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Increase sales with a Marketing Plan

October 2012 Boy with wings

...when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower according to the Harvard Business Review."

Sure you want to increase sales -- but do you have a plan? Better yet, a marketing plan. According to Harvard Business Review, "when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower."

Good reasons to work on that plan. But an effective plan is much more than just a document; at least - it should be. It needs to be viewed as part of a much larger process; the written document is less important than the steps you have taken to create it.

Because creating a marketing plan should be a rewarding process. It’s an opportunity to strip away the surface layers and remind yourself what’s important about your business. Done properly, the plan becomes a roadmap which focuses your efforts and provides an achievable path to find new customers and maintain existing ones.

So, if you don’t have a marketing plan yet, now is a good time to start.

Here’s a simple guide to some of the basic steps required to create an effective marketing plan:

1. Identify your situation

Creating a clear and level-headed picture of your company’s current situation is the foundation for any effective plan. It’s a question of going back to basics - what is it that you offer and who would want to buy it? You need to understand your current customer base - how did they find you? - and you need to take a fresh look at who your potential customers are.

This kind of ‘root and branches’ assessment is often referred to as a SWOT analysis as it identifies your company’s - Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s a process which is well worth devoting some time to, gathering as much accurate information as possible to assess your current position.

By taking this kind of pragmatic view of your business you will be able to highlight what your marketing objectives should be.

2. Set your objectives

You should have a core mission statement which informs your marketing plan. This sums up what you offer, why it’s great and who benefits from it. It’s a way to keep a consistent and co-ordinated message.

But beneath that, you need to identify more quantifiable objectives. One of the main reasons many marketing plans fail is they lack any way of measuring success or failure. You need specific goals which you are able to validate. This could be a percentage increase in new website visitors or a target for the number of followers on social media.

It’s something that allows you to monitor the effectiveness of your strategy. And if it’s not working, you can make adjustments or, if necessary, change your approach entirely.

3. What resources do you have?

There’s no point in devising a killer marketing plan if you don’t have the time, money or budget to make it happen. This is why it’s important to identify during the planning process exactly what resources you have available. What in-house expertise can you draw upon and which areas would require outside support?

By identifying this, you may need to adjust some of your objectives - it’s a balancing process. But the most effective plans are those which are practical and achievable - which don’t set unrealistic or overly ambitious goals.

4. Set your strategy

Now you come to the crunch. You know what you want to achieve and the tools you have to make it happen, it’s now a question of deciding how you’re going to go about it. This should be broken up into specific tasks allocated to the appropriate areas - who does what and when.

You should also build into your plan various ways of keeping track on progress - mini milestones which make sure you’re heading on the right path to achieve your end overall goal.

The plan should be detailed but not to the point where it becomes inflexible; it’s best treated as an organic process which can respond to changing events.

5. Make it happen

You should now have a clear plan of attack - clear marketing objectives with the structure set out to achieve it. And unlike your old marketing plan, this is an active document. It should be used to constantly check to see if you’re hitting any mini-milestones yet. You also need to adapt the plan to any changing events - loss of an employee, reduced budget, activity of rival and so on.

At the end of the process you should hopefully be celebrating the boost to your business from your newly found customers - and then you start all over again.


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