You wouldn’t pack up your family and drive someplace you’ve never been before without a GPS. Starting off without a plan makes no sense, right? So why wouldn’t you use that same logic when considering your business’s marketing strategy?
Marketo, a digital marketing software company, found that over 77 percent of marketers who were extremely satisfied with their marketing teams had documented marketing plans. This makes sense — a thorough, well-researched plans gets everyone on the same page, making the map to success much easier.
No matter your company’s size, you’re going to need to create, at minimum, an annual marketing plan. Whether you’re a small, medium or large business, you’re going to have the same goals: to promote and sell your product or service, and to do so as efficiently as possible.
Still a little unsure why you should commit to a long-term marketing plan? Don’t worry, your favorite Buffalo marketing agency will walk you through it.
Short-term marketing uses flashy advertising techniques and a ton of hype to communicate a variety of different messages, each for a short amount of time. Think those stores that have “One time only: Biggest sale of the year!” promotions every other week.
Does it work? Sure, it can get your information out there. But the problem with this type of marketing is that it goes from zero to 60 every time, meaning you always have to start from scratch. It’s also purely transactional. Your product or service is based solely on sales, giving it the reputation of only having value when it’s discounted. A long-term plan, on the other hand, is all about big-picture thinking.
“A long-term marketing plan should be at least a one year, but ideally a three- to five-year vision for your business,” Quinlan’s Account Director Jessica Chapman says. “It should include the company’s objective, marketing objective, strategy based on your goals and your audiences and an even further burst into specific tactics and your execution approach.”
Don’t get us wrong here, short-term marketing isn’t bad. It’s actually a great way to create a more accurate, detailed plan of action, since you’re planning for the near future. While the two strategies may be different, they don’t have to compete with each other. In fact, an experienced marketer will expect to deal with both in order to be proactive and reactive.
If long-term marketing plans are so important, why doesn’t everyone have one?
We’re glad you asked. Jumping into the unknown can be scary, especially when you may not always be rewarded for thinking differently. To get everything right out on the table, we’ve identified four key questions keeping decision makers from developing long-term marketing plans:
- But don’t we already have one? A long-term plan is more than just a list of tactics or a media plan. It’s also not enough to have a business plan, but keep it from your marketing team.
- What if we fail? Many business owners are afraid to define hard, measurable goals because they are afraid they won’t hit them. They also may fear they’ll waste money.
- If it’s not broke, why fix it? Yes, maybe your short-term strategies are bringing in transactions, but how will you ever know your company’s full potential if you don’t step back and re-evaluate?
- What if short-term is all we know? Pure habit can be all that’s holding some leaders back, since many just do what they’ve always done. They also probably lack the confidence they need to take a leap of faith and commit to change.
Sound familiar? Whether you’re the key decision maker in your company and or you’re having trouble influencing your boss to mix things up, we’re pretty confident we’ll open your eyes with these five insanely-important reasons you should create a long-term marketing plan.
5 reasons your business needs a long-term marketing plan
1. Your business won’t survive without one.
There’s no point in beating around the bush, so we’re just going to tell it to you straight: your business isn’t going to be sustainable in the long-run if you don’t adapt a long-term planning model. Why? Because short-term marketing alone doesn’t work as well as it used to. Consumers are more educated now than ever, since they’re bombarded with massive amounts of information everywhere they go.
“Businesses used to be able to advertise sales claiming they had the best product and the lowest price, and the customer could choose to believe it or not,” Quinlan Executive Vice President Dan Bartlo says. “Now, all they have to do is pull out their phone to see competitors’ options. Long-term planning is marketing’s evolution, and just like evolution wasn’t kind to those who didn’t adapt, the only brands that will do well are the ones that evolve.”
In order to stand out, companies are now realizing they have to think big picture — and that starts with creating an authentic, well-researched, long-term vision.
2. You’ll get everyone on the same page.
What’s the purpose of your business? Why do you exist? If you can’t explain your company’s unique advantage to consumers, then it’s time to re-evaluate its purpose. Simon Sinek broke it down into one simple concept: people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
When you take the time to create a long-term marketing plan, you’ll have the opportunity to take a look at your industry as a whole, your competitors, your audience and even your own employees to really understand where you fit in. From there, you’ll be able to create your goals.
