Anyone who’s taken a business class knows that marketing consists of product, placement, pricing and promotion. And so it goes that your marketing plan should also include details on your brands, products and services; your distribution channels; your position and pricing in the marketplace; and how you are going to promote you wares. However, there are some ingredients that should go into your marketing plan that have nothing to do with the four P’s and yet have everything to do with how successful your plan and your business will be.
The first is specificity, a wonderful word to say aloud and a crucial part of goal setting and strategic planning. Business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs tend to be big thinkers: strategic and visionary. However, big thoughts on paper rarely lead to anything without the details to back them up. You must attach lofty goals to specifics that will ground them in reality, namely measurements and timelines. If you have a goal to increase website traffic, be sure to specify by how much, from where, with what type of visitor and by when. If you want to increase your customer base, define the customer, the amount of increase you want and the deadline. By including specifics in your goal setting, you have built in top-level benchmarks for success that will ladder up to the rest of your plan.
Take Some Risks
The second ingredient is the element of risk. Proof of concept is important but you can’t live and die by the things that have already been proven to work. There is value in trying something new and being willing to fail in order to learn. Building this mindset into your marketing plan—literally planning to fail, even in small ways—will open you and your team up to the possibility of new things and the opportunity to reach new audiences through new channels. There is freedom in this, as well as the opportunity for great success. The rules for using risk are to use it wisely, to take the time to define success versus failure and to follow through on measuring the results so you know what outcome you did—or didn’t—achieve.
The third factor that must be in your marketing plan is accountability. The cornerstones of a successfully executed plan are the individuals who are willing to accept responsibility for the completion of their portion of the plan. A team doesn’t get things done and a department doesn’t get things done; individuals do. Every single tactic in your marketing plan should be assigned to a person who is accountable for pulling together the resources, human or otherwise, to accomplish their tasks on time and on budget. The keys to accountability are empowering the people involved, making the commitments visible to other team members and rewarding each person’s accomplishments.
Improve the Process
The final ingredient that will drive success is ongoing process improvement. Marketing isn’t a one-and-done game; it’s a process of testing, learning and refining. That is why a company cannot market on autopilot, believing that what worked last year will work next year. Instead, it is imperative that management provide the time and space to allow marketing to measure, evaluate and plan on a continuous basis. Holding weekly, monthly and annual reviews of your marketing plan changes it from a static document into a working roadmap that provides structure in its goals and flexibility in its execution.
To create a strategic marketing plan that can execute the mission of the company and drive the business forward, you must include the elements of specificity, risk, accountability and continuous improvement. These ingredients take what would otherwise be a routine document and make it the foundation of your company’s growth and the best way to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. They will drive the marketing strategy, the department and your employees toward being more goal-oriented, specific, accountable, proactive and flexible.