Most small to medium sized businesses are going into the new year without a marketing plan. Very large businesses would not overlook this most basic part of planning, but, oddly, smaller businesses rarely give even the slightest consideration to a marketing plan.

I suppose this on my mind as I am preparing to deliver a presentation on marketing for the alternative energy industry next week. As I refined my talk, I thought about how few clients can be persuaded to develop such a plan.

The lack of marketing plans is probably due to two things. Few businesses understand what marketing is. Fewer yet believe making a marketing plan would actually improve business.

The marketing plan of most businesses is simple: let’s sell as much as we can taking each situation as it arises. If business slows down, we’ll put more pressure on the sales team to get business. If necessary, we’ll try some form of advertising.

Money is always the first consideration when I bring up the need to develop a marketing plan.

Maybe, by writing this post, I can clear up some misconceptions and persuade a few business professionals to adopt marketing plans for their operations.

What is marketing?

The term needs to be understood if a plan is going to be developed. Marketing is not advertising though advertising might be part of the plan. Marketing is not a huge expense though realistically marketing will require some money.

So marketing isn’t advertising and it’s not expensive. In some cases, marketing is free.

Marketing is the strategy your business will use to make money. Strategy. Strategy involves some thinking and some planning. Strategy is made up of tactics. Tactics are often confused with strategy when the subject of marketing comes up. I say marketing, Ms. Manager thinks advertising, which is a tactic, and advertising is expensive.

Let’s get the terms cleared up. A strategy might be something like, “I plan to be on the road by 7:00 a.m. to beat the morning commute traffic.” The tactics are the components I will use to execute my strategy. I will get up an hour earlier. I will be in the car by 6:50 to get it started and warmed up. Those are tactics.

If you have tactics without a strategy, the goal gets fuzzy and pretty soon fades away. New Year’s resolutions are like that. They fail because there is either a strategy with no tactics or a bunch of tactics with no strategy.

Marketing involves a plan. The plan should be written. It can be as informal as your business. It doesn’t have to be a complicated plan. The plan includes your goals for the year and the tactics you will use to reach them.

The first part of the plan is to set realistic goals. What are your targets for this year? Then you must define your place in the market, who your ideal customers are and how you plan to help your ideal customers find you.

Find you. Get that? What would cost more, going from person to person asking if they are interested in your product or letting interested people know where you are? We all prefer new customers come to us.

If you make this plan, you will save money on advertising because it is far cheaper to facilitate being found than it is searching for potential buyers.

No? Okay, when you want to buy something, say a new television.  What do you do? Can you remember the last TV ad you saw? Probably not. You’ll probably go to your computer and start searching Google, Yahoo or Bing.

If people are looking for what you offer, will they find you?

Advertising is highly perishable. If I’m not looking for a TV when an ad for TVs blares into my face, I pay little attention to it. The appliance dealer spends a lot of money telling a lot of people about an item in which they have no interest.

Explaining all the parts of a marketing plan is a bigger task than I can do in blog post. But I can offer a basic outline.

1. Set Goals
2. Define your ideal customer
3. Focus your tactics on making it easy for the ideal customer to find you
4. Set a budget for advertising and place cut-off points for advertising that does not work

If you want assistance with the development of a successful marketing plan, I can help. Call me. You could have a great year! I’ve racked up some amazing increases for my clients.

Chris Reich   (530) 467-5690

PS: If you’d like the slides from my marketing presentation, contact me. I’ll email them to you for free.