Our family recently went through a massive home remodel. Actually, we are still going through it – over a year later and we still have no kitchen.
We started by getting bids from general contractors. Each one wanted plans, drawings and permits. My husband felt this was a waste of time and money. So like that, I became a “general contractor.” I started hiring vendors, coordinating projects and trying to learn everything about home building along the way. I took one project at a time and tried my best to get stuff done.
While I had my own idea of a plan, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so my plan quickly fell apart. We’ve had to pay to have work (like painting) done multiple times. In the end, we didn’t save money, and we certainly didn’t save time.
So, what does any of this have to do with marketing?
I’ve been in marketing for over 20 years, and time and time again I see companies try to tackle marketing much the same way as I described above. Like building a house (or doing a remodel), marketing programs should follow a process.
Use these five steps to build a marketing plan that delivers ROI.
First, have a clear objective. I am not talking about short-sighted objectives like “get this product launched” or “plan this trade show.” I am talking about an objective aligned to your company goals.
So, let’s back up a bit. Does your company have a vision for where you want to be in three years, five years and 10 years? Do you have measurable KPIs for how you will get there? Do you have a clear understanding of how your plan fits into the market opportunity?
Your marketing plan should be aligned to your company goals.
Once you know the market opportunity and how your company goals fit, design the blueprint to help you reach your goals. Your blueprint should start with a solid foundation and always keep the objective in mind. You might have to make some changes to the plan along the way, but everyone will be working from the blueprint, so it’s important to think through as much as you can at this stage.
Don’t start building until you have the foundational elements of your marketing plan. Everyone likes to see progress and get stuff done. No one gets really excited until they start to see the walls go up, but skipping the steps that ensure a solid foundation will result in disaster later.
You can’t start executing your marketing plan until you have a solid foundation to work from. Some of these tasks take time, and marketers in particular tend to grow impatient here. However, if you don’t have the foundational elements of marketing to work from, you’ll spend more time and money in the long run.
The foundation for every solid marketing plan has these key elements:
Making things look pretty is useless if they don’t function. You wouldn’t start tiling the bathroom before the plumbing was connected (OK, maybe some of you would).
Too many marketers focus on making things pretty without understanding how they function and fit into the overall marketing plan. Don’t build your website, design collateral, create ads or draft emails until you know how you want them to function within your overall plan.
Ask yourself how each element in your plan aligns to your goal. Measure twice and cut once by using your foundational elements to stay consistent and efficient. Once your plan is in motion, try not to deviate too much or get distracted. Too much change costs time and money, and often it can cause you to completely lose sight of what you were aiming at to being with.
Even with the best blueprint, once something is built you might say to yourself, “I wish I would have done this differently.” Many factors in marketing are out of your control. Perhaps the market had a shift, the persona didn’t react as predicted or the company’s objectives changed.
While marketing is not as permanent as building a home (and it is easier to shift gears), if you don’t start with a plan, the right resources, the necessary expertise and a goal in mind, you’ll find yourself constantly pivoting and not making process. Or even worse, like my remodel without a kitchen, you’ll end up with lots of marketing “stuff” but no ROI.