by Colin Mason,
CMO and Atlantic Practice Partner, Marketing
Every business has a marketing plan that directs its interaction with the marketplace. Yet many business owners when asked will tell us they do not have a plan; and for most small and midsize firms (SMEs), what they mean is that they don’t have a written plan. This particular plan is one that exists in the back of the mind, or seat of the pants, of the entrepreneur who leads the organization. Decisions about promotion and advertising are likely made on a day-to-day basis based on the instincts and intuition of that individual and their response to the sales efforts of the many media and marketing types who circulate in the business community.
At some point a firm grows to a level where either the leader must ensure that his or her managers are on the same page, or the decision is made to delegate the marketing responsibility to another manager. It is at this point that an organization definitely needs to give serious thought to a written marketing plan to ensure everyone is headed in the same direction and that the marketing path chosen is in synch with the organization’s future ambitions and attuned to the firms growing customer base.
A written marketing plan can be as long or as short as deemed suitable. For most SMEs a brief, concise document is preferable, one that can be read and understood in ten minutes by those involved in carrying out the plan. The responsibility for developing this blueprint can be put in the hands of an internal manager or outsourced to a qualified contractor. But what makes for a good marketing plan and who is most qualified to write one?
One of today’s internationally recognized gurus of marketing, Philip Kotler, recently observed that the most frequent mistake he sees in marketing plans is that they are all about action items and budgets, with too little strategy or vision behind them. Though the final outcome of a marketing plan is a set of activities, the key to identifying the most effective actions is the analytical and strategic considerations that must precede and guide them. A prominent Japanese philosopher once commented that “Vision without action is a daydream, but action without vision is a nightmare.” So the important process of developing and aligning the appropriate strategies and then matching the fulfilling actions is what will set a business apart from its competitors in the minds of potential customers.
In every marketplace there are many practitioners and suppliers of marketing, be it with sales initiatives, advertising campaigns or with web-based programs. The growing array of marketing tools is multiplying every year, making the choices and decisions for any one firm more complex. The key challenge is not about the tool selection, but about first identifying the unique marketing job that each firm has to do to grow and stand out in a crowd. Once the most critical issues are defined and the right strategies put in place, then the right tools become a lot easier to identify and use. Simply starting with a random mix of tools leads to the mistake that Kotler identified. Make sure your firm avoids this common misstep.
Colin Mason has over thirty-five years of experience in the marketing sector with expertise in sales, advertising, and promotion. In that time he has served clients such as Enterprise Cape Breton, the NS Provincial (Signature) Resorts, Nova Scotia Power, The Nova Scotia Museums, Canada Bread, Amos Pewter, Golf Nova Scotia, Glen Arbour Golf Course, Greater Homes, and numerous other retail and service industry clients. For these clients, along with many others, Colin authored marketing plans at various levels of sophistication; and in most cases then was invited to implement the programs he had developed.