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Business and Marketing Plans - what are the key elements and do you have one?

Discussion in 'Marketing mastery' started by Virtual Marketing Force, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. Virtual Marketing Force

    Virtual Marketing Force Member

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    I am interested in understanding what other business owners think and feel about Business and Marketing plans. Specifically:

    Do you have one?

    Do you see the value in one (and why)?

    What do you think are the most important parts of one? (SWOT, SMART GOALS, etc)

    What do you think are the hardest parts of planning and/or what parts of the plans would you most want assistance with (Competitive Analysis, Market Research, Brainstorming ideas, understanding what tactics are suitable for your industry)?

    Thank you in advance for your answers on this!
  2. websitedesigner

    websitedesigner Well-Known Member

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    Never had either, I change my mind too often
  3. V4W

    V4W Member

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    Both business and marketing plans give you a better understanding of your business overall. Where it sits in the market, your competitors, your customers, operations, sales strategy, financials / cashflow, marketing and strengths and weaknesses.

    I think it is a fundamental part of any business to have both. They are plans used for directions, and obviously there will always be change, but at least your business will have direction and knowledge.

    I find the financial side of business plans the hardest (yet they are one of the most important aspects), however that is because I have a marketing background and obviously have a greater understanding of this area.

    I find that when you do your research, and put your strategies on paper ... you get a better understanding of what will work, and what needs to be fine tuned.

    I think every business needs a business plan, that needs to be updated every couple of years. I also think it is important for every business to have a marketing (I don't think they have to be as in-depth as the online templates) and these should be reviewed every 6 - 12 months.

    Anyways, just my 2 cents.
    2 people like this.
  4. yourvirtualboard

    yourvirtualboard Active Member

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    Great info from NV_Marketing and to add to it. The value in planning is not so much the document but the thinking that goes into producing it. Most business owners don't think about things they should be in any formal way they are too busy just doing it all (you will have heard working ON vs working IN your business). Planning is working ON your business and for most businesses planning helps gain clarity and what comes next or what it is you actually want to achieve. Business without plans succeed too but I believe those that have it all mapped out have a better chance and also do it quicker. I also believe that plans don’t need to be too complex – many people are comfortable working from a “To Do” list – think of a business plan as no more than a “To Do” list over time.

    As a minimum I’d suggest at least knowing your break-even and having a budget (no I am not financially biased or inclined) because most of the anxiety / stress in running a business is when you feel that you’re behind and that always happens when you don’t have something to measure against. A budget and knowing your break-even at least lets you know what you need to be getting in and what you can then pay out. Think of your car – if I took the dashboard out and then asked you to drive on a long trip where you’ve not been before (without a map or GPS). You would most likely get to where you are going but I can guarantee that you will drive slower than if you had a speedo and also stop a lot more often for fuel (just in case you run out) and most of the trip would be quite anxious that you may have taken a wrong turn or even gone the wrong way. A map / GPS are like the plan and the fuel gauge and speedo are your measurement. With those in place no need to feel like you might be going the wrong way or that you might run out of fuel or get booked speeding and you can relax and maybe even enjoy the trip.

    I have a simple template for a simple budget if you think it might help you.
  5. [Former] FS Concierge

    [Former] FS Concierge Renowned Member

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    Love the 'car without a dashboard' analogy Harry - thanks! :)

    Jayne
  6. jetbookkeeping

    jetbookkeeping Member

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    To me, it is key to chunk my marketing plan into bite size direct response activities that I can test for a small investment. That means that they are usually short term activities until I find one that gives me the best ROI. I build on that one.
    With regards to the financial side of a business plan, I have recently written about business planning on our blog.
    Hope that helps
    Alexander
  7. Kathy Creaner

    Kathy Creaner Active Member

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    I find the whole idea of going to somebody to help me to develop a "marketing plan" overwhelming. I'm concerned that I'll end up paying a fortune for advice that I don't have the skills or understanding to implement. It's not that I think that professional marketers would deliberately do that, it's more that I'm worried I'll get swept along by their enthusiasm and end up with regrets later.

    That's why my current learning project for my husband's business is marketing. I'm doing a lot of reading, I'm testing out ideas I've discovered (my facebook competition has ended up being a dud, but I'm finding it much easier to write content for our websites and blogs) and I'm discovering just what it is that we'd be paying for when we're ready to invest in some professional advice.

    To answer your questions

    Our main business, The Balcony Shop, has no formal marketing plan. Instead, we get ourselves to a couple of trade shows a year (Sydney and Melbourne) to find customers, and we have a website. We've tried some email marketing as well.

    I see the value in a marketing plan, because we can't really measure the success of what we're doing. We think we're getting better at the trade shows but it's not measured in any concrete way.

    For me, the value would be in having a plan/calendar for different marketing activities. Things seem to rush up on us in a hurry, and it's easy to forget the preparation we should be doing for the next activity.

