Business musings

Articles and thoughts about marketing communication

Posted by Matt Stocker, stored in: Marketing Strategy & Planning  

I say this in a whisper but with only just over six weeks to go until the New Year, we’ve created a Marketing Planning and Budgeting template to enable you to hit the ground running in 2012!

Before we dive into your marketing plan however, I hasten to add that this template is based on a couple of assumptions. We’re assuming you already fully understand your market, customers, competition and organisational capabilities—yes? Great!

We’re also assuming you’ve decided on your target market segments and priorities, brand positioning, basis for competing and overall marketing strategy. Another yes? Brilliant!

In that case, let’s dive right into how to create a great marketing plan for 2012.

Introducing the template

  • The marketing plan template has two tabs: one for creating a plan of your marketing activities and the other for planning your marketing budget.
  • Down the left hand side of each sheet, you’ll find all the possible elements of the marketing mix you might want to make use of.
  • In the budgeting sheet, we’ve also included formulas that add up the monthly and yearly subtotals/totals so you can keep track of how much you’re spending and when.
  • The bit in the middle of each sheet is for you to fill in!

What you’re aiming for in a marketing plan

Your goal is to end up with a scheduled and co-ordinated marketing plan that effectively engages your customers, that is aligned with your strategy and that, of course, drives both your brand awareness and your revenue growth.

In order to meet this aim, you’ll need to…

Take an engaging approach

Given that marketing has almost wholly moved from push marketing to the creation of two-way engagement, you are not looking for opportunity to bombard your existing and potential customers with messages focused solely on your greatness. Rather, start looking for opportunities to add value and to be useful. Don’t take customer relationships for granted—you need to earn your prospects’ trust, respect and loyalty. While different industries will have different expectations, showing your potential customers that you understand their needs is always a great place to start.

Use the marketing mix effectively

There are many ways to market your business—sadly however, there is no silver bullet and no predetermined secret to success. The idea is not to use every single element of the marketing mix but rather to match your message to your customers and to align both of these with the communication medium you choose. Some elements of the marketing mix will be better at targeting the people you are trying to reach, whilst others will be a complete #fail. Choose wisely and choose a mix that maximises your chances of success.

Allocate resources wisely

You’re likely to have a set budget for your marketing, so the aim is to maximise your bang for the buck. Not all marketing communications are created equal when it comes to return on investment, so make sure your budget is allocated to those elements that will deliver the highest return. And once you’ve allocated your budget, stick to it! Although flexibility is at times needed, becoming too flexible and trigger happy over your latest campaign can scupper your best laid plans for the rest of the year.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

If your organisation is like most businesses, there are usually finite resources when it comes to marketing, both in terms of time and budgets. By creating a marketing plan that cleverly integrates each element, and by reusing and repurposing content across different channels, you can increase the impact of your marketing, whilst reducing the amount of work required. With the new year presenting a perfect opportunity to take stock, you could also look at simplifying your marketing and cutting out those elements that haven’t worked so well in previous years, freeing up valuable resource for other activities.

Measure results and learn

If you don’t measure the effect of your marketing, you are likely to find it difficult to select and prioritise your marketing mix and to effectively allocate resource. By tracking leads and their sources, along with a broader range of key performance indicators, you’ll be able to discern what works and what doesn’t. Whilst you’ll probably find online marketing easier to track, it’s also possible to successfully track offline campaigns, so make sure you put measures in place to do so where you can. Whether online or off, it is also vital to listen to the voice of your consumers, enabling you to understand their reactions and capitalise upon their response.

Plan ahead

It may sound obvious but marketing tends to be time intensive, so don’t underestimate the time it will take to complete necessary design processes, write copy, obtain approvals, establish your social media, and so on. For many businesses, there are specific times of the year that you need to be in touch with your customers—retail businesses live and die by their seasonal campaigns! By planning ahead and getting everything ready in advance, you’ll ensure that you don’t miss out on vital opportunities.