“A long-term business plan is crucial to keeping everyone on the same page,” Quinlan Account Manager Katie Mohr says. “You need to include as many people as possible right upfront, so you can incorporate all key stakeholders’ point of views. This way, your plan can be used as a tool to redirect people if they stray away from the agreed upon messages.”
Your goals will vary depending on your industry, but regardless of your business, it’s always better to overshare information than to under share.
“Your goals should include clear definition of your business and marketing objectives,” Chapman adds. “Not only do they need to be measurable, but everyone must understand how they are measured and have the resources, tools and information available to them to appropriately measure them. You’ll only be able to do this if you collaborate and share info with everyone involved, otherwise you won’t be able to analyze growth and track results.”
3. You’ll have a deeper connection with your audience.
What do you base your business decisions on: your business’s needs or your customers’ needs? On first thought, you’ll probably say you make every decision with your customer in mind. Customer is king, right?
Now take a minute to really think about your planning process. Not that we’re pointing any fingers, but chances are you may make a few (or most) of your decisions without actually taking the time to thoroughly do your research.
Before creating a long-term vision, you’ll have to take the time to identify your audience’s wants and needs. A long-term marketing plan will allow you to examine your target audience, establishing the most efficient ways to reach them.
One way we help businesses do this is by creating brand personas. With brand personas, you’ll look at your customers as more than just a demographic: identifying information on their personal traits, their lifestyles and what motivates them. From here, you’ll be able to market your product/service in a way that resonates with them.
Thinking of your customers as long-term relationships, and not just short-term sales, will help you realize that they really are the bloodline of your company. This will give you insight on the best ways to reach them, ultimately gaining their trust.
4. Your messages will be more strategic.
How do you want people to see your business? Branding is all about telling a consistent story and fueling top-of-mind awareness. While all businesses have some sort of brand, few take the time to make sure it’s accurately represented through its marketing and advertising.
Part of creating a long-term marketing plan will be developing a strategic, long-term content strategy. By laying it out ahead of time, you’ll be able to spend more time developing consistent key messages that align with your brand. These messages will shine through all of your marketing materials, campaigns, communications and tactics.
“Believe in your company,” Bartlo says. “If you have a great product and work with wonderful people, you’ll be enabled to finally let your true vision shine though. It can be very freeing to speak from the heart.”
5. Your business will be efficient.
This one may be obvious, but it needs to be said: creating a long-term strategy allows you to plan ahead. Planning ahead isn’t just for control freaks. It lets you budget your money, resources and time efficiently to achieve your goals, minimizing unnecessary waste.
“As part of your marketing plan, you’ll be able to create an execution calendar for the year,” Chapman says. “You’ll be able to plot your tactics, distribute your resources and even out your creative time. It allows all teams to be on the same page and stay focused.”
By taking this kind of proactive approach, you’ll prevent panic decisions, have less surprises (which means less stress!) and be all-around more effective at problem solving.
“If you only rely on short-term marketing plans, you can run into missed opportunities,” Mohr says. “For one, if you blow through your budget in the first three quarters, you’re stuck with nothing for your fourth quarter. You’ll also waste money concepting ideas and negotiating rates if you aren’t sure exactly what you want from the start.”
The key to creating any successful marketing plan is to be flexible. No matter how far in advance you begin your planning, things may come up short term, and you’ll have to adapt. Chapman recommends setting aside 5 to 10 percent of your budget for fun, unexpected ideas, so you aren’t discouraged to take creative chances here and there.
“The key to succeeding in your long-term planning is to be patient,” Bartlo says, “and not to be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.”
Want to learn more? This Buffalo marketing agency is here to help.
Long-term marketing plans are important. We get that. Our team of account service and creative experts can help you define your business’s goals and create a strong plan that works towards achieving each one.
Are you finally ready to secure your brand’s future with a long-term marketing plan? Let’s chat. Contact us and our experts will be sure to get back to you, or you can also tweet us @QuinlanCompany.