Jan. 21 2019 10:00 AM

Stop saying you don’t have time to plan. Get started, then keep going. Build a simple road map. You’ll have less stress and enjoy better results in the year ahead.

Looking for a way to create a workable plan in a couple of hours? Grab a few sheets of paper, and make some lists.

When I say, “Make a marketing plan,” many clients envision sitting through an elaborate series of meetings that results in a binder full of text, graphs and lists. In other words, lots of work that results in a dusty book that nobody reads or refers to again.

I agree with what you’re thinking. You’re right — you don’t have the time to make that big a commitment to planning.

However, you really do need a roadmap to guide the creation of a wise and impactful marketing program. Otherwise, you can fall into the trap of “random acts of marketing”: intermittent and unplanned efforts that react solely to business slowdowns or the whims of leadership.

Not only are random acts of marketing ineffective, but they also keep you from accomplishing what’s really important. Organizations without solid marketing plans inevitably drift, allowing competitors to gain market share. They feel perpetually lost and behind. Avoid doing business with your eyes closed.

Prior to the 2018 Irrigation Show, I spoke at a conference of many of the top marketing leaders in the industry. One of them said that his biggest challenge in 2019 will be finding the time to plan the strategies that will make all his different marketing tactics more effective. The group agreed that there never seems to be enough time for planning.

Looking for a way to create a workable plan in a couple of hours? Grab a few sheets of paper and make some lists.

Set two to three key goals. Identify what your marketing needs to accomplish. Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timely). Consider creating goals around the “Five Ss”: selling (customer acquisition and growth); service (customer experience); sizzle (wow factor/ standing out from competition); speak (communicating and engaging with customers); and save (efficiency gains).

Identify your target customer(s). Get focused on your audience. What are the major groups of customers served by your business? How do their needs differ? How well are you meeting those needs?

Develop two to three powerful marketing messages. Ask: how does your company win and keep business, time after time? Why do customers choose you over someone else? What can you do that nobody else can? Translate these competitive advantages into succinct messages. If you’re an established brand, find new and distinct ways of telling your story to reinforce key points. Company leaders can be too close to their organizations to see their strengths and weaknesses clearly. Get feedback from customers to hone your messages until they’re razor-sharp.

Select high-producing marketing methods. Deliver your message to customers through the marketing media that reaches them best. What methods deliver the greatest exposure to your desired audience? What media gets the best response? If you’re time- and budget-limited, do not waste funds on any but the most proven methods. Avoid the flashy and trendy and stick with what’s proven and consistent. Tip: allocate more dollars to traditional print and direct-mail advertising. For many reasons, engagement with social media and other e-communications continues to decline.

Build a marketing calendar. Map out 12 months of activities around each of your campaigns and tactics. I hear you saying, “But I don’t know specifically what I’ll want to do in July.” Better to have a rough calendar that you can edit as you go than having none to start with. It’ll help you understand the resources you’ll need on a sustained basis and encourage you to spread marketing activities throughout the year.

Stop saying you don’t have time to plan. Get started, then keep going. Build a simple road map. You’ll have less stress and enjoy better results in the year ahead.

Jeff Carowitz advises landscape industry firms on marketing and business strategy. He can be reached at jeff@strategicforcemarketing.com.