Although it may just be one segment of your wider business strategy, the importance of a marketing plan cannot be overstated. Not only does it enable you to establish clear marketing objectives, but it also provides you with the opportunity to develop a well-researched, intelligent marketing outlay.
To illustrate the benefits of having and implementing such a plan, we've taken a closer look at how it directly impacts the central goals and targets of your organisation. Here are the four most significant advantages of strategic marketing:
It's a declaration of what makes your business unique
First and foremost, you want to expose your business to potential customers and clients alike, as well as nurture ongoing relationships with existing patrons. After all, this is what will keep your company flourishing and continually growing.
Setting out a marketing plan means contemplating the qualities and characteristics of your specific business, as well as what sets it apart from every other company in your niche. It also forces you to consider all the positive aspects of your business that you can use as a selling point, such as the high quality of your products or services, your focus on customer service, or your commitment to social responsibility.
By making yourself impossible to forget, you remain in the conscience of customers – not only those who have already interacted with you in person, but those who have had the opportunity to view or listen to your publicised marketing campaigns, too. Even this latter group will have a desire to try your products or services if you appeal to them in the correct manner. It's impossible to achieve any of this without a well thought through marketing plan.
It enables a greater sense of focus
In addition to formalising your ideas, a marketing plan also identifies a set of clear marketing objectives that will define your success and ensure that you are not adopting a scattergun approach to your company's advertising and promotion. Of course, this involves a great deal of market research; before you outline your goals, you first need to identify who your target audience is, what they want, and the trends and patterns that surround their consumer behaviour. Once you have laid out your ideal customer profile, a marketing plan ensures that you can identify and understand how to reach them.
Companies who have created a clear sense of what they need to focus on are also able to implement a timeframe in which these goals must be accomplished. Typically, your plan should be segmented into short and long-term goals that enable review and reflection as you go; for example, have you been too ambitious with your targets, or, conversely, have you not been ambitious enough? By outlining such metrics in a marketing plan, you get a much clearer sense of whether or not your approach is actually working, while allowing you to tweak certain objectives and methods along the way.
Within this context, your marketing plan can also enable better time management and organisation, as well as a more accurate financial approach (both spending and earnings). After all, marketing campaigns can be notoriously expensive – especially if they spiral out of control; within the parameters of a plan, you will be more goal-driven and less inclined to just "see what works".
In business, things will not always go to plan. Whether it's the result of external factors, such as legislation changes, political upheaval or economic disruption, or even internal complications, such as a key member of staff leaving, your marketing plan will always remain as a blueprint for how to react.
In this sense, your plan is a form of proactive business management, ensuring that, should any future dilemmas arise, you will be able to react calmly and effectively. A robust and thorough plan offers contingency solutions for external factors, while if one of your marketing personnel decides to go elsewhere, a replacement can come in and seamlessly adapt to the existing strategy. Essentially, you are ensuring that short-term issues do not affect the long-term mission, and that you – and everyone within your company – are all on the same page moving forward.
It gives you an edge over your competitors
All of these reasons ultimately add up to one thing: it increases the chances of success for your business. In turn, this means that you are attracting customers and, by definition, taking them away from your competitors. As a result, you strengthen your position while simultaneously weakening theirs, which is a healthy place to be in.
It also gives you an advantage during the early stages of your venture, where most small businesses are likely to adopt the cheapest marketing option without sufficiently understanding the bigger picture. For example, whereas you might have clear definitions of your budget and the clarity of a purposeful, multi-platform approach, your rivals may simply be throwing money at Google or Facebook Ads in the hope that something will stick. Inexperienced entrepreneurs are often guilty of short-sightedness, whereas a marketing plan ensures that you are always aware of how your actions impact your longer-term goals.
When you create your marketing strategy, you also ensure that you don't get tunnel vision or fall into the trap of putting all your eggs in one basket. Aside from adopting conventional strategies that are in line with the trends of your target segment, a plan also forces you to think outside of the box; this could mean combining your existing efforts with other tactics, such as guerrilla marketing, magazine advertisements and any other form of creative promotion that can help you to stand out from the crowd.
Overall, the benefits of having a marketing plan are evident. By establishing clear marketing objectives, you are less likely to see financial wastage and can instead expect to cultivate better value on your returns and higher levels of exposure. It also ensures continuity and robustness as your business evolves and changes, as well as a definitive advantage over your competitors.
Do you agree? Is a marketing plan a vital component of a company's strategy, or has the fast-moving world of digital advertising made it a redundant feature? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!