Creating a Marketing Plan: Where Do I Start?

Do you realize how many companies actually do not have a marketing plan? Literally, that is, no plan in writing to define who they are, who their customers are, and how they are going to reach them.

Marketing – the lack thereof or an untargeted, mediocre attempt at best – is on just about every Top 5 or Top 10 list of why businesses fail. Go ahead and do a search.

A good idea cannot simply ride on it’s own merits, or what you think the merits are. And a marketing plan will help you define those merits as they relate to your audience: your customer, the people that will keep your business thriving. More importantly, it will provide a blueprint that you can measure, review, and modify.

So where do you start?

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. There are countless books, websites and blogs, and apps that walk you through the process. The key is to start!

Check out “The Coach” Chris Ruisi, an author, leadership mentor, executive and business coach, and an entertaining public speaker. He’s a former President and COO of USLIFE and knows his stuff. He’s got a great marketing checklist that covers the basics of the questions you need to answer to get a basic plan together (plus, a weekly newsletter that provides all levels of business and leadership tips). These questions will help you develop the framework for your plan.

Not having a marketing plan is a quick route to failure; not executing it properly can send things downhill just as fast. So once you know the strategic and tactical plan, you’ve got to execute according to plan.

How to Identify your “Marketing Executioners”

  1. Budget: You may not be able to afford the top NY advertising firm, nor may your plan require that. Look for a freelancer, marketing consultant, or agency that has worked on projects with a similar budget (that could be identified by those your peers/competitors use). Their cost doesn’t always equal their capability.
  2. Creative: Most individuals or firms have a certain style. Will that style be a good “fit”? Note: don’t let your own vision cloud this. You are defining style based on what your audience is attracted to – that may not be the same as what you are attracted to. Be sure the person/people you are speaking with ask about your business and audience and can provide a convincing level of execution methodology that will target your market for messaging and style. Bottom line: the creative must connect with your audience.
  3. Execution Plan: Do they have a plan to reach your audience that includes time? That is, when will this all start to launch? Will there be a gap in your plan? What can you do during the time that you are waiting? Every campaign takes time to create and launch – that’s a reality that many people forget. This is important! It needs to align with your business goals.
  4. Medium/Media: Will they manage all aspects of your campaign, that is, print, website, Internet marketing / SEO, social media? It’s important to have a cohesive campaign and voice. Now that doesn’t mean the same person or group has to execute it all, however it does mean they need to connect on voice and goals. If the latter is the case, there will be more management involved. Either way, consistency and cohesiveness is critical.
  5. References: I don’t know why people don’t seem to check out references, yet it’s easier than ever to do! Do a web search, check out Facebook and LinkedIn, and ask for a few references! I’m not being cynical; I’m being realistic. Go in eyes wide open!

So what’s your Plan C?

Plan C for Marketing TipsJust shooting from the hip and gut will fail (trust me, been there, done that!). You have to create a marketing plan, so start with a short-term plan. Learn about your customer and competition. Look for gaps in where your customer is and competition is not and create a focus in that area. Re-evaluate your efforts very 3 months for a year. The result will be a 12-month baseline plan that you can build off of in year two.

Let the thinking begin!