If you fail to plan your business activities, outlook, and marketing, you shouldn’t be too surprised when you don’t get the results you had hoped for.
As you’d expect from a marketing services company, we get a lot of inquiries – often more than 50 per week – from business owners looking for help with their marketing. While the first question most people ask is usually “how much is this going to cost me?”, my first priority is to understand the entire business position – why it exists at all. I need to be convinced that the business in question can not only stand on its own two feet, but can grow. If I can’t be convinced of that, then the conversation stops there. If we can’t get on board with a client’s business idea and associated business plan, we cannot get enthusiastic about the business – and that affects the quality of work that we do.
What’s just as important is how the business owner in question views the subject of marketing their start-up or small business. How a marketing budget is decided, how it’s divided over a twelve-month calendar, and what business goals the marketing plan is meant to address.
In recent weeks I have met with seven potential clients who all admitted to me that they don’t have – and have never had – a defined marketing budget for their company.
Instead, the owner/CEO tends to take a look at each marketing opportunity individually, as it comes up, and makes a gut decision whether to go for it or not. It’s a bit like Julius Caesar giving the ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘thumbs-down’ at the end (well, almost the end) of a to-the-death gladiator fight.
During each of my meetings, the CEO proceeded to inform me that they are aware and convinced of the importance of marketing within their respective companies (a good start, you’d think). Yet, to me, the lack of any long-term marketing budget consideration reveals the real truth: consciously or unconsciously, they see marketing as a cost rather than an inevitable part of conducting business. They fail to plan their marketing in a way that they would never do for sales, customer service, equipment investment, or tax.
Fail To Plan, Plan To FailIt doesn’t matter if you’re a one-person organization or a stockmarket-listed multinational, the basic premise is the same. You need to allocate an amount of money to be your company’s marketing fund and plan how you’re going to spend it. A plan puts a stick in the ground and points out direction. The budget allows you to make decisions as to what you’re going to do, when, and where. Failing to plan over the short or medium-term means your shooting in the dark and hoping to hit the target.
Without having both of these elements in place, your company’s marketing cannot be anything else than disjointed, inefficient, ineffective, wasteful – and even damaging to your company’s business value. You have no way of knowing whether your marketing is succeeding, since you haven’t decided on how you’re going to measure it. Waving a wet finger in the air and going with your gut doesn’t cut it. Moreover, you can bet that your competitors aren’t adopting such a inefficient method of measuring marketing ROI.
But that doesn’t mean you’re bound by the numbers. Just because you have a plan doesn’t mean that you’re bound to blindly execute it, lemming-like. Nothing’s written in stone.
But it’s a lot easier to change a plan when you already have a plan to change.