Marketing Plans: Don’t Leave Home Without One
Say the words “marketing plan” to small business owners and oftentimes you get the same response from each of them; first it’s a laugh and then they say something like “I don’t have one,” or “I could really use one of those.”
As a marketing consultant, I usually have two reactions to these types of responses, although to avoid sounding like a jerk, I usually keep them to myself. My first reaction is, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I mean, c’mon, aside from the minutiae that bogs everyone down in running a small business, there are only a few elements you have to pay attention to; the service/product you make or offer, the administration of the business, and your marketing/sales. Marketing is one of the KEY COMPONENTS of operating a successful business. Without it, any business owner is doing themselves, their business, and those that count on that business for a living, a tremendous disservice. When it comes to the 3 basic elements of running businesses, I have to assume that, if they are already operating, each business has their service or product already developed. In the same way, while I understand that businesses are challenged by many of the small administrational duties it takes to keep a business afloat, like accounting, insurance, etc., the truth is, if your doors are open for business, you must have some handle on these mundane tasks in order to keep things moving. These first two elements are requirements of running a business. In other words, you can’t even operate a business if you don’t have a product/service to offer, or you can’t keep the lights and Internet bills paid on time. Unfortunately, the third element, marketing/sales, a factor just as vital to the success of a business as any other element, is not considered “required” by many, and even, often ignored…by choice. What I mean by that is, many business owners don’t embrace marketing because it’s not always a necessary element for their business to keep breathing. They feel that that since sales are happening, even at the lowest level, their business is alive and breathing, and marketing is for others who have the time and money. But this kind of “breathing” at life support levels is far from thriving, and don’t all small business owners want their businesses to thrive? A lot of business owners also feel they “can’t” do marketing because it’s out of their budget. I say, “Poppycock!” There are many marketing tactics that can be undertaken that require very little cash investment, if any at all. They just require time, effort, and a little creative thinking.
My second reaction to hearing business owners say they don’t have a marketing plan is, “it’s a lot easier and more doable to create a marketing plan than most people think.” If you have a calendar, a pencil, and some creative ideas, you can develop a marketing plan in a matter of hours. When I lecture on my system, “The Four Pillars of Marketing,” I show business owners, nonprofit directors, and marketing personnel simple ways to look at the resources available to them and creative and efficient ways to incorporate those resources into effective marketing tactics that can be plotted throughout the year. It’s not rocket science, but it does require an ability to connect resources, concepts, and intended outcomes. Figuring out one tactic you can do each month, and then plotting it out on your calendar, whether it’s emails, networking events, or putting flyers on doorknobs, is a basic approach to building “baby’s first marketing plan.”
If you are a small business owner and you have not put time into developing a marketing plan, I encourage you to do a little online research and spend just a few hours thinking it through. Without it, you are missing out on huge potential for your business to grow and increase revenues. Is that really what you want?