Business review complete? Time to review the marketing plan

Business horizon Marketing planThe next phase of the annual business review and subsequent decisions about plans for the coming year is to review the marketing activities, set objectivities and develop a marketing plan for achieving them.

The marketing review should give a clear indication of whether last year’s objectives were achieved and form the basis for setting new ones.

This is true not only for businesses that are intending to expand either their range of products or services, or to try to grow.  No business can hope to avoid marketing itself altogether.

Marketing is not only about hoping to generate more sales, it is also about keeping the business name in customers’ minds and about demonstrating its expertise and its good reputation in its particular sector or niche.

The components of an effective marketing plan

Accurate and detailed profiles of the target customers and clear goals about what a business wants to achieve are the basic building blocks for a marketing plan.

Marketing tools cover everything from the website to social media and e-newsletters to traditional “old school” advertising, PR and promotion using printed materials such as brochures and flyers.

Even if the bulk of business comes from personal recommendations, it is foolish to assume that ongoing referrals will continue. Maintaining relationships by marketing to referrers, influencers and introducers should be included in you plans and especially if you rely on them for work.

As part of the process there are a number of factors to consider.

The external economic climate, competition from new entrants into its market and technological change, to name but a few are all factors that can all affect a business’ viability and resilience and therefore should influence the goals and how to achieve them.

Past plans and continuing with old marketing practices should be challenged. Is it time to change? A website refresh?  Or more radically is now the time to sell via the website?

If your marketing relies on social media, what worked last year may no longer work. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others online platforms regularly change their requirements. For example, Twitter last year increased the maximum length of Tweets, and Facebook narrowed down the criteria by which a business page could increase its reach to viewers.

If your marketing relies on emails or telesales then new legislation referred to as GDPR may render your database redundant unless you have obtained specific permission from each contact that you may contact them, specifically by sending unsolicited promotion emails or calling them. The deadline for GDPR compliance is 26 May 2018 so your plans ought to include soliciting OPT-IN permission from your contacts. I would advocate that the number of contact OPT-INs is a KPI and a useful way to measure marketing success. It might also be used for setting SMART marketing goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely).

Clearly if the business plan for the coming year includes the addition of new products or services these will need to be incorporated into the marketing plan. It goes without saying that research is necessary to identify the customers for the new products. Is there a demand? How will the customers be reached? And many more questions that need answers before developing the plan.

Finally, there needs to be a system of regular monitoring of results against the goals the business has set. I have referred to goals being SMART as reviewing results against goals forms the basis for tweaking plans and developing new ones.

Finally, marketing plans should not be set in tablets of stone.  They need to be responsive to the results they are achieving so that they can be refined or adjusted if needed.

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