For many businesses the concept of a marketing plan is nothing more than establishing a budget for advertising in the coming year. They come to October/November and management reminds them that it is time to put together a budget for the coming year – and this is what you spent last year, so let’s figure on either a.) keeping it flat, b.) raising it by 4%, or c.) it has been a down year so we need to cut budgets by 5%. Then the marketing people look at what they spent last year and possibly even look at some new options for advertising, then submit their “plan” and call it a day.
The problem is that this really does not mean much at all! Pretty much business as usual without taking in to account what has changed in their business, or just as important – what has changed in the marketplace when it comes to influencing your prospective customer base. What are the new trends in your business? What has impacted the buying decision process? Who are your competitors and what are they doing/saying? What new forms of marketing are being used to reach prospects – and are you engaged in these?
As I have suggested several times in the past, marketing is not advertising! Marketing is establishing an identity for your organization and continually reinforcing it through a wide variety of communication methods. Yes this includes advertising, but it also means making sure that all of your sales force is speaking the same message, your employees are aware of how you are positioning yourself in the marketplace (and participating as well), and that you utilize a variety of media to reinforce what you are doing/saying.
And – it means being flexible enough to know that your plan may need to change within mid-year! Not the message, but the plan. Do new opportunities come up that can help reinforce your organization’s presence? If so, and if the expense can be justified for the potential, then it really becomes a new business decision that needs to be evaluated. Too many organizations just rely on the fallback position that says “we already have our budget in place for the year.” Maybe, but will you run the risk of having a competitor jump in and take the lead? Remember, one of the goals for any marketing plan should be to keep your organization at “the top of mind” within your clients and prospects options.
Now more than ever, business is a fast changing environment. Seemingly small shifts can spread quickly and if you do not react, then your business model might actually change within a short period of time. If you are serious about marketing your company, then now is the time to be proactive and engage the new options available. Don’t get stuck in your past – time to get moving!