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It isn't about the document --
it's about what you learn
By Michael Halligan
Michael Halligan is co-founder of Engage
Marketing, a marketing firm for small businesses.
He is also the founder of Plan Lab, (http://
getplanlab.com/) an online app designed
to help small business owners learn about
marketing while they create a marketing plan.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY NEWS
It's downright scary that over 60% of small businesses will fail in their first year.
To avoid becoming the statistic, you need to do your due diligence and plan
ahead. You should know what you're facing, how to overcome it and even how to
thrive in spite of it. The same goes for existing businesses in a changing industry.
Whether traditional markets are shrinking or your customers are buying in a
different manner, planning ahead can only leave you better prepared.
Many start-up founders and owners of
existing businesses hesitate in writing a
marketing plan, fearing that it will ask the
tough questions. If you're reading this and
feeling uneasy at the thought of analysing the
in's and out's of marketing your business, then
odds are you desperately need a marketing
plan. Many people write marketing plans
to please a bank or investor, but a good
plan is all about teaching you new skills in
marketing, and learning more about your
business in the process.
Marketing plans by nature push you into the
unfamiliar. They help you to explore what
successful businesses in your market are
doing, recognise the changing forces within
your industry and how to best place your
business to navigate through them.
A good marketing plan will leave you
with a strong idea of your customers, your
competitors, the essential ingredients to
your brand being recognised and the tools
that you're going to use to get the exposure
that you've been dreaming of. There are a
few key steps to go through when writing a
Find a marketing plan resource
As great as the end result is, it's the process of
creating a marketing plan that really counts.
It's that feeling that you experience after
burning the midnight oil working on your
plan, dreaming of all the new opportunities
and the sales that will come.
Find a good marketing plan resource and run
through the process of creating a marketing
plan. Learn what you need to include, what
considerations you need to make and most
importantly read about how to answer each
area of your marketing plan.
This learning not only helps to create a
powerful plan that you can use to market
your business in years to come, but it helps to
fill you with the confidence and knowledge
to quickly and easily execute your essential
marketing activities without relying on hiring
new marketing staff.
Sit down with a marketing
Really want to take things a step further? Sit
down and co-create your marketing plan
with a marketing agency. Sitting down with
a marketing consultant is a more expensive
option but if your business has significant
sales potential, it will pay for itself many
A one-on-one marketing session gives you an
expert on hand to bounce ideas off, answer
questions and provide greater direction to
your marketing plan. The finished plan is
generally of a greater quality and of greater
use in the future.
Determine your goals
The key for any type of plan is making sure
you know what your goals are -- if you know
where you want to be in 12 months, you can
start to plan how to get there.
When setting goals follow your heart and
listen to your head. Following your heart will
lead to selling goals that inspire you and fill
you with a burning desire to fulfill. Listening
to your head will ensure that the goals remain
realistic. Then to add legs to your goals, match
your goals with your tactics.
Determine what's been working
(and what hasn't)
Once you have your resource in place, you
need to look back at what has and hasn't
worked for you in the past -- if you keep going
with marketing activity that hasn't worked in
the past, you're essentially throwing money
down the drain. A few tips for determining the
effectiveness of your marketing:
• Ask your customers. Regularly call some
of your customers to ask their opinion of
your business and its marketing. If possible,
ask them how you compare with your
• Train your team. Ask your sales team
or other front-line staff to find out how
customers heard about you and why they
decided to do business with you.
Once you know which types of marketing have
been working for you, you'll have a better idea
of what your current marketing plan should
Change it up
Few successful companies have remained
successful despite using the same old boring
marketing strategies. If you've fallen short
of your marketing goals, don't just do what
you've always done. When writing a marketing
plan, most of us experience an element of
what marketing legend Seth Godin refers to
as the 'the Lizard Brain'. We revert back to what
everyone else is doing or what we've always
done. It's safe, so why not?
For example, some years ago when we
were analysing our agency's marketing
performance, we found that we were failing
to influence the small business market
industry beyond our own network. As a result,
we focused on developing content that
businesses around Australia could download
and learn from. Today we have many eBooks,
a popular blog and regular articles in leading
business publications. Being prepared to
question what we were doing in our marketing
led to new opportunities and greater reach.
Ready, plan, go!
At the end of this journey you'll know more
about the ins and outs of your business, have a
stronger idea of your brand values and, best of
all, have a strong marketing plan that you can
begin to execute. While it can be intimidating
to face the reality of creating a marketing plan,
the end result is definitely worth it.
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