Up a sales and marketing creek? Make sure you take a paddle…

When you go canoeing, you take a paddle. And so it is, that when you’re off out to get new clients in, you should make a plan.

Without a sales and marketing plan in place, you’re going to be unable to answer a few basic questions that everyone – from your boss and your prospects to investors and colleagues – will need you to know along the way.

7 questions to assess your sales and marketing plan

If you and your colleagues can answer the questions below with clarity and confidence, you’ve probably also got a robust and well-thought out plan in place.

If you struggle to answer at least half of these, you’ve either not had to give marketing a lot of thought to date, or you’re not well-positioned enough to give your marketing activities a reasonable chance of success.

  1. Which potential clients will you contact first, and why?
  2. What precise value can you bring them, and how?
  3. Which of your services or products will you lead with, and why?
  4. Can you clearly demonstrate how you’ve provided a return on investment with similar work for similar businesses?
  5. How will you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
  6. How – precisely – will you keep in touch with the prospects you meet?
  7. Why – exactly – are you the best option for your client?

Common problem in sales and marketing planning

To begin with, it can feel pretty easy to get a plan down on paper. In draft form, it sometimes looks a bit like this:

Acme PLC: Sales and marketing / new business plan June 2015

Feel at all familiar? Now, if you turn this into an Excel spreadsheet and give it timescales and budgets, then you start to think it looks like a real plan. But stop a moment and think.

A sales and marketing plan or a list? Be honest….

Is it actually a plan – a carefully thought out road-map that will get you where you want to be – or is it simply a list of tactical marketing activities which you could choose to undertake? And potentially find yourself in exactly the same place as when you started, but £50,000 (or £5,000, depending on budgets) worse off?

If you aren’t well-positioned, this is what a new business (or sales, or marketing) plan can end up looking like. A generic list. But why is that? Because you can’t identify easily and immediately who and where your clients are – and how you are going to get in front of them.

Yes, OK, I’ve exaggerated for effect with the simplicity; but too many times I’ve seen these lists masquerading as sales and marketing plans. And what happens next is that a business, or the person responsible for actioning things, becomes swamped with the amount of work this list involves, and ends up spreading themselves and their budget so thin that no single tactic becomes effective.

So, how do you create an effective sales and marketing plan?

First, look back at the questions I asked at the start and see how, as you begin answering these, you can work out whether or not you’re positioned narrowly enough to start marketing yourself effectively.

When you’re properly positioned, your planning and thinking might go a bit more like this:

“I know exactly who I’m going to target next. I can immediately cross 3 or 4 activities off that list – because my prospects aren’t active on Facebook and Twitter, nor is it cost effective for me to consider direct marketing. Events are high on my radar, ‘cos I already know my audience likes to gather and talk shop in small groups – there’s only 2 main events in the UK each year. So if I can get into these – through existing customers, networking or even sponsorship if need be – I’m quite confident I’ll be getting the message across to the right people.

“I’m not sure how effective telemarketing will be – but I’m willing to give it a shot with a pilot, and measure it – so that stays in the plan too.  I’m going to leave the website how it is for now (just about good enough, but not ideal) and use the money instead for some very targeted PR into certain trade press – that could be worth its weight in gold to raise awareness, especially if we co-ordinate it with the telemarketing.

“Hmm… my customers aren’t a slideshare savvy audience (not the ones I’ve met so far, anyway), so there’s unlikely to be a return there. But in order to reduce our Google AdWords spend (gone through the roof since they changed their algorithms…. again), we’re going to start writing regular, specialist content to move our site up Google’s natural search results. I’ve got the short and long-tailed keywords identified, and I can easily outsource the writing in order to make sure we don’t drift on that – very hard to keep writing going when things get busy internally. And we can work the writing to complement the PR, events and telemarketing nicely.

“We’re definitely investing in a proper CRM (customer relationship management) system so we can track all contact with prospects from first meeting through to sale – that will help us keep in touch and, over time, give us the analytics we need to see what’s working, and what’s not.

A sales and marketing plan should never be just a list of activities

Hopefully this has helped to demonstrate the difference – from a thinking and planning point of view – between writing a tactical sales and marketing plan for an organisation that is well-positioned, and for one that isn’t.

If you need help getting your positioning right, or getting an effective new business plan in place – give me a call on 07827 297569 or email me on kim.mason@allthingsnewbiz.co.uk. I’m always happy to have an informal chat in the first instance.

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