12 March 2020

Why most marketing plans are a waste of time

Rob Croxall
Written by Rob Croxall

Rob Croxall is Regional Director for The Marketing Centre and specialises in working with small and mid-size businesses. He has over 30 years’ experience working in the media, engineering and charity sectors, focussing on UK as well as global markets.

If you consider your business strategy and marketing plan to be two separate documents be prepared to head back to the drawing board. 

The chances are pretty high that you have not got a proper marketing plan at all. 

And for that you could be forgiven. 

Even senior marketing professionals sometimes misunderstand what a marketing plan actually is. It’s so much more than a list of actions and a calendar of events for the marketing team. A marketing plan should be at the heart of your business, mapping out its strategic direction and referred to on almost a daily basis by your key decision makers. 

So what does a proper marketing plan look like? Why are most marketing plans a waste of time? And how can you make sure yours isn’t? 

What is a marketing plan, and why is it so important?

Put simply, if your marketing plan isn’t intimately connected to your business goals, and the strategy for achieving these goals, you are wasting your time - and your money. Your marketing plan should outline your marketing strategy which is intimately connected to your overall business strategy, and it should set out an actionable roadmap for delivering that strategy. 

The plan should incorporate a realistic analysis of your marketplace and where your business is positioned within it. In turn, this provides a framework from which you can set a clear strategic direction for your marketing efforts, including business development information, marketing activities, the budget required and how you are going to measure results. 

A good marketing plan isn’t simply a list of tasks and activities. There’s little use compiling a spreadsheet of ‘things to do’ - a new website, a better Facebook page, improved CRM segmentation - if you don’t have a coherent, cohesive and realistic plan that reflects where your business is now, and where it needs to be. And that’s where the strategy comes in - the actions all flow from this. 

What does a good marketing plan look like?

So a good marketing plan addresses key strategic matters about your business. We’ve outlined some questions to ask yourself to help pin these down:

- Where is your business now? 

What is your position in the market? And have your customers and prospects changed in recent years? If so, have you been accommodating this? Consider any challenges to your business’ growth, and what successes you can build on. 

- What are you trying to achieve?

Think about what you need to do now to grow your business. Are there new markets that you should consider and, if so, what activities or research do you need to carry out in order to reach them?

- How are you going to get there?

This is the point at which you need to consider the activities and actions required to achieve your goals, both in the short and long term. Many marketing plans start and end with these activities without having considered the strategic questions we posed above. 

How will you achieve your marketing goals

What resources are required and are they currently available? Think about the milestones and benchmarks you can put in place to track your progress. Make sure you add contingency planning to the mix. 

- Who is going to do what, and when?

Take a step back and review how internal responsibilities are assigned and what can be improved. What methods are you using to track activities and how do you ensure everyone knows their responsibilities? Are you using the right external suppliers? What value are they adding to the business and how are you measuring this? If you need further external support, consider your options and your priorities. 

- How will you know you’re heading in the right direction?

Take a look at the metrics and analytics that are currently in place. Are they delivering the right information? What benchmarks and metrics can you put in place to help you understand how well your plan is working? What does success look like for you, and why? Consider the kind of customer feedback you are getting. Are there more effective ways to gauge customer satisfaction?

Getting expert help

One good one way to organise your approach to marketing is to use the SOSTAC model developed by marketing guru PR Smith in the 1990s and later formalised in his 2004 book, Strategic Marketing Communications. This model breaks marketing down into six fundamental facets: situation, objectives, strategy, tactics, action and control. If you follow our questions listed earlier, these will take you through a similar thought process to that demanded by SOSTAC. But it could be well worth watching this 4 minute video on YouTube about SOSTAC for further food for thought. 

Creating a marketing plan is a complex and involved task. Even if you have a marketing specialist in your business, you may find it hugely beneficial to get input from a seasoned marketing professional with director level experience. This is where The Marketing Centre might fit in. Our team of marketing directors work with businesses on a part time or flexible basis as part of the in-house team. Our approach is shaped by a simple matrix called the Marketing 360 which we created to provide a clear and jargon free basis for creating, and implementing, marketing plans that really work.

We hope this article has helped you feel clearer about what a marketing plan is, and isn’t. Modern marketing requires managing a variety of channels, often aimed at a number of different audiences with different goals and requirements. It’s important that in the quest to organise these actions and activities you don’t lose sight of, what should be, the guiding principle of your marketing plan - your business strategy. 

A plan for finding, converting and retaining your customers must be aligned with your business goals. Plan; get it right and you'll be successful, get it wrong and you'll most likely waste your time and money.

If you’d like help with creating a marketing plan for your business, our part-time Marketing Directors can provide a fresh perspective. Click here to learn more.  To learn more about Marketing 360, our simple matrix for shaping marketing plans, click here


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Images via AdobeStock and Pixabay


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