Marketing is often one of the most misunderstood elements in business planning.

Many decision makers viewing marketing as a series of tactics, when really it encompasses a plan that identifies:

• What your business should be doing

• How your business should be doing it

• When your marketing plan should be executed

• Which areas the marketing plan covers

• Who is responsible for managing and monitoring the marketing plan  

Execution-led approaches

An execution-led approach to marketing diminishes your returns. This is as the above elements will be largely inconsistent, leading to the wrong outcomes being measured. For example, content in itself achieves nothing, unless it is relevant for your target markets and it motivates the decision-making process. Unfortunately, an execution led approach to marketing perpetuates the wrong metrics, with many businesses focused on website visitations, rather than targeted traffic and an understanding of how to engage the right audience and educate them towards a purchase.  

Strategic marketing planning

Marketing needs to be led by strategy, ensuring the application of marketing is consistent with its definition as defined by the Australian Marketing Institute: Marketing creates value – for customers, shareholders and society as a whole. It does this by creating an alignment between what consumers value and what organisations offer.

It offers techniques that help firms better understand the needs, preferences and perceptions of their customers (a prerequisite to adding value to them), and ways of using that understanding to focus the value-creating and communicating activities of the firm into areas where they will be most effective. While the definition may be wordy, the key is the notion of value. Marketing enables the exchange of the value you provide for the resources (such as money or time) provided by your stakeholders.

Ultimately, marketing enables you to build your capacity so you can continue to exchange value.

A marketing plan utilises marketing to achieve your business goals, this looks beyond pricing and communications, but into your current and future needs. Begin by understanding the demographics of your customers, what motivates them to purchase and whether there are others involved in the decision. Consider your competitors, those that offer a direct substitute for your products or services, but also indirect competitors who fulfil a similar need. Once you have these foundations you can explore your point of difference and your positioning in the marketplace, ensure that it will resonate with your target market and position yourself differently to the competition.   Understanding these fundamentals enables you to then explore how best to allocate your marketing resources.

Identify the channels that will achieve your marketing objectives - do you need to extend your networks, strengthen communication channels or offer new products or services to better cater to marketing opportunities?

All of these questions have ramifications in regard to resource allocation; including skills, time, finances and the opportunity cost in not undertaking other actions. A marketing plan helps you identify the activities that will add value and the relative priority of these tasks.   Importantly, a marketing plan lets you measure outcomes and the progress towards its implementation. Identify the key outcomes you want to achieve, move beyond headline indicators, such as website visitations or social media likes and into metrics that actually matter, such as purchase intention and frequency.   Success Starts with Strategy and a Marketing Plan explores how you can achieve your business goals.