Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: you're working to get your idea out there, so you sit down to write a marketing plan... because that is what responsible business owners are supposed to do. But what starts out as a valiant effort to lay out your marketing calendar for the next twelve months devolves into a flurry of cutting and pasting between quarters - an over-thought and overwrought undertaking with too many ideas and not enough concrete actions, let alone a solid story on how this will all translate to sales.
Take a deep breath. It's not you; it's all of us.
In my work launching new businesses (or fixing businesses that have plateaued), one place I see entrepreneurs in every industry get stuck, frustrated, or misguided, is in attempting to apply old models to new business. Our current business environment moves far too fast to adhere to traditional methods of forecasting. By the time you reach Q2, you may be dealing with an entirely different climate, from internal factors like product development to external ones you can't control, like the economy or new competitors.
While it's important to have a long-term vision, it's far more vital for young businesses to know exactly what needs to be done in the next four to twelve weeks. I've stopped writing annual marketing business plans for my clients and started serving up Game Plans: identifying immediate goals and laying out the exact actions, resources, and people it will take to get it done.
A Game Plan empowers entrepreneurs to move past obstacles endemic to small business:
- We focus on perfecting a product and neglect to put equal energy into creating the marketing systems necessary to sustain a profitable business.
- We get overly distracted by new competitors and their initiatives, and allow that to sidetrack our own strategy.
- We overestimate the effectiveness of what's been done in the past simply because we're used to doing it.
- We block a fantastic product with marketing materials and practices that lack the sophistication or specificity to connect with the audience that will embrace it.
- We put marketing in a silo and neglect to connect it with our bigger business model, sales process, and company culture.
- We assume we have to do what everyone else in our industry is doing and chase goals that won't actually get us where we want to go.
- We take on too much at once and as a result, all of it gets started and none of it gets accomplished.
- We change our strategy the moment we get bored, scared, or distracted.
- We don't ask for outside help when we desperately need objective advice.
- We give up too easily when we get stuck.
All of these are solvable, and it's often easier than we expect. It begins with clarifying why you're in the game, creating ambitious yet achievable goals, and identifying a Game Plan to get from here to there. Focus on solving problems fast so you can move forward.