Thursday, November 08, 2012

Small Business Marketing Tips: 5 Reasons Why You Need a Plan

Many of the clients I've had over the past year have had one thing in common: no marketing and communications plan. Whether the business was just launching, or rebranding after a few years, or even 20 years, I have been surprised at how much of their budgets were spent on website design, media, travel and networking, and other resources, without the most basic of business tools being implemented, or even entertained. On consultation and preliminary coaching calls, the mere mention of a marketing plan seemed to elicit silences on the other end of the phone, followed by a lot of "my dog ate my homework" type of excuses.

"I know I should have one, but I just don't have the time," was something I heard a lot. Or, "I don't really need that, I'm just doing stuff." Or, "I have a Mission Statement, isn't that the same thing?"

Here are 5 reasons why you need a marketing and communications plan:

1. Goals Over Time:

Marketing is about achieving significant milestones, or goals, over time. If you don't have a specific road map to follow, you will probably find yourself all over the place, getting confused and frustrated along the way. You wouldn't drive cross country without a map. So why would you launch your business without a plan? If you need help with clarifying your marketing goals, consider a consultant who specializes in this area.

2. A Mission Statement Isn't the Same Thing

Good for you if you have spent time and effort on what is now your bright and shiny Mission Statement, but don't confuse it with your plan. Your Mission Statement highlights your reason for being, and is the "why" of your business. Your Marketing Plan is the "how."

3. Social Media On Its Own = Time Suck

One of the truest statements about social media is that it can completely overwhelm your schedule, with not necessarily anything to show for it. A sound social media strategy, with realistic and achievable goals, should be an essential component of your plan. I'd rather see a client or business owner only on Twitter, with a clear action plan and strategy, then on 10 social media platforms combined into one content stream as a shortcut, or not differentiated from each other. A plan also encourages setting up an editorial calendar, which means you are more likely to publish content relevant to your audience, and to the time of year/seasonal.

4. We Tend to Fall in Love with Toolkits

It's great to be an early adapter and to embrace tech, but without a clear strategy and plan, tools are just devices out of context. If your marketing plan goals include starting a new blog, focus on blogging apps and tools. If you want to enhance your use of images, graphics, and video, focus on the tools for those, such as Instagram and Animoto. If you want to write an e-book, focus on tools and apps for publishing.

5. Criteria and Just Saying No

We tend to want to say yes to everything. But having a plan forces us to prioritize and develop criteria for what we will move forward with, versus what will be cancelled or postponed. If you set out to create an award-winning blog, plus a stellar video, plus a redesign on your entire website, all in one phase, chances are you're going to fail. Be realistic about projects and deadlines, and when you're weighing in and assessing priorities, remember that some goals are faster and easier to achieve then others. You made need to experience a project first before you have a full understanding of how long it takes.

So now it's your turn. Do you have a marketing plan in place, and how has it helped you?

What tips did I miss?


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