The International Monetary Fund has slashed its forecast for UK growth in the wake of the Brexit referendum outcome. So how should MDs and CEOs respond if they are to increase profitability and set out on a growth trajectory at this challenging time?
A business may have great products and services, market-disruptive ideas and bags of ambition and drive, but translating that into growth often proves elusive at even the most opportune times.
In essence, it’s all about finding new ways to boost sales, keeping existing customers loyal and improving market share. If you’ve succeeded in growing your business without a marketing plan in place up to now, you are not alone. But at various points in a company’s development - and that includes challenging times like these - formalising your marketing activities really can reap dividends. Done well, it can help to bring growth targets into sharper focus and set out the steps for achieving them.
Here are 7 winning attributes to include in your growth-fuelled marketing plan:
1 - Keep It Simple. Your marketing plan needn’t be an elaborate labour of love. So write it in clear and comprehensible language that all your stakeholders can follow, outlining what the business plans to do and why it’s doing it. A marketing plan should be as simple as possible, and only as complex as necessary.
2 - Write Clear Goals and Objectives. With your deep and detailed knowledge of the business, overlooking what to you may seem blindingly obvious is an easy mistake to make. But your marketing plan needs to list all the goals and objectives that the organisation hopes to achieve, and that includes the obvious ones.
3 - Define the Problem. There’s a lot to be said for a marketing plan that starts with a ‘problem statement’. This introduces a focus on the customer perspective from the outset. What problems are you trying to solve for your prospective customers? What are the customer needs that your marketing plan is addressing?
4 - Segment Your Market. A growth-friendly marketing plan should segment its target customers into meaningful groupings that are pertinent to the goals. It needs to detail as accurately as possible the groups that are to be targeted, and how they are identified - through demographic characteristics, geography and behaviour, for example. That will make it much easier to prioritise your propositions in the first instance, and give greater precision to planning, budgeting and tracking. It will also help to craft targeted messaging that will engage with different audiences in a compelling way.
5 - Size Up the Opportunity. Once you’ve defined the problem you’re trying to solve for customers, and you’ve segmented your market, you can start to gauge the size of the opportunity. Without that estimate, you’ll be unable to validate your revenue forecasts. You should come up with an overall financial figure, along with subtotals for any segments you identify in the marketing plan.
6 - Set Trackable Metrics. It’s important to anchor your marketing objectives to a structure that keep your organisation's marketing spend under control and in line with the goals you’ve set. Like any other initiative, marketing projects must be measured against their objectives over time. Those goals and measures can be used to drive those results and the costs associated with the tactics you employ. This means capturing sales, customer, revenue and cost data. Growth comes from investing in the areas that are proven to generate the best return.
7- Be Flexible - A marketing plan shouldn’t be written in stone. Instead it needs to provide flexibility for change. This is particularly important in unsettled market conditions or during a period of aggressive growth. But rather than make constant adjustments from the moment it’s approved, why not let it breathe a little, wait until the goals and objectives can be measured against real outcomes, and only then fine-tune it.
Once you’re ready to go, don’t assume that opportunities are going to fall into your lap. You’ll need to drive the success of your marketing plan, with effective sales and marketing execution that focuses on customers and prospects to deliver growth.
Find Out How Marketing Can Help You Grow in Challenging Conditions. Download: The Business Leader’s Library. Volume 3: Sales and Marketing