If you do not have a marketing plan you need to get one. The front end of that plan should consider the strategic options and pressures on the business. Once they have been considered then a tactical campaign can be devised followed by a budget. There are plenty of good sources on marketing planning with lots of texts around but a short cut could be to use our marketing plan template.
So why is marketing planning so important? There are many answers to this question ranging from pithy statements like ‘what gets planned gets done’, but critically it helps ensure there is a built-in mechanism to evaluate the position of the business and plan marketing activity to address opportunities and concerns.
It is incredibly easy for businesses to fall into a trap of doing the same again, offering the same services in the same way, and being over confident about their place in the market. In markets where the pace of change is slow the risks are perhaps lower, but professional services is a sector where massive change is taking place with new big brand entrants, changes to corporate structures, and on-line business models are challenging many.
In the wider corporate world we need only look at the pain of Tesco. In 2012 it made £4bn profit on a turnover of £64bn and employed 250,000 people in the UK alone. Yet it recently announced the closure of 43 stores, a Head Office move, overhead cutting of 30% and the hiving off of various business units, all against the backdrop of regulatory investigations. There will of course be plenty of reasons for the problems this business faces, but perhaps it took its eye of the competition, its customers and in the process lost its position in the market. It was not the cheapest and it did not offer the best quality, so what did it offer?
Some of the issues faced by Tesco are similar to those faced by professional services businesses. There is little to differentiate them and as such they are vulnerable to attack from smaller fast moving businesses, barriers to entry are low, client loyalty is easily ‘assumed’ rather than ‘earned’ and (for different reasons to Tesco) organisational change can be slow.
Strategic level marketing planning will not insulate businesses but it does provide a mechanism to address issues and opportunities. Knowing what marketing tools to deploy to achieve particular objectives is a skill and there may be a need for external guidance, irrespective of the strength of an internal team.
One closing thought on marketing planning. Marketing planning is a process and much like evaluation or measurement it does not generate revenue in itself. Central to the implementation of a plan is a liberal sprinkling of creative thinking and entrepreneurial spirit – without this a plan can become uninspiring and ultimately perpetuate the status quo and in so doing represent a missed opportunity.