Why Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs Really Need A Solid Marketing Plan?

When I ask entrepreneurs and small business owners, it is not unusual for not having any marketing plan. I once read that Sir Richard Branson never had any marketing plan when he started the 1st Virgin business many years ago. In fact in one study of entrepreneurship (I couldn’t recall the name of the study) was that as much as 50% of entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have a business plan and marketing plan when they first started the business.

What was the outcome? As much as 90% businesses started by entrepreneurs and small business went busted or failed within a year. I experienced one of the many busts few years ago (with my cafe business) because i don’t really have a proper and “the few solid sheets” called a marketing plan.

Coming back to my questions to entrepreneurs and small business owners, many of their answers sounded like this, “I don’t really have one”, “It’s in my head coz I know the business so well” and worse, “I don’t know what is marketing plan”! If you happen to be in one of these categories, rest assured you are not the only one. And to perfectly honest, that’s the ultimate reason why I turned back to my writing board where I was actually in the middle of writing (rather perfecting!) a personal development programs. I dropped that program and quickly drafted and started Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC because many of you need it, seriously.

But, I don’t specifically mean my own Marketing Plan S6PEC Framework because there are so many versions and gurus out there that can give you the benefit of marketing plan. Of course I am going to say mine is a lot better because it’s a practical and practitioner’s guide. Other than being a consultant, I also have performed marketing manager role, entrepreneur role, business manager role, investor and student of entrepreneurship (during my MBA!). But that’s not my main point. My main point is for you to have a marketing plan to guide your business. Which one? Well it is up to you!

So, to put things in perspective; why do you really need a marketing plan?

Guide
– in a marketing you will think, record and document all your ideas, products and services offering, price, distribution channel, programs, sales direction, customer segment and so on. I have experienced whereby I suddenly realized that my business is not going on the right direction because I didn’t follow my marketing plan. Have you experienced that? Or perhaps you suddenly realized that the thing you do know supposed to be done many months ago because you forgot about it? And you forgot because you don’t jot it down and plan for it? This is what I mean that marketing plan as a guide. I cover this in my Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC.

Ideas
– people said the more you talk about your ideas the more refine it becomes. I think this is true. Did you ever experience when you talk to more people you generated a lot more ideas? When people give you feedback it triggers another dimension of your ideas? If you are, so where do you keep all these ideas? It should be in a marketing plan.

Resource Plan
– in marketing, there is only one thing that’s scarce: RESOURCES. Some people have a lot of money but lacked ideas and another group is the other extreme; more ideas and less money. Many of us probably the later than the former! In the marketing plan we will tackle things like people to hire, pricing, distribution plan, sales programs budget and so on.

Strategy
– similar to business strategy, marketing plan will capture strategies required to support your business strategy. For example if your business goal is to achieve 20% increase in sales, your marketing strategy would be to 1) introduce new product, 2) increase price for premium offerings, 3) recruit more distributors and offer commission scheme and so on. Strategy is king. When you can see your business in totality, I can assure you that you will find it easier to manoeuvre. Marketing plan is the place to address all these issues.

Risk
– in our marketing plan we shouldn’t only concern about making money or positive points, we also should address the risk we are taking. for example it is common for a marketing plan to capture things like, “require additional staff to handle sales call”, “additional investment from the management budget will increase chances of increasing 10% sales target” and many more. Imagine if you can factor your risk earlier and think through it, wouldn’t it be better for you?

Pricing
– I once said in my Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC that, “Price is the key determinants of your profits”. I stand firm to keep it that way. In your marketing plan, you will address pricing plan for your distributors, customers, multiple segments (some business charge differently – price discrimination) and cost price i.e. your raw materials and things like that. Not many address price correctly and bear in my mind that we need to standby few pricing plan to respond to the market. Take for example during festive season, if everyone is lowering price and slashed their price or even ignited a price war, what do you do about that? Follow suit or wait? If you want to follow, how far? If you want to wait, how long? You capture all this in pricing plan.