Focus on existing customers too

It’s generally recognised that the cost of acquiring a new customer is far higher than retaining the loyalty of an existing one. Thinking about your customers in terms of total lifetime value can be helpful when deciding how much resource to invest in gaining new prospects versus encouraging loyalty. How can you make your customers—both new and old—feel loved and valued? What can you do to provide such good products and services that they never want to leave? Don’t forget to reward loyalty in your marketing campaigns too—don’t just give all the special offers to the newbies, leaving your trusted, loyal customers feeling unloved and out in the cold.

Not drop the ball

In many cases marketing is only part of the process. Once you’ve generated a lead, you need to turn it into action. This requires great follow-up by your sales team, exceptional delivery of a fantastic product and/or service, and outstanding after-sales care. I’m always surprised by the number of businesses that fail to follow up leads and I’ve had this experience personally with several potential suppliers—suffice to say, they never ended up with my business! Returning a call or following up an enquiry is a simple but crucial step to completing a sale. Ultimately, marketing is the stepping stone to creating an ongoing relationship with your customers and it’s important that they experience a consistent customer journey from start to finish.

Over to you

Download: Marketing Planning & Budgeting Template 2012 (MS Excel file)


As businesses are starting to report a slowdown in sales and a weakening in their financial position, there has been a lot in the news about a serious recession pending for the UK, especially after the report from the British Chambers of Commerce.

So, how should you respond? Do you know how you can make your business stronger and more competitive and therefore better able to deal with a recession? Markets shrink in a recession so where there were lots of people wanting and willing/able to pay for your product or service before, there are now less people able to purchase what you have to offer. That means you are going to have to change your strategy to win the remaining customers and fight off your competitors.

Here are 5 steps to prepare your business for a recession…

  1. Plan for the future
    Don’t just meander along hoping for the best – plan! Your business will work best if you know where you are trying to go and what you are trying to achieve in the next 3-5 years. It doesn’t have to be a long, detailed or ‘impressive’ strategy, but it does require thought!
  2. Draw up an action plan on how to get there
    You will need decide on short, medium and long term actions out of the strategy you drew up. These are specific actionable things that you can start working on, starting immediately. There will be both big things that you can do to improve (break these down into manageable parts) and also lots of little things. Don’t forget to prioritise.
  3. Forecast your money
    Prepare a 3-year financial forecast or get someone to do it for you (like your accountant). Add in your costs and expected benefits from the action plan above. Even with a positive economy businesses often over-estimate sales, so be careful. Try cutting your revenue in half and see what it looks like; how would respond if that actually happened? Try cutting it in half again. Keep updating it monthly so you can see where you are against your plan. This will give you early warning of when you might run into problems. If things get really tight, then move from a monthly cashflow forecast to a weekly one, and watch your money like a hawk. When you see a problem do something about it in advance – don’t just wait for it to hit you!
  4. Spend time working on your business not in it
    In order to implement your plan you will need to starting working on your business. It’s the difference between say, restoring and renovating a house and just cleaning it. It can be hard work and uncomfortable knocking walls out, getting a plasterer in etc. but you end up with a much better house at the end of it. Don’t fall into the trap of just doing continual maintenance work when  actually there is significant change that needs to happen. Don’t get me wrong, maintenance is important but it won’t significantly push your business forward. Your business needs to be the best it can be in every area. If you don’t have time to do this, then you either need to make time or find someone to work with you to implement the action plan.
  5. Don’t stop marketing, just do it better
    As things start looking tight many companies start to reduce their marketing budgets. Proceed with caution on this one. You should do a separate 12-month marketing plan that links into both your strategy and your general business action plan. You might not know how effective your current marketing actually is; measuring its effectiveness can be hard but certainly not impossible. Marketing shouldn’t just be seen as a cost – it should bring in more business in monetary terms over the year than you spend on it. It is worth noting there are no silver bullets when it comes to marketing; it is about a consistent, focused approach in line with your branding and strategy (hence the plan!). By all means, put your marketing effort under the microscope and work to make it more effective, but don’t just cut it to cut costs; there is a real danger that you’ll end up cutting yourself off from your life blood – your customers!

Though it would seem that there are difficult times ahead, don’t panic and don’t give up. Times like these can actually be a real opportunity. Whilst you might worry about what is just around the corner, the fact that you are looking at what you can do about it now puts you in a much stronger position than most. This could be your opportunity to build a stronger, more resilient organisation and to outshine and outperform your competitors.