Updated: Apr 19, 2021
We've all heard it, to start a business you need to have a detailed, point-by-point business plan. What would you say if I told you that's not exactly true?
Sure business plans are fantastic, but it may surprise you that you don't necessarily need them. Unless of course you're trying to get financing from a bank or potential investors. However, if you're not planning on that, there's a good chance you'll spend hours upon hours pulling together ideas and numbers for you to look at it once, maybe show a couple of friends, and then shove it in a filing cabinet in a deep, dark corner - never to be seen again.
That being said, planning isn't all bad. In fact, if there's one piece of a typical business plan you should worry about and take time to piece together it's the marketing strategy portion.
A marketing plan is an operational document that outlines strategies for advertising and implementation of ideas to generate sales and reach a specific target market.
Unlike the full plan, the strategic marketing section is more than just a boring document, that honestly, you'll never look at. In fact, when you prepare your marketing strategy, you're not only providing a greater sense of focus and clarity to your business goals, but you're ultimately working towards more effective use of resources and consistency. Overall, a great marketing plan improves decision-making and drives your business towards higher levels of success.
Let's dive a little deeper and see why marketing plans are number one in our book.
A Marketing Plan Provides Focus
Focus means having a clear, visible definition. When an owner loses sight of their business, this lack of focus can lead to less productive teams, misguided tasks, and a general lack of understanding of what is actually going on. Businesses need focus to deliver the best possible product or service at the greatest possible efficiency.
When you craft a marketing plan, you will look at both internal and external factors impacting your industry. These factors will play varying roles within your business, some will prove to be opportunities, while others might be weaknesses you can't ignore. All in all, a marketing plan aims to define these items and point them out to you, so you're better able to 'see' your business.
Manage Your Resources More Effectively
A marketing plan's primary purpose is to point out your strengths and weaknesses as a business. This will ultimately allow you to more effectively manage your energy and resources towards things you are naturally good at and maybe stop wasting time in a space that's just not working as well because of a weakness.
You might also find that you're pouring resources into sections of your business that can just as effectively, if not more effectively, run on its own. The internet is full of great automation tools that can help put some of your business functions on "auto-pilot," while you tend to areas of your business that may need a little more love.
Your marketing plan is also a good tool to map out your resource use based on the priorities you signal out during the development process. It presents itself as being a good staging area for documenting the resources at your disposal and then aligning them to where they would do the most good.
Betters Your Decision Making
The more information you have, the better decisions you can make - it's really that simple!
To properly and effectively craft your plan, you must ensure that you are being diligent to acquire all the available information. One of the strengths of this process is to provide you a reliable resource with the 'big picture' of your business' landscape. However, it is absolutely crucial that you are being honest. Small business owners, and even some C-Suite execs (See: Kodak), often fall victim to being blind to weaknesses or competition. In order to maximize the benefits to making informed, educated decisions you must be confident in your initial analysis.
A well-written marketing plan not only analyzes the functionality of a business, but it calls on you to make an action plan to improve any pitfalls in the business. We, as business owners, can then break this action plan down into small, actionable steps towards the bigger picture.