Why even small businesses should have a strategic marketing plan.
Time, money, manpower, not big enough to warrant one…there are lots of reasons why start-ups and SMB’s don’t invest in strategic marketing plans. All of them understandable.
What’s the big deal? Having a strategic plan implies that you know where you want to be, and have thought about how you’re going to get there. If you have no plan, it’s safe to say that you’re winging it and by association, throwing money away. CB Insights analysed 101 start-up failure post mortems, and “poor marketing” features at #8 with 14% of businesses canvassed citing it as the primary reason for failure. But arguably 4 of the top 10 reasons can be attributed to a lack of strategic thinking in marketing.
All too often start-ups and small businesses focus on the short-term sales results, using marketing as a tactical arm of the business, instead of the strategic support it should be. Marketing is a powerful tool that should be used to help your business grow. Startups.co.uk identifies that many business leaders list marketing as one of their biggest challenges when starting a new business, but a strategic marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated. However, it does takes some thought and research to deliver something appropriate for your business.
What is a marketing plan?
Different businesses will interchange the words plan and strategy, but essentially a marketing plan is the comprehensive overview of your business’ marketing activities for a given period. Depending on your business, it will range from a simple budget and roadmap of activity and deliverables, to a longer document covering market analysis, growth opportunities, customer segments, target audiences, value proposition, key messages, objectives, strategy, tactics and measurement. It’s the guidebook that helps your team stay on track.
What it isn’t.
It is not a static document and it should not be isolated from the rest of the business. It may or may not be strategic, depending on the work that goes into it. Marketing objectives and subsequent strategies and tactics found in a plan can only bring results for a business if they work towards the same goal as the rest of the business, and are reviewed on a regular basis.
Where does strategy fit into this.
Your marketing strategy details how you intend to reach your objectives, not to be confused with your marketing tactics which detail what you will do to achieve this. In order for any marketing strategy to be effective, the business needs to have carried out some homework in the form of a situation analysis, identified growth opportunities, and – key to achieving growth – it will have researched its customers. The strategy suggested will derive from this work and be part of what dictates its success. At the risk of flogging a dead horse here, truly understanding your customer will show you which strategies are best suited, and which tactics will be the most effective. At its most simplistic, it’s the difference between a business deciding to “do social media” because it wants to “reach more people”, and that same business taking the time to understand where its growth opportunities lie, who their customers are, what they need and want as well as where they spend their time, before coming up with a tailored plan.
Strategy first then relentless tactical execution
What dictates success? There’s a belief out there that somehow strategy is on a higher plain than tactics, but I think this is missing the point as the two are part of a continuum that is inextricably linked to the overall success of your marketing plan. I recently read a piece by Steve Blank which details his experience as VP of Marketing at SuperMac at a time when the business was repositioning itself. In his article, he illustrates perfectly the notion that getting the strategy right is key to determining what tactics to deploy, but the success of that strategy will be down to relentless tactical execution. Start-ups and SMB’s need to be smart with their money, and the smart money is on developing marketing plans that are strategic and, by association laser focused. For the business leader who finds marketing to be a pain point, the more focused your plan, the more effective and efficient it will be.