The majority of smaller and medium sized businesses do not have a marketing plan in place. That’s certainly not a criticism, but from my experience, is a fact. Often, smaller businesses are by definition small enough for everyone to know what each other is doing, and budgets may not be allocated in lump sums, but instead agreed on a per-project basis. So for a smaller business, it’s very possible that a plan wouldn’t even be read, even if it was written.
That being said, there are obviously some wider benefits to having a marketing plan in place. A plan forces you to consider all the options, including who you will target, with what messages, and what your range of marketing activities will be.
But actually, if you’re not the ‘marketing plan’ type, there is an alternative…
An alternative to a marketing plan: The Marketing Menu
For starters, you don’t need a detailed plan to consider all your marketing options. This is where a marketing menu can serve as an alternative. A marketing menu can be just two pages long: page 1 includes your summary of: a) who you will target, b) with what messages, and c) with what products or services. Page 2 is a table/grid that contains the following headers across the top with each marketing activity listed beneath:
- Activity: what you will deliver, e.g. ‘direct mail campaign’
- Theme/message: what message (taken from page 1) the activity will communicate.
- Overview: key high level information about the activity, e.g. who will be targeted.
- Timing: the ideal time that the activity should take place and why
- Costings: how much the activity will cost
- Target: what is the measure of the activity – e.g. revenue, or press coverage etc.
Example marketing menu layout:
This ‘menu’ approach creates a grid of marketing activity options that can be chosen from as you progress through the year.
How to use the marketing menu
The benefit of a marketing menu is that it’s short, but unlike a marketing plan, is not a formal document with a rigid list of activities that must be delivered at specific times. Instead, the marketing menu acts as a guide that you refer to either monthly or three-monthly and you choose from the menu the activities that are best delivered next. This means that you still have a coherent list of marketing activities to use, but you aren’t forced into making a decision now about what activity you might deliver in 10 months time.
As you would expect, you can also add new activities, messages and target audiences to your marketing menu as you progress through the year so it remains an evolving document that still ensures there is a structure to your marketing activity.