hypothetical outcome statement about the completion of your plan. For example: "After planning to increase leads and referrals for our sales staff to pursue and convert, many marketing weapons were employed. Utilizing the guerrilla marketing resources of time, energy and imagination, we embarked on an aggressive PR campaign, issuing press releases for new services introduced, new information available demonstrating our expertise, and announcement of events for our target market to sample the service. This was backed up with "meet and greet" programs at various networking events, ads in trade association directories, and telemarketing to trade show attendees. The leads generated were focused, open to our follow-up, and ripe for conversion. We ended up getting more leads than our sales force could follow up on so we implemented a telemarketing inside sales force. Conversion increased, sales increased, and we made more trips to the bank to make deposits."
- Outline your plan. Start with seven planning components/sentences mentioned above. Take these seven sentences and develop plan sub-headings, supplemental information and new ideas.
- What information (research) do you have now relative to your planning outline?
- What information (research) do you still need?
- What market research methods will you use to obtain that information?
- List and prioritize your marketing objectives, e.g.:
1. Product / service introduction
2. Position company, product or service as a market leader
3. Counter action to competitive strategy
4. Lead generation and referrals
5. Obtaining market share in a new geographical area
6. Renew, refresh, communicate new identity
Al Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant and direct-mail promotion specialist. He's also the principle of Market For Profits, a Chicago-based marketing consulting firm. His two latest books, Guerrilla Marketing in 30 Days and The Ultimate Guide to Direct Marketing are available at www.entrepreneurpress.com.