Customer Segment
– this is talked about most of the time, but let’s accept the fact that today’s customers are fragmented to smaller niches. Your product and service will not be consumed by only one segment and at critical mass. it is likely to be consumed by smaller segment and multi. No more critical mass, but rather a solid spread of niches. For example, who buys iPod’s today? If Apple only think about yuppies they are making a big mistake because apparently iPod is also used by women and people with active lifestyle. Another example, who buys from hypermarket? If hypermarket only focuses on households they may not survive or be successful like today. Hypermarket main segment is actually small business restaurant operators that buy in larger quantity compare to households and on daily basis. I’ve been there, I know! LOL

Corrective Plan
– a marketing plan is a living document. Trust me, the moment you have it and experience planning your marketing, you will realize this. Therefore it is a plan that allows you to assess past strategies and results and at the same time allow you to make necessary corrective measures to fit your business growth. for example, who expected the 2008 financial crisis to hit us so badly? No one other than the few so called “economists” but how did responded to it? Severely. Many businesses closed including many giants. But the good thing is, many have a solid marketing and business plans, therefore they make quick corrective actions and moved forward.

Innovation
– I once sat in a meeting of project and business updates and suddenly one of the directors said, actually with all that we have now we can be in the medical device market. Violaaa!!! This medical device company used to service government hospitals and they have all the equipments. It’s just that they never thought of going direct to the hospitals and take the lion share of the business. In that meeting, after going through the company yearly updates, this “innovation” came instantaneously and the next year they are pitching about it to the government hospitals directly.

Imagine if you can do all these and manage all these in a marketing plan? Systematic, organized, well thought, innovative and captured all your pertinent business information, don’t you find having a marketing plan is useful for your business?

One thing about my business, I don’t sell templates. I only sell REAL content. I believe that template is only to give you the general overview of direction but not how-to do it. That’s why I highly not recommended you choose to download or purchase marketing templates because I have seen them i personally think it won’t help you much. Let me share you a recent story about template.

I have childhood friend who wanted to open a small business. I offered him my service at $$$ which is so much below market rate because we have been friends for 20 years. He said no, because he thinks there is another cheaper way to do it or in other words “resourceful is my middle name” kinda thing. So I let him do that. I offered him five days later that, if he needs me to view the marketing plan I will do it for free over tea. He showed me a marketing template he bought for USD 25 and all he got was a template!!! I scolded him and cursed the site that provided such thing. It was just boxes everywhere and not even a paragraph on how to fill those boxes. Well, this is what I mean and I defy being in that business because that’s cheating. By the way i got to do my friend’s job after that.:)

What I offered is much simpler, richer and with all the things you need. Firstly, my blog is to help you enhance and as a source to guide you on the marketing plan you purchase. Well, let’s don’t talk about purchase yet.

Would you want to view the actual content or maybe download the Marketing Plan Breakthrough S6PEC Introduction first? Please send your inquiry to [email protected] Information is FREE. Otherwise please go to http://www.marketingplanbook.com

Coach The Sales Strategy (And Your Forecast Will Take Care Of Itself)

It’s been said that some salespeople make things happen, some watch things happen, and some wonder what’s happening. The difference lies in having a strategy and leading a team to execute it effectively.

Strategy is a plan to deploy resources in a way that brings your strength to bear on the opponent’s weakness, creating momentum that leads to victory.

You can win without a strategy. It’s called luck. Direct salespeople are paid to make their own luck. You can get luck with a Web site.

The models of strategy descend from (like it or not) military history. In the last few years, many business executives and military leaders have been studying classical leaders’ strategic models to determine the models of strategy, which can be applied to company or marketing-level strategies of today. We do this because the models are timeless; the application is situational. It requires allegorical thinking. Models allow us to anticipate future events and to communicate that vision. Intuitive or “natural” salespeople or managers without mental models may have trouble leading a sales team because they don’t know why they are good and can’t transfer that knowledge to someone else.

Classical historical strategy drives market strategy; market strategy drives industry or territory strategy. At the sales level, it is critical we strategize at four different levels:

· THE INDUSTRY MARKET LEVEL

· THE ENTERPRISE LEVEL

· THE OPPORTUNITY LEVEL

· THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL

Only then can you drive a complex sale strategy in its entirety. Each level requires different technique, talent, and technology that can communicate the enterprise strategic account plan worldwide.

