Your organization undoubtedly has a mission, but does it have a map?
For several years, my friends and I set off each summer on what we called the Chaos Mission Trip. It was completely unplanned (hence "chaos"). We went through several weeks of training leading up to our departure date, but they were focused on personal growth and team development. Meaning, we were prepping for whatever might happen along the way. The trip itself thrived on spontaneity. Every trip was completely different because it changed depending on what direction we went in, who was on the team, those we met on the road, and what opportunities were presented to us. The goal was just to serve those we came in contact with in a way that benefited them.
In contrast, last year I visited Barcelona for the first time. This was a bucket list trip for me! And, as such, I wanted to make the most of it. It also marked my first solo international trip. I'm a planner by nature, and also an introvert. So, I scheduled myself fully each day to make sure I knocked out all the city's highlights. I booked all kinds of tours, and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone to make friends when possible. Every day was packed, and when I left, I felt like I'd accomplished almost everything I wanted to. I wasn't sure if or when I'd return to this amazing city, so I wanted the full experience.
Both trips served a purpose, but I wouldn't recommend building your business using the chaos formula.
Sadly, that's what I see too often in organizations. Sure, it may not be quite this "chaotic," but there seems to be little strategy behind lots (and lots) of effort.
- Social media posts go up haphazardly.
- Emails are sporadic, at best.
- To Do lists are determined by urgency.
- Initiatives are based on what's been done before, or what seems best right now.
- Goals are recycled or undefined.
- Staffers are overworked, and always in reaction mode.
None of this sounds fun, but it may sound familiar.
However, there is one item that may help ease some of these pains. It's not a magic pill, or a miracle cure.
But it is a way to give your purpose more purpose, you mission more muscle, and your cause more concentration.
It's called a marketing plan.
What exactly is a marketing plan?
A marketing plan is likely a term you've heard before, but may not fully understand. The beauty of this document is that it provides both a 30,000 foot view and an on-the-ground perspective. It gives shape and structure to all your efforts. It tells you which direction you should go in, and helps keep you on the path for getting there.
Basic pieces of a marketing plan:
- Objectives and goals
- Customer or donor research
- Market research
- Unique selling proposition
- Pricing and positioning strategy
- Distribution plan
- Marketing materials and collateral
- Promotions strategy
- Conversion strategy
- Partnerships and joint ventures
- Referral strategy
- Retention strategy
- Financial projections
- Key dates (Not on a lot of plans, but I personally like to include.)
So, in looking at this list, you may automatically see why you've never created a marketing plan before. I get it. Some of the terms can be confusing. And you may assume this will take a lot of time and effort—and, frankly, you'd be right. But remember that first bullet list above? The one with little strategy behind it? Marketing plans are the workaround. Wouldn't it be better to focus your efforts rather than running around exhausted, overworked, and on the path that leads to burnout?
Think about it in your own life. Meal planning can save you money on groceries because you're less likely to eat out or waste food. And running errands in a particular order often saves you travel time. Time and money often top our priority list at home, as well as at work. So, preparation and planning can go a long way to ease some of your daily concerns. They have a beautiful trickle down effect.
In essence, marketing plans are the lens you can use to focus all your organization's efforts. When a new event or initiative pops up, as they tend to do, see where it fits into your marketing plan. Can you squeeze it in? Does it require some editing, or a complete overhaul? Should it be added to the radar, or become a priority? Use these filters to determine it's place in your organization. Depending on your answers, you may want to add it, put it on hold, or scrap it entirely. Without a marketing plan, you may not be able to see the big picture objectively, and how it may alter all other aspects.
Hopefully, by now I've convinced you of the need for a marketing plan.
You may even be asking yourself how you can create one of your very own. (Stay tuned!)
And depending on your job function, you may also be wondering if a marketing plan is best for your business as a whole, an annual event, or an big initiative? The answer is yes.
How do you create a marketing plan?
First, start with one of those targets: the company as a whole, an annual event, or a large initiative. Just choose one to begin until you've practiced and refined your process. If you decide to create a marketing plan for your business as a whole, it will touch on events and initiatives, but you can go into greater detail when you write one for all of the large "buckets" at your business.
And to make things easier for you, I've created a marketing plan template for you:
Again, this document will be important for several reasons:
- When your team goes through it together each year, you'll be able to get, and stay, on the same page. Goals, objectives, strategy—everything is laid out right there for you all to see.
- It'll help you plan and execute more efficiently.
- It'll help you easily answer questions for employees, partners, contractors, and new hires.
- It can be helpful to show your board if you need to request a larger budget next year.
- It's great for accountability, either for yourself, your team, or your entire staff.
I've included directions in each section of the template so you know exactly how to fill it in. I'd say to set aside a few hours minimum to work on this document. Your team can build it together, or you can kick things off and then bring others in after the first draft. And because this is likely new to you, be sure to work on it in a distraction-free space. You'll need to concentrate. It should be really well-defined and detailed so that it's easier to edit or update moving forward.
Remember, it's yours, so add as much detail as you like to be helpful. You'll see how nice it is to keep all of this information in one place! You may also choose to include more detailed explanations, budgets, note responsible parties for each section, add specific deadlines, and things like that. You can also, of course, delete anything you that's not relevant to you, but I'd recommend that sparingly because both nonprofits and for-profits can benefit from this information.
One and done?
Marketing plans are living documents, and should be reviewed at least annually, unless something major occurs. They can be edited and updated as needed, which will likely be minimal changes. The heavy-lifting occurs during the first draft, which should also come as a relief.
And marking plans are fantastic for being able to see information, trends, and outlines at a glance. That's what makes it more of a reference document than a one-time task. This is long-term thinking in action! Be sure to highlight and note any important changes from one revision to the next, such as a major shift in target audience, pricing, or financial goals.
After you've logged the time creating this mammoth, you should be able to see how a marketing plan will direct your organization's efforts. It should give you both short-term and long-term perspective.
Now, your mission has a map. The path has been laid out, and all you have to do is walk it. It's not always easy, but a marketing plan goes a long way to making it more simple.
Next week, we'll talk about what this looks like in action on a daily basis. I'll show you how I used five different marketing plans at my previous job to detail my To Do list.
And if you are interested in a marketing plan, but just can't find the time to create one on your own, this is a service I provide. I'd be happy to work alongside you in creating your map. Alternatively, learn the five things to stop doing this week, which will give you more time and energy to work on your marketing and communications.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.