If you’ve clicked on the link for this post, you’re probably considering the creation of a marketing plan and wondering if the juice is worth the squeeze. Or maybe you’re already in the middle of building a plan and trying to figure out what your outcomes should be. Either way, you’ve made a move in the right marketing direction. Whether you’re considering or already building, it’s important to understand the key benefits of a marketing plan so that you can weigh your options in the first case or get the most out of your investment in the second.
In this post, we’ll first take a look at what businesses commonly do wrong when it comes to marketing, and then we’ll explore how an expertly crafted marketing plan can transform the function from a cost center into a reliable, lead-driving profit center.
Short-Term, Scattershot Marketing: The Easy Road to Nowhere
A marketing plan should be one of the fundamental building blocks of any business. Don’t have one? You’re definitely not alone. Many businesses don’t either, preferring to fly by the seat of their marketing pants with what we call a scattershot approach.
These plan-less businesses may have dabbled in marketing with a singular campaign that seemed to make sense at the time. From there, they reacted to more random ideas and opportunities. Yet without a strategic roadmap guiding the marketing function, this scattershot approach undoubtedly resulted in inconsistent messages to ill-defined audiences that didn’t drive leads or move the growth needle.
Did you know that it takes an average of seven brand “touches” before a prospect is ready to act?
Consistency in messaging and outreach is key to marketing that resonates and keeps prospects engaged as they move down the funnel toward an ultimate sale. An inconsistent, scattershot approach could stop that process cold in addition to making measurement and improvement of your marketing efforts difficult.
Scattershot marketing also makes it tough for companies to adapt. It’s not uncommon to see plan-less companies relying too heavily on one channel that initially works for them. While this may have made sense in the short term, it does not allow for changing customer habits or any type of unexpected crisis that closes the channel as the COVID-19 pandemic has with conferences and other events.
But enough about problems, all avoidable. Let’s turn our attention to opportunities and the three key benefits of a marketing plan.
Marketing Plans Provide a “How To” for Reaching your Target Audience and Making Sales
One of the key benefits of a marketing plan is that it helps you define and reach your target audience – and ultimately make sales. That’s what we are all here for, right? A marketing plan should work towards turning the marketing department from a “what do they really do over there?” cost center into a reliable profit center for your business.
A good marketing plan will identify buyer personas based on research, making it easier to craft overall strategy and tactical campaigns. Buyer personas outline who and where your prospects are, their pain points and what drives their purchase decisions. With these things clear, your marketing plan can then focus on how to connect with targeted prospects, solve their problems and make business life easier and more profitable for them.
Being able to target the right audience with a clear and consistent message that resonates is critical. For that, you need a thoughtful and cohesive plan to guide the process, not a scattershot approach that leads to costly and time-consuming dead ends.
Marketing Plans Keep Everyone Headed in the Same (Right) Direction
Another one of the key benefits of a marketing plan has to do with team focus and cohesion.
It’s hard to win a 3-legged race if your partner is running sideways to the ice cream stand while you are headed to the finish line. The same is true for marketing campaigns. Tactical pieces need to work as parts of one strategic whole, all driving to the same goal. If different team members are explaining your company in different ways, making various claims or asking for different actions, it can be confusing to existing customers and prospects.
A marketing plan will clarify your message, audience and goals so that everyone can move forward confidently on the same page.
Don’t get me wrong. There are distinct campaigns that focus on generating brand awareness, some that drive sales and some that increase subscribers. The point is that they all need to work together, and a marketing plan will ensure this happens. The research and analysis done while creating a plan will also help to identify which campaigns are the most important and which will help build a base for continued long-term growth.
KPIs are a key piece of a marketing plan that help to generate team alignment. These indicators keep everyone focused and are a valuable resource when deciding on new opportunities and other shiny things. Marketing can easily get out of hand from the standpoint of spreading a team too thin, especially in B2B where teams are often smaller. Marketing plans and their associated KPIs give teams a foundational reference that helps them make informed decisions about where and when to spend (or not spend) valuable time and money.
Marketing Plans Ensure Measurement and Optimization
Goals and KPIs are one of the key benefits of a marketing plan, but they are sometimes forgotten. Don’t make this mistake! In addition to supporting team alignment, clearly defined goals and KPIs create benchmarks that will show if campaigns are under-performing or doing well. This, in turn, will inform the planning and budgeting process. Beyond that, marketing staff will be more motivated, focused and ultimately successful if they are working toward clearly defined goals and can see their progress along the way.
Another key benefit of a marketing plan is the ability to optimize campaigns more effectively, backed by sound metrics.
A good plan puts emphasis on performance and evaluation. If you don’t take regular inventory of what’s working and what’s not, marketing will focus on whichever wheel is the squeakiest, wasting time, money and energy on things that serve no strategic purpose.
Without a marketing plan to fall back on, you may also be pulled off course by bad advice. Too many CEOs have told me, “We tried this because my friend said it worked for them.” Even though there are industry standards, your business, brand, audience and goals are your own. A marketing plan will clarify all of these things and more, helping you to chart your own unique course and stay on it no matter what “silver bullet” answers are shared with you by well-meaning colleagues and friends.
Strategic, Plan-Driven Marketing: An Open Road to Lead Generation and Growth
Would you take off to a new destination without your GPS? Not if you wanted to get there via the fastest, easiest route – or even get there at all.
An expertly crafted marketing plan can be your lead generation and growth roadmap, keeping you efficiently on course and away from costly and time-consuming scattershot tactics that leave you out of gas and stuck in the middle of nowhere.
With a marketing plan guiding the way, you can define and reach your audience, move together as a cohesive unit, set clear goals, measure, test, optimize and make sales. Don’t forget the snacks and enjoy your marketing road trip!
For more information, check out our post on how to build a marketing plan or download our Executive Guide to Strategic Marketing Plans below. The Marketri team has built hundreds of successful marketing plans for our clients and would be happy to discuss creating one for your business, too.