WHY STRATEGIES FAIL

Knowledge is power; the more you know earlier, the more advantage you can have. It’s amazing how little most business developers know about their accounts after months of involvement and considerable resources.

Failure is the seed of learning. By studying why strategies fail, we learn how to make them succeed.

One of the major reasons strategies fail is poor information. There is not a general out there who wouldn’t trade troops for better knowledge of where the enemy is and which way they’re headed. That’s why spies are so important. In the Persian Gulf War, our initial strikes were to knock out the information and command centers and blind the opposition.

Another reason for strategic failure is no strategyat all. Imagine a quarterback in American football coming out on the field and having a huddle. The team asks what the play is and he says “I don’t know, let’s just go for it.” (We’ve all been in those presentations.) If the quarterback calls the snap and fades back to pass and the rest of the team is going out for an end run, this person is going to get footprints all over his body. Effective power comes when the entire team knows the plan and can execute it, with timing, together.

Another fatal error is not having a plan B. Some leaders plan only for the best possible outcome and assume how the competition will react. They don’t test their plan and develop alternatives. The speed of change in marketing and sales today is so fast that a rigid, inflexible, or static plan will result in defeat.

Speed of information drives speed of strategy drives competitive advantage. By the time you win an opportunity, you may be on plan D, E, or F. This doesn’t mean we should be indecisive. There must be a conscious reanalysis and coaching process for absorbing new information and processing it into new strategies, tactics, and actions.

Other sources of failure include poor execution. Patton said a good plan violently executed beats a perfect plan we’re constantly thinking about. He also realized that speed gives the opponent less time to perfect their plan and defenses.

Strategies also fail because of bad timing– the right thing done at the wrong time, too late, too little, or even too early. Because issues and politics change, a time-based strategy is essential to victory.

The inability to have a process for absorbing new information and generating new accurate strategies can often lead to indecision, poor priorities, or waffling, all of which can prove fatal. IBM’s response to the justice department’s attempt to break them up resulted in not two but three strategies that were not a migration path for the client but were competing strategies, leading to their decline in the 1980’s.

A classic principle of strategy is not to divide your forces in the face of a superior foe – spreading yourself too thin. Multiple strategies can work. The allies did it successfully in World War II. But it requires more resources, clear priorities, and decisive leadership.

The last source of strategic failure in sales is failure to pursue the battle won. “Hit-and-run selling” or “drive-by selling” is when you get inside the walls, then leave for the next opportunity rather than selling from the inside out.

The best account managers use opportunity management in tandem with account strategy. Why? Because real profitability comes from shorter sales cycles and better margins on repeat business after you gained access, built trust, and reduced risk.

A DYNAMIC STRATEGIC PLANNING MODEL

Patton said, “Luck favors the man in motion.” By this he meant that the person in motion not only keeps his or her opponent off balance and unable to process new strategies but in the process of action, he or she finds out more information faster than the enemy.

The information processing cycle is known by fighter pilots; they live and die by it. In the movie Top Gun, Kelly McGillis asks Tom Cruise, “What were you thinking up there?” His reply was, “You don’t have time to think. You take time to think up there, you’re dead.” By that he meant it must be habit and reflex. The pilot must have all the models in his head to be able to process strategy instantaneously.

Many salespeople don’t process this at all. They pick a company and product strategy and plod straight ahead until they either win or lose. If you could always win on company and product, why do you need salespeople? Most salespeople don’t know when to trigger alternative strategies. Those who do, win more often.

DYNAMIC, FLEXIBLE STRATEGY

The first step in the strategic process is information. The more we know – about the competition, the decision-making process, the politics, and the client’s needs – the better we will be able to formulate a more accurate strategy.

Information drives strategy. Then you need a vision of victory. Salespeople need a mental picture and map of how they plan to win. They also need electronic communication tools to get it out of their head and into the teams’ heads. Then the team needs effective presentation skills and graphics tools to get the benefits out of their heads and into the prospects’ heads.

Next you need to set goalsand objectives. These terms get switched around semantically, but a goal is more general than an objective. An objective defines what you want to do in measurable quantities and is date-driven. It is less important what you call it than that you have one and execute it well.

