A full business plan encompasses three broad areas: an operational plan, a financial plan and a marketing plan. But don’t worry. We’re not talking here about the kind of plan you need to develop to get funding from a bank. We’re going to focus on a concise and actionable marketing plan consisting of just a few pages.
What is Your Vision?
Marketing planning starts with a vision and a commitment. The starting point is to answer these questions: What do I want for my business? What am I willing to commit to get there? You may have already given some thought to these questions, but how specific have you been? Have you written down your vision and goals and committed yourself to achieving them? If not, this is a crucial first step. The answers to these questions are the foundation of your marketing plan.
The best marketing plans are simple, easy-to-understand, relatively short and, above all, actionable.
On a day-to-day basis it’s easy to get caught up in distractions and firefighting—employee issues, daily sales results, customer complaints, meetings, product training, etc. That’s why it’s essential to set aside some uninterrputed time to focus on your vision. The time you take here will save you time in the long run and provide the strong sense of direction that you and your team need.
This point is so important I’ll repeat it: your business needs a sense of direction. The people in your business need direction. A stated direction will help you zero in on what you need to do to get where you want to be. And as you move forward it will help you and others in your company determine whether or not you are on track.
Focus the Right Activity on the Right Things
Stephen Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” says that we don’t spend enough time on activities that will really drive our business forward. In fact, the average manager spends more than 50% of his or her time on urgent but unimportant tasks… in other words, “firefighting.” Yet managers and organizations that work on important but not urgent tasks are far more successful. Covey provides some compelling statistics:
Highly successful organizations work on:
- Not important, not urgent less than 1%
- Not important, urgent 15%
- Important, urgent 20-25%
- Important, not urgent 65-80%
Other organizations work on:
- Not important, urgent 50-60%
- Important, urgent 25-30%
- Important, not urgent 15%
Of course, marketing planning is one of those critical “important but not urgent” tasks.
Keep It Simple and Actionable
I know, I know. Creating a marketing plan sounds like as much fun as a visit with your dentist. I understand. But I don’t believe in plans that take months to create and run hundreds of pages only to wind up on a shelf gathering dust. The best marketing plans are simple, easy-to-understand, relatively short and, above all, actionable. So I promise if you’ll work with me through this process that’s exactly what you’ll end up with—and the results will be well worth the effort.
There’s no time like the present to take that all-important first step, so here’s what I’d like you to do. Carve out a two-hour block of time sometime during the next week. Put it in your appointment calendar and commit to it. When the time comes, lock yourself up somewhere—preferably out of the office—and get down to work.
Now think about what you want your business to look like three years from now and write it down. Include whatever is important to you: monthly sales results, recurring revenue, geographic markets served, products/services offered, number/types of customers, etc. Be specific, dream big and don’t hold back. For purposes of this exercise, go ahead and be idealistic. This is your personal “vision” of a perfect world. (We’ll worry about “getting real” as we work through the process.) And don’t worry about the long time horizon. You’ll reach important milestones—and see real benefits—much sooner.
So get those dreams down on paper. Done? Then it’s time to go give yourself a SWOT.