Finishing Your Marketing Plan by Bobette Kyle

Marketing plans can feel like a pain in the neck (not to mention other body parts). Reality is quite the opposite. Small business owners, and others without a boss to impose a due date, often find themselves “too busy” to complete a marketing plan or update the existing one. If this sounds like you, then you are leaving profits on the table and the best thing you can do for your business is finish a 2007 marketing plan. Here are five tips to help you follow through with planning:

Have an Approach To Planning

Before you begin, research different options and tools for writing your marketing plan. There are several correct ways to complete a plan. Options range from a simple one-day plan to software-developed plans to detailed company-dictated procedures resulting in a book-length document.

Once you have chosen your approach, stick to it. If you begin pulling procedures from several different methods, you may become overwhelmed and never finish. The critical part is completing the plan so you have a strategic document to act from.

Make Time To Finish a Formal Plan

If you do not set aside dedicated time for completing your marketing plan, it will always be pushed to the back burner and never completed. Schedule marketing plan development as you would a meeting. Block time out on your calendar and keep that appointment.

Build in Implementation Timelines and Evaluation Measures

Your marketing plan isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on (or the drive it’s stored on) without strong implementation. Following timelines leading up to and evaluating performance during execution can make for smoother implementation.

You can use specialized project management tools to automate timeline creation or do it manually in a spreadsheet or text document. If you are completing a timeline manually, start with the due date and work backwards. Note each major project milestone leading up to completion and the time needed for each component. This will give you intermediate deadlines, so you will know if you fall behind schedule. Leave room for comments and notations about who is responsible for each aspect of implementation.

Also, know how you will measure success, and set up ways to monitor project results. Problems are easiest to solve early on, before the entire budget has been spent and there is time to adjust for improvement.

Execute Year Round

The place for your marketing plan is “front and center,” not in a drawer next to the tax returns. Refer to it often throughout the year as you execute the marketing programs you’ve planned. This keeps you focused on programs in the plan.

Measure Opportunities Against Strategies

New marketing opportunities present themselves often. Without a visible plan, you may find yourself darting after opportunities instead of following a strategic plan. Whenever a new opportunity arises, refer to your marketing plan and ask yourself if it fits with one of your marketing strategies. If so, decide (1) which program in your plan it will replace and (2) if funds are best spent on the original or new project. By going through this exercise, you will be less inclined to make poor marketing decisions.

Take these tips to heart and you’ll find your business running more smoothly and profitably.