Many small business owners and managers approach marketing in a shotgun approach. They throw money at different marketing activities and hope that something hits their target. In most of these cases, the results are poor. Owners and managers start blaming the radio stations, the ad agency, or even the marketing consultant who told them marketing was the most important activity of their business. They don’t understand the need to plan and map out their marketing efforts. Planning is key to reduce marketing costs and increase effectiveness.

Why create a marketing plan?

When an entrepreneur starts a business, they decide on the product or service, determine where they are going to get it, and plan on how they will sell it. Most owners and managers don’t realize that this planning actually coincides with marketing planning, but in order to be successful a conscious effort has to be applied to planning marketing activities that correlate to creating the product or service and selling it.

As we discussed in the marketing concept of consistency, marketing must be consistent. In order for marketing to be consistent, it must be planned. You must plan each step of your marketing just as you do a business plan. Most businesses have realized the need for a business plan. It helps to guide where the company is going, what is expected, and what they will do when they fail or succeed. These are the same reasons for creating a marketing plan. You must know what the goal of your marketing is, how much you are budgeting, the expected results, what to do if you exceed or fall short of your goals and expectations, and how to relate your marketing to the rest of your company.

What is the difference between planning and strategy?

Planning consists of your marketing roadmap. It tells you where you are starting, what’s your end point, and what the path is to get there. Your organization’s goals are included in planning. Budgets, analyses, and forecasts go into your planning.

Strategies are how you accomplish your goals and forecasts. In fact, strategies are part of the plan. Strategies tell you how you will get from the starting point to the end point and the specific way you will take your planned path. Strategies consist of the action steps that you will implement to obtain the forecasted results. To sum it up, planning creates the big picture and strategies make up the individual parts of the big picture.

What goes into marketing planning?

Marketing planning is typically conducted by your executive staff. The top-level managers usually provide input and feedback for the necessary goals and objectives to make your company successful and maintain a high level of growth. If you have a dedicated marketing department, they will ultimately be responsible for the marketing plan and its contained strategies, but the entire company must be involved in creating the basic outline of your marketing plan.

The marketing planning should begin with an overview of your business and what you intend on selling. When starting here, you should define your business specifically and break down your products and services so that everyone involved understands the basis for all of your marketing planning. Your marketing planning should consist of goals and objectives that relate to the goals and objectives of your business plan. From there, you should analyze your target market, competition, strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities (SWOT). You should also include what you are budgeting for this marketing plan so you can plan strategies correctly. Forecasting your expectations will give you benchmarks to evaluate your marketing planning, which leads to the need to determine how you will assess your results and what types of metrics need to be installed to successfully review your progress and success or failure.

Creating a roadmap is vital to being successful in business and marketing. Marketing can be expensive, wasteful, and ineffective if not properly planned. The old adage, “Failure to plan is planning to fail,” is very true in the realm of marketing. Even though many of today’s marketing activities include free and low-cost tools such a