Strategic marketing planning takes time.
And, if like me, you’re running a business, time is probably in short supply...
It’s easy to think that it’s better to just get on and do some marketing, even if it’s not as effective as it could be, and work on improving it incrementally using an agile or ‘test and learn’ methodology. Taking time out of your business to plan can feel excruciatingly wasteful. After all, once you’ve spent all that time planning, you’ve then got a long list of marketing activities to do and even less time to do them than you had before.
So can’t all this planning be skipped? Can’t I just work out my marketing strategy as I go along?
Well… let’s explore that with an analogy.
Imagine I’m redecorating my living room. I want to get started straight away and see some progress as soon as possible, so I head straight for a homeware shop.
As soon as I walk in I see a beautiful lamp. “Perfect,” I think “that’ll look great”. The next day I go to a different shop and buy some beautiful, soft cushions, then a large, comfy armchair, and at an art exhibition I pick up some paintings from a trendy artist that a friend recommended. I order a beautiful glass coffee table that was raved about in a magazine and buy some wallpaper similar to some I saw at a bar I like, and then I put it all up
in my home.
Once it’s all installed, it doesn’t quite look as great as I’d hoped. The lamp is fabulous, but it clashes with the cushions. The armchair takes up too much space in the room and the paintings look terrible against the pattern of the wallpaper. And my kids smashed the coffee table.
It just doesn’t work.
So what went wrong?
I chose all the different pieces because either I liked them or because someone I trusted said they were good. So why don’t I like the finished result?
Well, of course, the answer is obvious. I didn’t choose a theme and a colour scheme to work from. I didn’t think about how I wanted to use the room, and I didn’t consider whether the furnishings would work in the context of my family and situation.
I didn’t plan.
Writing a blog, creating a website, designing a leaflet or putting together an email campaign without first creating a strategic marketing plan on which to base your planning decisions, is the same as decorating by buying a lamp first.
You might be lucky with your marketing and see a boost in sales, but chances are you’ll go through several iterations before your marketing ends up working as well as it could. If you’re not worried about losing some money and time in the process, then this might not be a problem. But if you need results quickly and efficiently (in terms of both cost and time) then repeatedly rearranging your website and reprinting materials that have the wrong message on them is clearly a waste of resources.
In principle, I’m a big fan of Agile, Waterfall and other incremental development practices because they’ve enabled companies to bring products to market quicker and more cost-effectively than if they had used traditional methods. But how fast you develop a product does not affect whether the product itself is strategically appropriate for the market and the business. If you don’t have the strategy set first, you’ll still end up with an unprofitable product, just quicker.
A "minimum viable marketing plan"
For marketing (and decorating!) the principle of the Lean start-up is a more appropriate methodology putting a ‘minimum viable operation’ in place first and then improving incrementally. In my living room, this means making sure I’ve got the core furniture I need to make the room usable - somewhere to sit, some decent lighting and some storage would just about cover it - and then incrementally add in the extras as I can afford it, but always tying into my original theme and plan. So my "minimum viable marketing plan" needs to include an ideal customer persona and basic proposition, as well as a mapped out buyer journey. Once you have that covered, you can incrementally improve each one: refine your ideal customer persona and proposition and add more support to your customers through their buyer journey.
It is always tempting to hope that a strategy will fall into place while you get on with running your business. But most businesses can’t afford to waste time and money on trial-and-error marketing. So “slow down to speed up” and make sure your marketing strategy is in place first.
To get started making an effective marketing plan today, download my FREE guide ‘How to do marketing that actually works’. Along with the guide, you’ll also receive 2 weeks of bonus email training to help you start implementing the 6 step process. Get started today!
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