Do You Really Need a Marketing Plan?

Several years ago I consulted with a start-up online company. The founder “Jack” had a grand vision to grow the company into a multi-national powerhouse. He even walked around singing “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars. (Yep, that was annoying!)

Jack had plenty of vision and desire. He had even assembled an impressive group of experts and consultants to help launch the business.

But there was one problem… no matter how many “planning meetings” happened, no workable plan to launch and market the business was ever developed.

Jack was stuck in the vision. He believed that simply putting the website online would be enough.  “Just put it out there and it will go viral,” was one of his favorite sayings.

Every attempt by the group to develop detailed plans for the business was met with resistance and vague dreams of what the business could be. Fed up with running around in circles, Jack’s advisors (including me) abandoned the project.

Eventually the website did go live. But definitely not viral. With no marketing, it never attracted any users and quietly shut down just a few months later.

Could it have been a viable business? Perhaps, but without a marketing plan, it never had a chance.

While your agency may not be a start-up, it’s still smart to have a marketing plan. If you want to grow, it’s essential.

There’s never been a point in time where independent agents faced more competition. In addition to all of the traditional competitors, there’s a whole new set of tech companies determined to steal your customers.

This isn’t the time to be complacent.

But charging into the market without a plan won’t work either.

You’d never set sail for Bermuda without charting your course and making sure you had the right navigation tools. It’s too dangerous a journey to just get in a boat and “head east.”

While it may not feel as dangerous to operate your agency without a marketing plan, you’re just as likely to miss your destination.

So what should your marketing plan include? How do you know when you have a plan that will be a useful tool and not just an oversized coaster on your desk?

Here are five keys of an effective marketing plan:

Key #1: It’s specific.

It’s impossible to draw a map to “somewhere.” You need a specific destination. It’s the same with your marketing plan — you need a specific goal. There’s a big difference between “we’re going to grow 20%” and “we’re going to write $3.4 million in premium in the commercial marine market.”

Your plan should clearly identify who you will sell to, what you will sell, how you will find and convert clients, and how much you will spend to make it happen.

Which leads me to the next key…

Key #2: It’s detailed.

A good plan is detailed enough to eliminate confusion and decision paralysis. When you read it, you are able to know exactly what needs to be done next. No guessing, no brainstorming meeting. Just action.

Every client you have has gone through a process to buy from you:  awareness, to interest to evaluation to buyer. Your plan should include every step your future buyers will take in the process.

I recently saw an agency that had an ad driving people to their website, hoping they’d instinctively know to find the phone number and call them. When they looked at it from the prospect’s viewpoint, they realized where the process was flawed.

Key #3: It’s simple.

I don’t know about you, but when I see a long complicated process I don’t get inspired to jump in and start on the project.

Your marketing plan won’t do you any good if you never implement it. So keep it simple and easy to follow. You don’t need 47 types of social media, 93-step sales funnels, or marketing that takes hours a day to do.

Start simple. You’re far better doing less marketing consistently than having a monster plan that you never look at again.

Key #4: It’s flexible.

Have you ever had a marketing rep come in your office and tell you their appetite for a product has changed? Of course you have.

If there’s one thing that’s constant across all agencies, it’s that no matter how good our plan is something will change during the year.

A plan that isn’t flexible won’t be helpful when changes happen. And it’s unlikely you’ll stop and develop a new plan. Instead, it’s your marketing will probably just fade away… along with your results.

Key #5: It’s measurable.

There’s a famous quote by John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

If you can’t measure the results of your marketing and advertising, it’s impossible to know if it’s effective. Your marketing should be an investment… not an expense.

And ultimately, the only thing that matter is sales. Not likes, open rates, or click rates. Sales.

Yes, it takes some effort to develop your marketing plan but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Good marketing calls out to your best future customers. It turns cold leads into warm prospects who are ready and willing to do business with you, saving producers hours of wasted time.

And best of all, good marketing turns an expense into a profitable return on investment.

Less effort and more profit. Who doesn’t want that?

 

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