Every start-up entrepreneur sets out, armed with flip chart and pens, on a mission to draw up the perfect business plan. This often starts with a grand vision, and is accompanied by the financials to get there.
But what continually surprises me, is just how few businesses consider the customer drivers that will achieve those numbers, nor incorporate an up-to-date marketing strategy to reach those customers.
Your plan cannot be articulated without demonstrating that you understand who your customers are, how you plan to reach them and what your proposed sales activities will be. Thus a business plan lacking these elements remains unachievable.
Successful growth businesses evolve too quickly for static “shelved” plans. But without a blueprint for your marketing strategy you risk becoming a reactionary business that commits valuable time, money and resources on fleeting projects of fancy. To make marketing an effective part of your business plan, your strategy needs to be a living breathing document that the whole business is part of. Here are my five top tips for laying the best foundations:
1. Embrace it, commit to it, co-create it
You may spend weeks developing the most brilliant plan under the sun but the reality is that it’s worthless if it’s not acted upon. First and foremost, you need to ensure that you are committed to developing and working to the strategy you implement, and that your team understand and support the plan. The best way, of course, is to ensure that you have all the best minds working on the plan from the outset.
2. Intrinsically link it to your business growth drivers
All too often marketing is seen as a periphery function when actually, as the key representatives of the customer in the business, they should be the leaders of the growth plans.
Marketers need to root all activities in the business growth drivers that each activity will deliver against. Marketing strategy development should begin by focusing on the key business goals, opportunities and risks; it should use market, competitor and consumer insight to identify new opportunities; and present future plans in the context of what they will deliver for the brand P&L with operational and financial plans to deliver them.
3. Make it achievable, motivating and measurable
Be sure to avoid the temptation to set general or unrealistic objectives. Instead be as specific as possible and keep your customers front of mind. An objective that is described in terms of the change you are creating for the customer is much more motivating than one that is generic.
Ensure you have clearly identified the means of measuring success and that when you set out your goals you are clear in what you want to achieve.
4. Assign responsibility and ensure accountability
The success of a marketing strategy is based on how well it is implemented. Long-term goals should be broken down into short-term objectives and projects — with individuals made responsible for individual streams of activity. Through the implementation phase, these individuals should then be accountable for measuring and reporting back on the progress and results in their particular area.
5. Review and revise
As a growth business that is continuously evolving, a degree of flexibility is needed to adapt to changing market conditions. When opportunities or threats pop up, a strong marketer will return to the core business growth drivers and assess these opportunities versus the strategy — pivoting or continuing accordingly.
A good way to keep dynamic is to place the marketing action plan on the agenda for every senior team meeting and use that opportunity to review and revise according to the market and the results so far — enabling swift action to be taken if needed.
Christina Richardson is a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network, the on-demand marketing department for ambitious SMEs, which works with GrowthAccelerator to support high growth SMEs.