If you did not have a marketing plan for 2019, take a good hard look at the year’s results. Chances are pretty good that you did not achieve the business goals you had hoped you would. Why? Because a marketing plan helps set you on course and propels you through the year to make your business goals a reality.  

A lot of dealers and integrators have told me they don’t have time to create a marketing plan. But a plan creates structure and built-in efficiencies that benefit your business. It forces you to ask foundational questions such as what are you trying to accomplish, and why? For example, if you know that you are increasing your ads and visibility online in March, you know you better be ready for an increase in calls by that time. 

Every business needs to invest in some type of marketing to be successful. A plan ensures that the money you’ve allocated for that purpose is wisely spent. Without a plan, the total of your budget can end up being invested in a banner that hangs at the back of a little league field. 

A marketing plan also helps to ensure you are consistently building your brand and telling your story. If you do not define your business, vales and mission, someone else will slip in and do that for you, and you cannot count on it being the story you would tell.

Developing a marketing plan revolves around three simple but powerful factors: knowing yourself, knowing the customer and knowing the competition. Lacking understanding in any one area will cause your marketing to be significantly less effective.

Begin by asking some questions. Who is your target market and where can you find that market? What do your customers value? What are their worries, concerns and pain points? How can you solve their problem? What services are most profitable? Who are your competitors and how do they meet customer needs?

Knowing yourself is probably the hardest of the three factors because it requires objectivity that is difficult to gain when you are so close to the business. Dig in and try to discover important things about your business and what makes it succeed or miss the mark in various aspects. You can gain insight from many places, such as employees, customers, reviews and the results you’ve seen. Ask yourself what has worked best in the past. When you have seen growth, and what were the contributing factors?

Identify your true ideal customer base by thinking of the customers narrowly, versus broadly, as they relate to your identified goals. For example, if your goal is to move toward managed services, think of commercial customers in your area that would benefit from the service. Then ask questions about the customer as it relates to you. Why do customers choose you over competitors? How can you and your services meet their needs better than anyone else? 

Then, develop a clear insight into the competition. Find out about their core services, efficiencies, price points and offerings. Look at their marketing and determine what makes it successful and attractive. Ask yourself how you can improve on what they do right. 

Once you have identified your goals, market, competition and marketing budget, you can then develop a workable plan to reach the right customers with the best offerings, using the best message to meet those goals. 

There are technology-driven marketing channels that many of today's business owners utilize such as social media, websites, email and internet ads. These methods are easily affordable, scalable, trackable and measurable for any size business. Once you choose which methods to use, develop actionable goals within them. If you want to increase your online presence to the commercial market using social media, for example, your goals might be to increase your social and blog posts and to invest in Facebook ads. In reaching out to the commercial market, you might want to increase your contact lists and offer case studies.