Everything in the universe has a structure. Nothing grows without it. Bodies have bones. Plants have roots, stems and leaves. Buildings have frames. Towns have municipal systems that codify street and utility plans. Structure is a framework for growth.
Marketing needs a planned framework to succeed. Defining the structure – planning – allows a brand or business to grow with a purpose, and to increase sales. Carrying out the marketing plan is executing a series of steps that establish the structure for growth.
While a single overarching plan guides “marketing”, within that main marketing plan there will be a need for specific action plans. Each type of marketing and each marketing project should have its own plan within the larger whole.
An example of a specific plan within a larger marketing plan is a website build: a website could call for layers of plans to create it; a plan for the website’s layout, another for its content. A plan for the search engine optimization (SEO), and one for driving traffic to the website. A plan for maintaining documentation on the website. A plan for regularly checking the website’s functionality.
Preferably, each plan would be documented, and shaped by a schedule and goals. Without the structure provided by goals, plans, and a schedule, growth can become unsustainable quickly and devolve into random acts of reactive marketing that lack the momentum for growth. (Random acts of marketing are exceptional resource-wasters.) Working without a structure also can leave your brand drifting in directions that you don’t want it to go, and correcting the direction can create substantial additional work. It’s simply an ineffective use of resources to operate without a marketing plan.
It can seem overwhelming to start marketing planning. Necessary marketing plans might include: communication, social media, crisis communications, advertising spend, trade shows, sales collateral, internal communication, employee recruiting, website updates and SEO improvements, etc. Depending on the size of your team and support, tackling everything marketing-related can seem a bit intimidating.
Everything does not need to be accomplished at once. Start with one plan. Focusing on one plan per month – framing them to fit within an overall marketing plan for the company – would allow you to build a well-rounded set of executable, marketing action plans in less than a year.
Before any individual plan for a marketing activity can launch, it’s good to do a brand evaluation. If you were to think of marketing as a building, evaluation questions would inform the architect of the purpose of the building. There is a huge difference between designing a home and designing a municipal building! Your marketing is the same – there are differences in B2B versus B2C, as well as a high-dollar/infrequent-sales cycle versus low-cost/frequent-sales cycle. Analyzing those differences will influence your marketing plan.
Start with your company’s market profile. Ask: What do we do well for customers? What do we do better than our competitors? Who do we think our competitors are? Who do customers tell us our competitors are? Why do customers select us instead of competitors? Answering these will require listening to customers and staff that interact with customers.
Move on to questions about your current marketing processes. Consider: What are we doing for marketing now? Which of these activities is going well? (And how are we measuring “well”: Leads? Closed sales?) Can we do more of what is going well? What would be a stretch activity for us? Are we meeting customers in the places they expect to find us? Where can we do a better job of supporting customers? What would shorten our sales cycle?
Use the answers to these questions to frame your overall plan and guide the creation of specific focus areas for your company. Maybe SEO should be your first priority, or perhaps employee recruitment. The more limited your people or financial resources are, the more important it is to focus on what matters most (aka what will create results.) Starting with purpose will help you gain more ground than haphazardly trying to do everything at once.
As you create marketing action plans and build systems to support them, don’t forget to plan how the systems will be maintained – who is responsible for doing what to ensure continued progress? Maintenance-and-upkeep planning is critical to continued progress – especially for anything digital, such as ad campaigns, automated email sequences, or websites. Having a plan now can help limit future problems and keep you from a reactive random act of marketing.
Marketing framework for success in 2023: Create structure by making a plan and executing on that plan. (Try not to be unnecessarily reactive.) Don’t forget to maintain the system. Wishing you all the best in 2023!
Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Director at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.