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If you’re ranking the importance of documents you need to successfully start and grow a business, your marketing plan is up near the top of the list. And yet, newbie entrepreneurs often stumble in their efforts to strategize on their marketing.
Here are some of the mistakes I’ve seen people make with regards to their marketing plan.
Mistake 1: Not having a plan
It’s mind-boggling how many business owners launch a business without a marketing plan. I don’t know if it’s lack of experience and not knowing that they need one, or if they’re just over-confident that they can grow their business without one.
Without a marketing plan, however, you can’t set goals and track results. Even if you’re using social media, content marketing, advertising, email, etc., these are just actions without any real purpose. Having a plan helps you determine what you’re trying to accomplish, and guides you to actually achieving your goals.
Mistake 2: Not being specific enough
Setting goals isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, you want more sales, that’s a given. But how many more sales? What dollar amount are you looking for? How many new customers a quarter do you want?
Having general goals is like shooting yourself in the foot. You can’t really measure results over time if you don’t use hard data. So use dollar amounts, number of customers, percent growth in sales. Then benchmark where you are now if you’re already in business so you can track results over time.
Mistake 3: Not marketing today for tomorrow
This was an issue especially during the last recession: people weren’t focused on marketing because business had been good. Then all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Be that proverbial squirrel gathering nuts for winter; even if you don’t need them now, you will one day, and continual marketing will ensure that you have business even when times are tough.
Related: The Dummy-Proof Guide to Marketing
Mistake 4: Creating an inflexible marketing plan
You created your marketing plan, and now it’s set in stone, right? Wrong. Your plan should be a living, breathing entity, and one that will need to be modified to roll with changes. And in marketing, believe me, there are changes. Just look at how social media has changed, with new technologies and platforms forcing businesses to adapt on the turn of a dime.
What worked yesterday in your marketing may not work tomorrow, so it’s imperative that you be open to tweaking your plan to accommodate current market situations and new technologies. Also, as your competitors change their strategies, you’ll need to keep up — or better yet, stay ahead — by being flexible with your own tactics.
Mistake 5: Never looking at the plan
If you’ve written a marketing plan before, ask yourself: how often do you actually refer to it? Most entrepreneurs stuff that document in a file cabinet or in a computer folder, never to see it again. But what’s the point if you’re not actually going to use it?
My suggestion is to put a reminder on your calendar once a quarter to review that plan. Your aim here is to ensure that you’re still aligned with achieving your marketing goals, and to modify it to stay on path if necessary.
Mistake 6: Putting all your eggs in one basket
Maybe you’ve seen great success with content marketing, and so that’s pretty much all you’re doing to market your business. The fact that marketing and technology are ever-evolving means that one single strategy will not, over time, net the same results.
Just look at people who used MySpace to market their businesses. Clearly they’re not using that channel now. You’re better off diversifying your marketing efforts to ensure that you aren’t overly focused on one tactic that may, in the long term, net diminishing returns. Consider your marketing strategy like an investment portfolio. You want a healthy mix of stocks, bonds and other investments so that you see a steady increase in profitability. That means branching out and trying new marketing tactics and culling those that are no longer as effective for your brand.
Mistake 7: Not knowing your audience
Your customer should be at the core of all your marketing efforts. That means that you need to be using the channels that they prefer. So even if you’re resistant to, say, Snapchat, if your audience spends time there, you can’t let your own preferences get in the way of reaching them through the media they frequent.
If you’re not sure who your audience is or where they spend time, it’s essential that you invest in finding out. You can pay a market research firm to do the work, or do it yourself through surveys and digging into data and analytics.
The key to avoiding these marketing plan mistakes is to realize how important this document is for your business’ success, and ensure that it’s a part of your operations and growth strategy.