Marketing Plans: Plan the Plan and Work the Plan

March 22nd, 2011 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

IT man versus salesmanphoto © 2009 Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig | more info (via: Wylio)
I was once asked by a business owner, “What do I need to do to move my company from a loss position to one of profits?”  I told her the answer was easy: increase revenues and decrease expenses.  I explained that the implementation was the hard part.

There were a few key steps along the journey to creating a marketing plan to elevate the firm to the next level. The points below are mainly focused only on the revenue side of the equation.  Equal care and analysis are needed to manage expenses.

Vision: We started with the owner’s vision for the business.  Then, we compared and contrasted the owner’s vision with what the employees described.  We identified and explored mismatches, overlaps and gaps.  The outcome was a vision everyone shared and agreed was correct for moving the business forward.

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT): I met with the owner and staff to assess the firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that would need to be dealt with to achieve the vision.  Aside from enumerating and measuring many factors, we created an action plan list by responding to these two queries:

1.      To shore up major weaknesses and avoid major threats, we will take the following actions …

2.      To build on our strengths and opportunities, we will take the following actions…

Value Propositions: Informed by the vision, the SWOT helped identify today’s customers as well as tomorrow’s customers. These two groups are not always the same.  A value proposition was created for each type of target customer.  Unique Selling Propositions (USPs) were created for each group to guide the sales effort.

Marketing Plans: The Vision, SWOT action steps and Value Propositions including USPs all feed into a Marketing Plan.  The plan encapsulates the best thinking about where the company is today and where it is going over the next 1-3 years.  The plans help you establish the actual tactics and marketing tools you will use to acquire and retain customers.

Implementation/Management: The owner and employees MUST agree on what the tactics are, who owns them, what is to be delivered and by when.  The owner or key employee must manage the process and the deliverables. The oversight ensures timely completion of the necessary work to implement the entire Marketing Plan.

The Takeaway:

A thorough planning process will result in actionable ideas to keep the firm moving profitably toward its goals.  Plan the plan and work the plan.

That is what we discussed.  How about you?  Please comment below.

1.      Are there other steps to the process that you would add?

2.      Do you feel one of the steps is the most critical?

3.      Do you plan the plan and work the plan?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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25 comments

  1. Great post Rob. I would add to it quality control – in other words, make sure your offerings are what you say/think they are. Oftentimes business owners are running full speed ahead without planning and without testing their product/service along the way. As you might imagine, I have had recent experience with both of these scenarios.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Julie:

      Great addition to the list. Our experiences do inform our outlook. I expected that you had a recent experience based upon t he comment.

      Rob

  2. Great post Rob. Just reading it gave me a sense of planning and organization and a feeling of “everything is going to be just fine”. Having a plan is a tremendous stress reducer.

    The SWOT analysis is very similar to what I do when I coach my clients. Ultimately identifying opportunities and strategizing to achieve goals are the most important steps to me. Though these seem basic, it’s surprising how many people get caught up in stress, emotion and the minds other clutter in a way that they know what they want but can’t make it happen.

    I love the way you broke your client’s needs to down into little segments and helped them meet their larger vision.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Keyrui:

      Thanks for the kind words. I just met with someone who did not have a plan. We agreed we would write her one and booked a meeting in a week. She contacted me the next day and said we had to meet to start working on the plan to reduce her stress. You are so correct.

      Rob

  3. I started my own business last fall and I find that I am continually changing my marketing plan, making tweaks as I learn about new things and removing things that are not having an impact. While my original plan held the marketing ‘framework’ as time goes on I’m literally building the business. I like Suzanne’s comment that it is a continuous process as mine is always evolving.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Billye:

      We make our best “guestimate” on the plan on the way in to the effort. We must, and you have done so, adjust the plan based upon effectiveness and changing conditions. Congratulations on growing your business.

      Rob

  4. Rob, I love how you included the employees in creating a vision for the business. A shared vision instead of a top-down approach definitely seems like a fundamental step on which to build a marketing plan that leads to positive changes!

