Plan to Succeed

Written: 22-Dec-2008 | | Filed under: Online Marketing

I know a small company that has recently decided they need a marketing plan. Now, I think this is a great decision on their part. There are way too many small businesses out there that don’t have a marketing plan… and worse, don’t see the need for one.

In this case the leaders of the business have decided to develop a “generic” marketing plan to use for new product releases. I think this is also a good thing, as far as it goes. The problem, as I see it, is that it doesn’t go far enough.

Certainly, it’s great to have a plan for bringing new products to market. That’s more than many businesses have, so it puts this company ahead of the game.

But I believe it’s crucial to have an overall marketing plan that covers all aspects of business promotion, not just new product releases. You should be marketing and promoting your business even when you don’t have a new product to push, and you need a plan to guide all your business marketing activities.

To bring into focus why this is a good idea, I like to think about how my husband and I go about Christmas shopping. Our son is seven, and this year his big requests seem to center around Pokémon and Bakugan (if you don’t know what these are, count yourself lucky).

He’s given us an extensive list of various cards and figures and sets he’d like to have, more than we would choose to get him at once, even if we could afford them all. Likewise, we have additional lists of gift suggestions for other family members. Unfortunately, our funds are not unlimited, so it’s simply not possible for us to get everyone everything they’ve asked for.

And even if we could afford to buy everything, we believe it’s not a good idea to just hand our son everything he asks for on a silver platter. Some of the toys on his list might not be suitable for a seven year old; some might simply be flimsy or poorly designed, and we think it’s a good character-building exercise for him to work to earn and save the money to pay for some of his toys himself.

If you’re in charge of marketing a small business, you’re likely familiar with the concept of having a long list of tasks and a much shorter list of resources available to accomplish them. You probably also have had the experience of someone in your company asking for marketing activities that you know aren’t such a good idea.

Now, as my husband and I plan shopping trips, we make lists of what we plan to buy on that trip. Those lists correspond to the new product launch marketing plan the company is creating. They’re short lists related to the specific task of that shopping trip.

It’s good that we have those lists; otherwise we might end up buying things we don’t need, or forgetting to buy things we do need.

But without a “master list” of all the gifts we plan to buy, constantly updated to reflect the gifts we’ve already purchased, we could well find ourselves inadvertently buying duplicate gifts, or leaving off something important. A business without a marketing plan runs the very real risk of wasting time and money on ineffective advertising and promotional activities, or overlooking great public relations opportunities.

To prepare that master list, we need to compare our everyone’s wish lists against our available funds and how much we’re comfortable spending — much as a small business needs to compare their wish list of publicity and promotion activities against their available resources. We both have to prioritize. We have to make a plan.

Once we’ve made our initial plan, we also know we need to update every time we go shopping. Mark off items that have been purchased, remove items we’ve decided are too expensive or too flimsy or otherwise undesirable, and add new items that come to our (or our son’s) attention after the initial list was prepared. In other words, we have to maintain and adjust the plan to meet changing circumstances.

Does your business have a marketing plan? Do you think you need one? If the answer to either of these questions is no, I’d strongly advise you to reconsider.

If you need some help or inspiration to create your marketing plan, my friend Bobette Kyle has an excellent marketing plan information website. (Please note, I don’t get any compensation for this recommendation; I just think Bobette’s got it going on where marketing plans are concerned.) Check it out.

As the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Plan to succeed instead.

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  1. Hey, Torka, thanks for the shout-out. I love the planning analogy — should help solopreneurs and small businesses “get” the need for a marketing plan a bit more. Going now to blog and Twitter about your post.

    People, I ran across Diane’s post through a Google alert on my name. Not only did she not get paid for this, she didn’t even tell me she wrote it! I also noticed she BURIED her Website consulting company URL in the blog roll. Check it out at (BTW, in case you were wondering, I also don’t get any compensation for this.)

    Comment by Bobette Kyle — 22-Dec-2008 @ 10:41 am

  2. LOL – looks as though we’ve got a regular mutual admiration society going here, Bobette. I’m glad you found the analogy useful. It’s interesting to me how many supposedly complex business and marketing concepts can be related to familiar everyday things — and how much easier they become to understand when you do that.

    Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    Comment by Diane Aull — 22-Dec-2008 @ 3:13 pm

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