To fail to plan is to plan to fail.
A cliché maybe, but definitely true! I gave a seminar to an audience of SME business owners. Taking a bit of a flyer, I asked for a show of hands. “Do you have a live marketing plan that you actively use?” Not a single hand was raised! Anyone who reads our Marketing Matters newsletter, or this blog, regularly will know how we stress the importance and value on a joined-up marketing plan. The lack of hands would suggest that nobody sees the importance of a planned approach to marketing, but more detailed discussion always tends to suggest the opposite. People see the value, but just never seem to get round to creating one, or if they do, it ends up on the shelf being ignored. In my view, having a plan is only half the battle. Equally important is having a structured process for implementing, monitoring and reviewing this plan as part of your ongoing business activity. To really make your plan work for your business, you need to have a structured process to integrate your planned approach into your day to day work. The idea of allowing time to work on your business rather than spending all your time working in your business is well established and certainly the planning process calls for ON time rather than IN time. However, integrating your plans into the business is more about IN time so does that mean you have finished the job of working ON the business? Emphatically NO!
It is virtually impossible to keep a business on-track without on-going review.
If a business simply runs day to day, it will drift. It is virtually impossible to keep a business on-track without on-going review. This means time working on the business should be a continuous element of business management. Here is the review approach we have developed at BSA which we find works well for us. Hopefully it may give you some ideas:
As part of your business planning process, when you are setting financial goals, the marketing plan should have a detailed review, linking it to these goals. If you are going to grow revenue by 20%, what is the Marketing strategy, and the activities that are going to drive this growth, and what are the short term metrics you are going to use to indicate if these are going in the right direction.
Take time out of daily business activities – ideally away from the office – for a more detailed review of the plan. When making plans, you make assumptions, which are tested as your plan is implemented. Are your assumptions correct or do they need adjusting? Are the activities you are undertaking delivering the results you had anticipated? If not, do the results you have seen help point to how things can/should be changed?
Look at management accounts. How do the actual outcomes compare comparison with the targets? Is the year going as planned? Are the planned marketing activities actually happening? If not, why not and what are you going to do about it to get the implementation back on track?
A more task-based review of marketing activities. How are activities progressing, and what are the planned activities for the next week? Every action that is agreed during this meeting should have a name against it to show who is responsible for making it happen!
Normalise review processes into your day to day business
Sounds really easy, doesn’t it, but in the real world of running a small business, it is much harder to sustain. Things get in the way, the phone rings, meetings get postponed and before you know it, 6 months have passed and the marketing plan is still on the shelf. there is no getting away from the fact that management review does require discipline but normalising review processes into your day to day business can be a great step in making those processes realistically sustainable.
“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”