Setting a clear objective is essential to defining the strategy. If we don’t know where we’re going, any road will do. Covey says, “Start with the end in mind.”

Strategyis how you intend to achieve the objective; it’s your plan of attack. It is how you plan to allocate resources, what you’re going to sell to whom, where, and when. Tactics are the day-to-day detail actions you do to execute the longer-term strategy.

STRATEGY COACHING REVIEWS – THE ANTIDOTE FOR “HAPPY EARS”

The most essential part of a strategic plan is the testing of it. Professor Tom Kosnik of Standford University says, “Testing their strategy is what separates the amateur strategists from the effective ones.” But it’s also where our tradition of positive mental attitude can get in the way. The best of plans require critical thinking and that is perceived by some people as negative.

It is true there is a self-fulfilling effect of positive thinking. However, too often this results in assumptions, or “happy ears,” for salespeople who are always ignoring the facts. The account looks good, right up until it’s lost. There is a balance point of critical thinking, attacking our own plan without becoming negative. In the movie A Bridge Too Far about Montgomery’s failed attack at Arnhem, the Polish general Sosabowski (played by Gene Hackman) said, “But what about the Germans?” No one wanted to question the assumptions in the plan, and the attack failed.

Bad news early is good news.

One thing is certain: Your plan will be tested – by the competition, the client, or Murphy’s laws. But it will get tested. Salespeople who were too busy to plan will now have to find another prospect.

Bad news early is good news because we can either refine our strategy or withdraw from the account. Blind spots late are bad news. Bill Gates says about himself in Business @ The Speed of Thought, “I have a natural instinct for hunting down grim news. If it’s out there, I want to know about it.” “An essential quality of a good manager is a determination to deal with any kind of bad news head on, to seek it out rather than deny it.” A Fortune magazine article on “Why CEOs Fail” described one of the warning signs of executive denial as a background in sales or marketing.

Who do you want to test it? Your own team. And from whom do you want the bad news? People who want you to win – your own team. But it means leaving your ego at the door and improving your plan rather than defending it. Testing plans on the job is learning by losing – a far more expensive approach, except for the fact that lost sales never hit the books, so you may never know how bad you really are.

For every self-fulfilling positive mental attitude success story, there are a dozen disasters in sales and marketing from people who didn’t adequately challenge their own plan. Edward DeBono has a book called The Six Hats of Thinking. One of these is a red hat for the positive thinking aspect, but there is also a hat where we attack our own plan to find the flaws in it before the competition does.

Nothing increases positive mental attitude more than winning. If we can anticipate the failure points and strengthen them, we should have a much better plan as well as plan B, C, and D in the pocket.

Next, you must execute. The devil is in the details. But an average plan can be overcome by great execution, Likewise, a perfect plan can be defeated by poor execution.

Finally, you get results and new information based on a call, a presentation, or a survey. In sales it is essential that you process new information and come up with a new plan or revalidate the old one.

The best time to reevaluate strategy is right after a sales call (not in the elevator or the bathroom, but after we get out of the building – the walls have ears). The curbside review is important to detect new information, critique performance, and make sure who has the ball on each action item. If you scatter like quail for the airport without taking this valuable time to strategize, you have missed a great opportunity.

The next time to revalidate your plan is in a strategy session before each major event requiring resources – the big proposal, the big presentation, or the corporate visit. These are essential. Once your top executives say the wrong thing because they weren’t prepared adequately, you can’t buy enough “mind erasers” to get it out of the prospect’s head. “What the chairman meant to say our strategy was – never mind.”

COACHING – THE MANAGER’S VALUE ADDED

Competitive advantage doesn’t come from awareness of a strategy; it comes from consistent execution faster than the competition. Coaching is where managers can make the difference. And yet many sales managers and most consulting partners don’t see this as a major part of their job. They simply “flog the forecast until morale improves.” Salespeople need more than “how much and when?” from their managers.

Pipeline reviews by management in a coaching environment are where you drill down into the competition’s strategy, the value proposition, and the politics of the decision-making process. More accurate forecasts come from a foundation of better sales plans for accounts controlled early and reviewed often.

