For small and growing businesses, the development of a marketing plan should not take place in isolation.
To ensure that a marketing operation is truly positioned to achieve broader business goals – and that the business is prepared for the change driven by the marketing – it’s critical for the marketing team actively engage the leadership team from the beginning on the vision, goals, strategy and direction of the company before making any recommendations.
Where, What, and How?
When a small business is prepared to invest in its growth through marketing, it is faced with a number of key decisions: if and where to advertise, what benefits to market, how much to budget etc. This critical stage is fraught with potential risk, and any one of these factors can threaten the future of the business if the wrong decision is made.
It is often for this very reason that many businesses seek the help of marketing consultants. This usually proves to be a wise move for the business if the partnership is a good fit, but the success of the partnership depends not just on the plan itself and the expertise of those developing it, but also on how the plan moves the business toward its vision for growth.
When the marketing and the leadership team work together to ensure that the marketing and the strategic plan are cohesive, the risk of making the wrong decision is minimized, and the path for agile execution is clear.
When There is No Clear Vision or Direction
As we’ve seen in our own experience, the need for marketing can occur before a business has had the chance to document their vision, direction and goals.
For example, perhaps you’ve got a great service, you’ve built your initial growth on a strong referral base and you recognize that you need more visibility, but you’re not sure what the next few years should look like or what infrastructural investments you should plan for. Maybe you’ve set aside a marketing budget based on last year’s revenue, but you don’t have a goal for what revenue should look like five, three or even one year from now.
In the cases where marketing moves ahead while there are still significant gaps in the company’s strategic plan, efforts can stumble in a few different ways. In some instances, the plan will be putting the company on a path for growth that’s not aggressive enough and the business runs out of capital.
In other instances, the plan will require the company to grow in a direction or pace that it’s not comfortable with, or the plan will force the company to compromise on an ideal or vision that’s important to the leadership team but hasn’t been articulated. These are just a few examples.
In our experience, we’ve found it to be profoundly effective to start the marketing discovery process by discussing the strategic vision of the company. If the vision already exists, great – we’re able to talk through it and this insight equips us with the context to develop a fully informed marketing strategy. If it doesn’t exist, then we start by giving the client a questionnaire and walking through the answers so that together we’re able to fill in the gaps and document the goals, vision and direction.
The importance of this step can’t be overstated. Marketing can feel like a complicated and difficult challenge, but when marketing and strategic planning work hand in hand, those seemingly mysterious decisions become much simpler.
Charlie is the Chief Strategy Officer at Simple Machines Marketing. When he's not doing the marketing, he likes playing guitar, hanging with his family in Chicago and lots of other stuff too but this seems like a good amount for a blog bio.