  5. Hi Rob,
    I enjoy reading about the process you go through with your clients. I’ve been wanting to enter the Philadelphia, PA market and need to come up with unique selling propositions for my new demographic. Thanks for putting on the right track. 🙂

    • Rob Berman says:

      Catherine:

      Geographic expansion is always a tough one. I am working on that now with a client. Lack of name recognition, why should I do business with you? etc. Why would your USP need to be any different than central PA? Years ago I worked in Phila. I looked for vendors who could give me quality work but not at the usual big city mark up. I did the same thing in NY. Your work product is great and I assume your prices are competitive for the Phila market. Create your launch plan and go for it. Happy to help if I can.

      Rob

  6. Hi Rob

    When I teach entrepreneurship I think my students face the following primary problems.

    a) Understanding the customer’s pain, (your VP)
    b) Putting a face or a name to his segment
    c) Positioning their product based on (a) and (b) above.

    As they get more and more specific, it helps to build a more credible pitch both for investors as well as customers. Just my two cents.

  7. Good post Rob and good comments that I agree with. Like Susan put it, a marketing plan is a continouos process”. It constantly changes and companies that can not look long term will lose out.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Catarina:

      The real key is to have a plan in the first place. Most people I ask say they have one. I ask is it written down and they say no. My response is that they do not have a plan until they write it down. Vague ideas in your head is not a plan I tell them. Once the plan is written it needs to be a living breathing document just as Susan mentioned.

      Rob

  8. Susan Oakes says:

    Hi Rob,

    I think marketing planning is a continuous process. To me it contains a number of steps:

    Market and business review. From these you can then do your SWOT.

    The actual plan that includes objectives, strategies and tactics matching back to the business plan. The strategy is not just the communication side but covers all aspects.

    Implementation and then tracking.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Susan:

      I agree that marketing planning is a continuous process. I am having lunch with someone today and that is exactly what I am going to tell her.

      Rob

  9. I live by “a dream is just a dream without a plan”. Implementing an effective plan really is the way to go in anything we do. I like how you outlined this post.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Dennis:

      I might need to borrow your quote since it is so perfect. Hope it is OK with you. Those who “follow the yellow brick road” can get to Oz.

      Rob

  10. Sandy Barris says:

    Great information, a lot of hot, hot hot marketing plan tips.

    Keep em coming, great stuff.

    Thanks for sharing that a the owner or key employee must manage the process and the deliverables. The oversight ensures timely completion of the necessary work to implement the entire Marketing Plan.

    And you are so right on that marketing plans help you establish the actual tactics and marketing tools you will use to acquire and retain customers.

    By the way, if it’s OK with you I’d like to add that no marketing plan or marketing calendar should be set in stone!

    If history has taught us anything, no matter how effective your plan may be, chances are, it will have to be altered at a given time; due to what your competitor(s), clients, future clients or suppliers are doing.

    Here’s the kicker, don’t feel as if you have to be a psychic.

    Don’t feel overwhelmed at the thought of needing a business and marketing plan so flexible that it takes away from the overall aim and goals that made you ‘hungry’ to market your particular business, product, service or idea in the first place!

    No doubt about it, there’s an easy way to be sure that you can continue to have success in the future – if you just start off with flexibility in mind!

    The best way to do so is to have a marketing plan and marketing calendar that is flexible and built to adjust itself when the time comes to do so.

    Respectfully,
    Sandy Barris
    Fast Marketing Plan.com
    http://www.FastMarketingPlan.com

    • Rob Berman says:

      Sandy:

      Marketing plans and marketing calendars need to be fluid by their very nature. They should be fairly solid when built but then allowed to move as circumstances dictate. With no plan people are adrift. With a plan that is flexible people are able to grasp the opportunities.

      Rob

      • Sandy Barris says:

        Right on Rob. The scary part is, too many people set their plans in concrete and are inflexible.

        Even worse, they create a plan, look at it a few times in January then my February, it’s put on a shelf, gathering dust until December 15th when they start working on the next years plan.

        What do you think folks should do to overcome this issue?

        Thanks
        Sandy Barris
        Fast Marketing Plan.com
        http://www.FastMarketingPlan.com

  11. Maria Thomson says:

    They should be clear on their niche and what makes them special. This is closely tied to value proposition, and involves understanding the market and where it is most and least competitive. Your niche should target the least competitive areas, of course.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Maria:

      We need to know our value proposition and what our unique selling proposition (USP) is for our targeted market. If we play in the wrong niche we will make it a lot harder to win. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Rob

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