Using Marketing to Grow Your Business - Part I

Linda Hanson

Quick: What do you think of when you hear the words marketing plan? If you're like many business people, it may conjure up a picture of a binder with spreadsheets, data and tactics essential for marketing your business or division. You should think of it in terms of what it can do for your business. Many experts compare a marketing plan to a roadmap that directs day-to-day progress, keeps your eye on goals, helps you overcome obstacles, take advantage of opportunities, and gets you to your objectives. Your plan is also designed to help you build revenues and profits so that cash flow is stronger. And it doesn't need to be a budget-breaker!

Many companies don't bother to put a plan on paper which means they basically wing it when it comes to marketing. But, a marketing plan is important for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to create and implement programs that are strategic in nature and intentionally tied back to your business objectives. Second, marketing planning results in a documented marketing approach that is easy to communicate to your employees and helps ensure that marketing is a company-wide function. Third, a marketing plan allows you to manage the budget and better negotiate with outside service providers. Fourth, a marketing plan helps you stay on track when day-to-day activities threaten to derail your intent. If you can't measure it, it doesn't get done and is viewed as just another exercise by employees.

Like a resume, a marketing plan follows a common format, with variations depending on your type of business, and whether your plan will become part of a business plan to seek investments or loans from outsiders. Marketing plans can be whatever size works for your company--from as little as six pages to over one hundred. What matters is that you address five specific sections: the situation analysis, strategies, objectives, plan of action and financials. This differs from a strategic plan in that it is updated and rewritten each calendar year and strategies are written around pricing, competition, image, services and products.

The term marketing was coined over 50 year ago and yet one form or another of marketing has been around since the beginning of time. Marketing is really the planning function that drives all the other tactics you use in your business. Think of marketing as the umbrella, sales as the handle, and the spokes (public relations, direct mail, advertising, sales promotion, and research) as the individual tools you address in a plan - a marketing plan.

Like any planning function, a marketing plan takes time to put together and requires the input of your senior managers. The cost of developing one, especially in the construction industry where this type of planning is non-existent, is very little compared to the return of establishing your firm as an industry leader, and building revenues and profits. Marketing is a fundamental tool in your arsenal to grow your business.

Next month I will outline a marketing plan format, how to set it up and how to review it.

Linda Hanson, CMC, is a certified management consultant and author of 10 Steps to Marketing Success. She writes, speaks and consults on marketing, management and customer service issues and can be contacted at Sign up for her free newsletter The Superior Performance Report.