To Plan or Not to Plan? That IS the Question!
The hardest thing a business owner will ever do is create a plan for their business. There are a lot of reasons why people fear the planning process but it’s a critical component many successful business owners share. Why? Because, they understand the age-old truism that “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” – Winston Churchill.
The challenge with planning is that it takes time to do it properly and to most business owners, it’s another “in the business” chore so it produces no immediate income. The fact that it has more long term benefits than any other business tool often goes unappreciated in the throws of getting everything in one’s business organized.
Planning is hard because it needs careful reflection, requires goal setting and estimating. It makes the business owner share what’s behind their curtain. Many people feel exposed at the thought of putting their mission statement, goals, strategies and tactics on paper. There it is, in black and white, for all of the world to see! Now, success and failure can be measured.
But, the benefit of having a plan is that NOW your business has a clear course of action. You will know when to say NO, you will know when to change course. Most important, you will know your low hanging fruit. Your plan is your blueprint to success. Would you ever want to live in a house that wasn’t built according to a plan? I certainly wouldn’t want to make this house my home!
There are three different plans every business should have. If created in the right order and with the right amount of consideration the plans will fall together. Can a business do one without the other and realize success? Maybe, but if the effort is going to be extended plan to put forth all three plans for maximum success.
- Business Plan – A document every business needs, especially if financing and/or investors are involved and a valuation is required. A business plan provides a general blueprint of the organization and covers all aspects of running your unique business. It might be shared with key staff, one’s accountant and lawyer, if employed. At the very least, it’s an accountability document. At most, it provides the flow of everything related to getting a product to market, including tracking the finances both incoming and outgoing. Business plans are usually created within the scope of three time frames, (1) immediate, (2) six months to one year, and (3) three to 10 years out. A business plan should be modified every six to 12 months.
- Strategic Plan – A plan that provides clear and concise strategic direction for a business. It will outline all of the things that make a business unique including a mission statement, strategy statement, customer profile, key benefits. A strategic plan answers the questions…
- “Why this business different from any other?”
- “What does the market need that I can provide?”
- “Who is my perfect customer?”
- “Where does a customer go now to get what they need?”
- “When is the best time to reach my perfect customer?”
- “How is the best way to reach my perfect customer?”
A strategic plan should be modified as answers to the above questions change and readdressed.
- Marketing Plan – Plan of action that includes a marketing message executed by consistent and cohesive strategic and tactical deployment via all kinds of marketing activity including: signage, merchandising, advertising, promotion, product positioning and direct marketing. Product, placement, price and positioning are the focus. Programs are outlined and prioritized based upon market research, market/SWOT analysis, strategic messaging, competitive market analysis, customer needs, budget, timing, and media utilized. A marketing plan also addresses various promotional opportunities and other results-driven marketing activity. Publicity recommendations are included in marketing plans as well as broad stroke sales activities and forecasts. A marketing plan includes a tactical plan with all activity outlined supported by rationale and expected results. The key to a good marketing plan is that it is measurable.
A marketing plan should be updated if the business is exposed to any new conditions, product launches (by the business or competition), messaging and any other competitive factors which affect and threaten the current market balance.
Whether you have an existing business or a start up creating these three plans will prioritize your time, your resources and your money. A plan will get you where you want to go, even if you decide to change course mid-stream. These different plans will keep your business on track and focused on your long term goals so your business is effective, strategic and enviable.
Abigail Tiefenthaler is a co-founder of Partners with Solutions. She is a marketing expert that focuses on branding and customer development through strategic positioning and marketing planning. She can be reached at 954-804-9413, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, visit the Partners with Solutions website at www.pwsconcepts.com.