You may have had several goals for your business plan, including raising money so you could have a business at all. In today’s volatile and unpredictable economic environment, you don’t need a business plan, but a Battle Plan. Your very survival may be at stake, hence the term “survival marketing.”
Your Battle Plan needs to be a powerful, fluid document that presents practical strategic concepts and translates them into cost-effective and creative tactical programs. It is invaluable for summarizing, detailing and analyzing future opportunities and, most importantly, for developing the methods for capitalizing on those opportunities. A comprehensive Battle Plan, then, is a combination of research, analysis and planning. You should begin by gathering information and insight from the people who know your company and your markets best:
o Your executives
o Your sales team
o Your customers
o Industry experts including media reps, trade publication editors/writers, trade associations and analysts
During this investigative process you will also engage in the following:
o A thorough review of previous marketing strategies and materials
o An analysis and review of your top competitors to determine the unique position each occupies in your industry
o An analysis of current trends in your industry
This detailed analysis of your industry and your company will result in a set of strategic recommendations and their accompanying tactical opportunities that address your most critical business and marketing goals.
Key to this process will be discovering how best to position your firm so that you will own a unique “territory” within your industry. By identifying those unique qualities and capabilities that set you apart from your competition, you will, in effect, be creating your firm’s “brand” – the one thing about your company that your target audiences will always associate with you.
The final Battle Plan will be a new and unique outlook and execution for your marketing campaign that embodies what can be called “the four C’s”:
o Consistency: All sales and marketing activities must convey the same brand message, from brochures to press releases to tradeshow graphics to salesperson pitches. This is where the value of a clearly delineated brand position becomes clear as the strengths of your company will be evident in all your marketing and communications materials and activities and the concepts that will resonate with customers/clients will consistently project your unique position.
o Clarity: Marketing must focus on a product or company’s main differentiator and/or primary benefit. Trying to convey too much information, however positive or accurate, will overload the audience and detract from core messages.
o Continuity: Marketing success needs repetition and duration to be successful. Messages must be reinforced to break through the clutter of competing messages and to make a lasting impression. In short, running an ad once or sending a single postcard will rarely produce the desired result. Organizations need patience and a long-term budget to launch a valid marketing campaign.
o Creativity: The marketing message must be conveyed in a unique, appealing and relevant manner. This is the area that marketing and advertising agencies routinely emphasize. While critical, creativity does not stand alone in launching a successful marketing campaign. As you will note, it comes last among “the four C’s,” not because it is less important, but because the other essentials for successful marketing must be in place first.
First things first
To deliver in each of these areas, your Battle Plan – based on an assessment of primary competitors, market trends, your company’s past marketing actions/budgets, and your current position in the marketplace – should be organized into the following sections:
o Goals: This is an assessment of stated goals, correlated with factors and background information from the research findings. Goals are measurable (by time, dollars, units, etc.) to differentiate them from your mission statement, for instance.
o Audience: Your audience comprises the groups, market segments, targeted businesses and decision-makers most likely to fulfill your stated goals.
o Positioning: You need a clearly defined brand identity for your firm that will be consistently maintained in all your advertising, collateral materials, public relations efforts, speeches, sales pitches – even in the manner in which your employees answer your phones and talk to others about the company.
o Messages: These are the fundamental themes or statements delivered in subsequent marketing and outreach efforts.
o Tactical Recommendations: These are the marketing tactics and communication recommendations that will specifically address your stated goals and, at the same time, will continually reinforce your unique market position in order to firmly establish your brand among your key target prospects.
o Budget Projections: You will need a marketing budget projection of total dollars and percentages to be allotted to designated tactical marketing activities (e.g., advertising, Web, tradeshows, etc.).
There is a lot to it, and today more than ever you have to give your business your undivided attention. Not only must you work harder, you must work smarter, too. Although you do not need to carry the metaphor of “battle” so far that you start wearing camouflage outfits to the office, you should orient your efforts in a manner a bit more energetic and committed than you may have been previously. The fact is, you really do need a Battle Plan in today’s marketplace and depressed economy, but don’t go negative with the terminology. You would “battle” cancer or some other life-threatening illness, wouldn’t you? Well, then, it’s time to battle the sagging economy, so raise the flag, sound the trumpet and get a move on. Forward ho!