    For us, I think the hardest part is knowing what tactics would work for small players in our industry, particularly as we're reluctant to deal with the big box brands. I also think that the up-front market research would help us. We attracted completely the wrong type of customer for us at our first trade show (designers rather than retailers). We can see why that happened now, but the research would have been less expensive than learning from experience.

    I hope this is the type of information you're looking for.

    Cheers

    Kathy
  8. tonyk

    tonyk Renowned Member

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    Perhaps on your website you can have a "How you found us" section somewhere. That way you will have a better idea of which marketing techniques are yielding the best results.
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  9. yourvirtualboard

    yourvirtualboard Active Member

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    Hello Kathy,

    I understand your comment about possibly being overwhelmed – the alternative of trying to learn everything yourself is the long way around. Outsourcing things that are not core (but staying in control) is usually a quicker and more effective route, especially if you’re clear on the ROI for the exercise.

    That said here is a link to develop a very simple marketing plan which you may find useful and certainly shouldn't overwhelm anyone http://www.slideshare.net/HG52/how-to-develop-a-simple-marketing-plan
    Kathy Creaner likes this.
  10. Kathy Creaner

    Kathy Creaner Active Member

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    Thanks Harry, for the link. It certainly doesn't seem overwhelming.

    I've sent the presentation on to my partner, Graham. We're off to a trade show next week (Furnitex 2011), so this is particularly timely.

    Kathy
  11. yourvirtualboard

    yourvirtualboard Active Member

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    No problem Kathy, many things are difficult before they become easy (or we learn how to do them). I'm a great believer in keeping it simple and functional otherwise it hardly gets put into practice.

    Trade shows are another brilliant promotional opportunity to generate interest, get exposure and collect leads. Here too however better results are achieved with some strategy or clear objectives are required otherwise it's an expensive exercise and a poor ROI.

    I have a copy of simple do's and don'ts for exhibitions if you'd like a copy.
  12. Todd Molloy

    Todd Molloy Member

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    I think a marketing plan in particular is extremely important for EVERY business.

    A simple business plan is:
    1. Have something to sell (product/service)
    2. Market this product/service
    3. Test and measure your sales efforts

    If you don't have a marketing plan how are you getting new customers?

    For any marketing that you are doing you really need to test its effectiveness. Then scale/improve what is working and cut back/eliminate what isn't.

    In this day and age it is so easy to test any marketing channel that you really can't afford not to.
  13. Leisa D

    Leisa D Active Member

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    I think there's a half-finished marketing plan in the pile of scrap paper I keep for my kids to scribble on. Never had a business plan, either. I tend to work it out as I go and so far that's working fine for my business.
  14. Virtual Marketing Force

    Virtual Marketing Force Member

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    Thank you to everyone for such great comments.

    Harry - I love your dashboard analogy! It’s just great and your PP is really nice as well – very well laid out and great pictures!

    Kathy - Thank you for your comments - they were actually just what I was after! :) It was a great way to verify what I had been thinking and that the new service that I am launching (1 day Business and Marketing Plan Workshops) are a great idea and resource for businesses such as yours. As a marketer I understand the value of planning and the clarity, focus and drive it can bring to a business, as a business I understand that there can be a lot of scepticism surrounding getting someone to help you with creating a marketing/business plan and the costs associated with this and what you will get in the end.

    What I wanted to understand from this thread were the issues surrounding marketing plans and the key components viewed by other businesses as critical to a marketing or business plan. The workshops that I have launched today will provide an opportunity for participants to undertake key components of the business or marketing plan (e.g. SWOT analysis, creating SMART goals) and complete these activities specific to their business with the opportunity to receive feedback and ideas from an unbiased source. The key deliverable from the workshops is that you walk out with a framework base plan that has components already complete rather than attending a ‘lecture’ where you learn about what you should do and get 100 ideas that you never implement. What do you think of my idea? Also I had a look at your website – great furniture – can I ask who is your target market and how do they purchase the goods from you? This isn’t very clear on the website – other than they need to call you? Also as a suggestion I would hyperlink the pictures and headings in the Products section (e.g. Chairs and the picture of a chair) so that they take you through to the next page – it is just a little easier for the visitor.

    And Todd you are correct - we need to be able to understand what we are doing and the results we are achieving so that we can replicate effective strategies and get rid of those that provide no value. It’s critical to understand this when setting goals so that you can measure their effectiveness.

    Kind Regards,

    Lorraine Salvi
    Virtual Marketing Force
    www.vmf.com.au
  15. Shaukat Adam (Khalid)

    Shaukat Adam (Khalid) Renowned Member

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    The problem with most business and marketing plans is that they never get revisited. IT's like having a roadmap and no one refers to it.

    They make it too complex. I know, i've done and then chucked it.

    Have maximum of 10 pages on your business and marketing strategy. Then another set of up to 10 pages to cover the tactics to achieve your 3,6,9,12month S.M.A.R.T objectives and goals.

    Whatever you do, refer to and optimise regularly.

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