It seems that I’m getting quite a few questions about the business or marketing plan process so I thought it might be worthwhile to spend a few blog posts on the process to help you get things organized.
Basically, marketing planning follows a 4 Step process which essentially is the basis of our business model. The steps are:
Step 1 – gather & analyse information about your business
Step 2 – set some realistic business goals
Step 3 – develop a road map/plan
Step 4 – communicate your plan
So lets look at step 1 – before you can even begin to think about where you want to take your business you need to look at where its been. This process starts with looking at basic metrics like sales volume, revenue, sales seasonality, prices, competition as well as the overall market. You can’t expect to set a reasonable course without taking a deep dive into the business and what’s driving it.
This first step takes some time and can be a little overwhelming if it hasn’t been done in a while. The key here is to establish a benchmark for performance as well as uncover what is working and what isn’t. Without this information you will basically be building a plan out of guess work. The best place to start with step 1 is with the business financials….go see the CFO/VP or key finance person on your business and ask them for a copy of the P&L for the past three years. Ideally you will be able to get this information by channel/product/segment or however you look at your business. The more detail you can get the better.
Once you have this information you can start to build a view of how the business has been performing. This process usually raises more questions than it answers which is good because it forces you to dig deeper in to what’s driving the business. Think of this as a road of discovery.
This same process needs to be done for your top 2 or 3 competitors in your industry. Where are they strong? Where is their weakness? Complete a SWOT analysis but more importantly, look for gaps in the product or service offering. Analysis doesn’t tell the whole story, critical thinking needs to be added to the mix, which is where we add a lot of value. Having a broad business perspective is invaluable in this process and can uncover a wealth of opportunities.
At the end of the day, the essence of a great business strategy or marketing plan is being able to define or identify the problem. Time spent looking at the business, especially when sales activity is a little slow, is time well spent. I’ve seen my share of marketing resources get consumed with the day-to-day execution and lose sight of the value of analysing the results.
Once you have a good sense of what’s been happening on your business you can start the process of developing some realistic objectives.