Quite often when speaking with a new startup, I am told that they don’t have a written marketing plan. When asked why not, they typically say they don’t believe it is necessary, it is in their head, or that they believe written plans are the old-school way of doing things.
For those of you that know me personally, you know that I’m a pretty informal guy. I don’t typically avoid the “corporate” way of doing things at all costs. I strongly believe in the Lean Startup movement and starting with a minimum viable product (MVP) to new business startup. However in this case, I believe a written marketing plan is absolutely necessary. I believe this because I learned the hard way.
“The urgent can drown out the important.” – Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo
There are number of reasons why a marketing plan is important. Here are the top 3 benefits:
- Team Thinking
- Measurement and Timeline
We’ve heard it time and time again… You need to write down your goals!
Goals are the building blocks of your marketing plan, business plan, and entire company. Clear goals remind us what our definition of success is. They remind us during the difficult times why we are doing.
You need to define your marketing goals in the clearest terms possible. Your goals must be both specific and realistic. Last but not least, they need to be measurable. I’ll get into that later.
If you’re just starting your business you’ll quickly realize that you will be pulled in a million different directions. There are so many different options when it comes to marketing that it is easy to forget that you need to stay focused on what you started. I was guilty of this when I first started Honest Office. I would see the latest and greatest marketing tactic, and then move in that direction. We did a lot of good things, but the results were far less than they could have been if we stayed focused on our goals and original strategy.
A written marketing plan keeps you focused. It keeps your eye on the prize when planning marketing tasks.
I strongly suggest sharing your marketing plan with the entire organization. An abbreviated version may be best, but the entire team needs to know the main points. Sharing the marketing plan allows everyone to add their input.
The best ideas typically come from the places we least expect.
You’ve assembled a great team to bring this business to life and now it’s time to utilize them. You’ll be amazed at what types of innovative ideas will come about once you open your plan up to the whole team.
Measurement and Timeline
If you can’t measure a goal then how will you know if you succeeded? A written marketing plan shows you what needs to be measured. It also incorporates a timeline for your goals.
The combination of measurement and a clear timeline will allow you to know if you’re seeing success from your marketing. This should also help to keep you motivated because a good measurement strategy should show you real-time results.
This last point pertains specifically to the owner or leader of the organization. We all know how easy it is to get away from strategy development when you are focused on just making your business run everyday. Sitting down to write a marketing plan will force you to think about what you want your business to be like in the future and how you’re going to get it there.
A written plan clearly lays out what your story is. The story is the backbone to your marketing and it needs to be clear to everyone involved with the company, including you. Everyone involved with telling your customers about your story should be familiar with it and have easy access to a written copy of your story. Your marketing plan does this.
Your marketing plan isn’t going to be perfect the first time you write it. In fact, it will never be perfect. It is a dynamic document that is constantly changing as your organization grows. The important thing is that you have a written plan. An imperfect plan is infinitely better than no plan at all.