STRATEGY AND TACTICS

When it comes to strategic planning, tactics should fall out of the strategy. But too many salespeople go “ready, fire, aim.” Abraham Lincoln said, “If I had nine hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening my ax.” Many salespeople are out there chopping with a dull ax, generating tons of paper and lots of sales activity without felling any trees. But salespeople don’t get paid to be busy; they get paid to win. It’s been said that tactics are doing the thing right and strategy is being sure we’re doing the right thing.

Tactics are short-term and flexible; they change dynamically. Strategies, however, should stay consistent until new information is introduced and you have made a conscious decision to commit to a new strategy. Both strategies and tactics are essential to success; a plan will fail for lack of either.

Tactics in the absence of a strategy creates a dependence on luck. General Bedel Smith, Dwight Eisenhower’s chief of staff, said, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” Great salespeople, like great generals and athletes, make their own luck. Hannibal, the Carthaginian general who crossed the Alps to defeat the Romans, said, “We will either find a way or make one.”

There are multiple strategies that could win. Looking for the perfect one will cause the loss of valuable time. Commit to one decisively, execute it violently, and revalidate it constantly.

The terms “strategy” and “tactics” often get confused, and the reason is that they are actually “nested.” An action item can be both a strategy and a tactic at the same time, depending on the level from which it’s viewed. What is a tactic to the enterprise becomes a strategy for the department. So the same item, viewed from above or below, could either be a strategy or a tactic. It’s less important what you call it, than that you write it down and do it.

A Winning Marketing Plan For Business Success

Developing, writing and implementing a successful marketing plan starts with solid industry and market analysis and concludes with an implementable marketing strategy and program. A marketing plan is not developed and implemented independently; rather, it should be developed in close coordination with your company’s products and services and ultimately implemented through a strategic plan.

There is a certain approach and building-block process to developing a marketing plan. The place to start is analyzing your industry: its current state; who the major participants are; changes in the industry; opportunities; economic modeling forecasts; and examining who else may enter the industry. Then move toward determining how distribution works in your industry and how technology affects its distribution systems.

After your analysis on the industry level is complete, it is time to narrow your focus to analyzing and defining your market segments. Some example determinants are demographics, geography, customer needs, buying pattern and psychographics. With these segments defined and analyzed, analyze each market segment and determine how the market needs lead these identified groups to buy your products and services. Focus not on what you have to sell but more importantly, on the buyer needs you satisfy. Determine why customers buy from you.

You can now narrow down your target markets, determining what market groups are more important to your operation, along with, the market niches you can effectively target. It is vital to determine what your target customers’ needs and characteristics are, along with, what makes certain target groups more advantageous to market than others.

The next step in the marketing plan development process is to analyze market trends from a strategic standpoint. Look at market trends as a way to get ahead of the market direction, knowing with a probability of certainty where it is going. You can now realistically project your market growth and specific growth rates. The growth rate projections should identify in detail the relationship between your potential customers, sales, revenues and ultimately, profits.

Explain the nature of your competition, why customers choose one provider over the other, and why customers will buy from your company instead of these competitors. Provide a detailed competitive summary of your products’ and services’ variables, ranking them in comparison to your competition. Example variables include pricing, sales, trends, positioning clarity, quality, value, reputation, packaging, advertising, customer service, target market focus, innovation, brand awareness and so forth. Determine your top five competitive strengths and weaknesses, as well as, identifying your top competitive gap threats. Finally, determine how competitively positioned your company will be in the market.

Two parts remain: your marketing strategy and marketing program. The marketing strategy consists of positioning statements, pricing strategy, promotion strategy and distribution strategy. These are closely linked as your marketing programs will implement the marketing plan’s underlying strategy- the program puts the strategy into action, bringing “life” to your marketing plan.

A great marketing plan development process understands it is a companywide endeavor between product and service development, market analysis, marketing strategy, marketing programs, the marketing plan, the strategic plan and the sales plan. This all adds up to happy customers and financial success.
Consider hiring a marketing pro to help you develop the best marketing strategy and plan for your company and don’t forget the online marketing component! Online marketing can be highly targeted and cost effective per customer acquisition, with high profit margins and tremendous growth possibilities.