December 18, 2013

Strategic marketing: to plan or not to plan?

Marketing - Goal Plan Strategy

Have goals — and make them SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.

I’m a gym rat. I love lifting weights, yoga, you name it. The days when I leave feeling less than exhausted, I realize it’s because I didn’t have a plan walking into the gym. So I always try to enter the gym with a specific goal — is it a cardio day or a weight day? What muscle groups am I going to work on? Am I going to use heavy weights with limited reps or just the opposite? With a plan in mind, I start seeing results after a few weeks. If I don’t, I know I need to change something.

The same idea holds true in business. For example, at AB&C, we just finished reworking our sales and marketing plan for 2014, and we learned a lot. First, we looked at this past year — what worked, what didn’t, what can we add to our marketing mix, how did our online data analytics look, etc. Then we gathered all our department heads together and had a brainstorming lunch to decide where we needed to head in 2014. As a result, we re-aimed our focus at a national and regional level, and plotted out the tactics to reach our goals.

Don’t have a marketing plan yet? Don’t fret — here is an easy way to get a plan together.

  1. Have vision and mission statements. They should reflect who you are, what you do and where you want to be in the future. Let your personality show in these. Jay Ebben, PhD, associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas, explains them here.
  2. Have goals — and make them SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely. This is pretty much straight from a college textbook — but if you don’t have something specific you are trying to do, or a set goal you want to reach, you could have trouble getting there. Do you want to increase revenue? By how much? By when? Does that amount of time seem doable? A popular self-help website, Top Achievement, goes into more depth.
  3. Plot your tactics. How will you increase your revenue? Obviously by gaining more customers, but how will you get them in the door or to your website? You could do it by spending more advertising dollars on social media sites, direct mail, frequent buyer cards or a charity event sponsorship. Be creative and treat your customers well. And remember, the best marketing is still free — and it’s word of mouth.
  4. Measure your progress! In your plan, be sure to outline your process for measuring your goals, and be sure to measure often. You might have to measure some tactics more often than others. But comparing notes month to month will show whether or not you’re on target, and it might make it apparent that you need to make a change.

So plan, plan and plan some more. Lay out the road to your 2014 goals clearly to ease your marketing efforts. Having a plan will keep you headed in the right direction instead of constantly spinning your wheels and going nowhere.