6 Essential Plans Every Small Business Needs

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“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”  (Warren Buffet) is one of my favourite quotes about planning.

It sets the expectation that a plan alone is not enough, you also need to take action (plant the tree) and have huge amounts of patience before you are likely to see the plan pay off.

Nevertheless, plans are an essential component of a successful business and there are 6 specific plans that if put in place early on will help you meet your business goals and objectives.

1. Business Plan

This sets out your 1 – 3 and 5 year objectives for the business and will include revenue and profit projections, team planning, product and service development, costs savings and your vivid vision for the business.  It will also inform your marketing strategy and plan.

Without having a clearly set ‘North Star’ vision for your business it will lack leadership and direction. While the path to achieving that vision will rarely be linear, by regularly checking in with your business plan and adapting and adjusting your strategy you will be able to ‘tack’ quickly and correct your course before you find yourself drifting too far from your original vision.

2. Marketing Plan

A 12 month calendar that sets out the marketing activities that you have agreed in your marketing strategy will keep everyone focused on what needs to happen regularly in order for your prospects to get to know, like and trust you.  Our START Marketing Strategy and Plan for small businesses covers the 12 clear areas that need to be included in a comprehensive but affordable and ‘doable’ marketing and communications plan.

3. Campaign Plan

Your overall Marketing Plan should include 3 – 4 campaign periods when additional budget and resources will be spent promoting a specific product or service with a clearly-set objective and measurable KPIs.  We find 1 – 2 month periods work best followed by a period of less intense but continued activity before ramping up to another more intense burst of promotion. Campaigns can be seasonal, in line with new product or service launches, or a special offer – or in their most simple form just a way to draw more attention to a piece of content such as an eBook or video you’ve developed.

By setting out a campaign plan you will always know what’s coming next and you won’t need to reinvent the wheel every time.  You will have a clearly set campaign process and will be able to measure the results and improve each time.

4. Editorial Plan

Inbound marketing plans are designed to attract good quality prospects to your business and revolves around creating great content that solves the problems your prospects are struggling with.

An editorial or content planner which details the topics you will cover, the publishing dates and distribution channels for each item makes sure you keep a regular flow of useful, helpful content being published.

Think about your buyers and their most frequently asked questions.  What are the problems that keep them awake at night that you can solve?

We have a useful little content template which makes sure that every article is relevant and helpful for your chosen prospects and works as hard as possible to move your prospects along the buyer journey towards becoming a client.

5. Social Media Plan

Ad hoc, in the moment posts are great and very engaging, but having a plan that ensures every post is helping you meet your business objectives is essential as it makes sure the time managing your social media accounts is well spent.

We describe a good social media plan as being like a beautiful Victoria sponge cake – and who doesn’t like a slice of Victoria sponge?!

You need an evenly cooked foundation of content that informs, educates and entertains your followers and which works on the awareness and consideration stages of your customers’ buyer journey.

These planned and scheduled posts are the type a marketing consultancy can manage for you, taking the bulk of the social media pressure off you and your team.  Time will be spent on research, design and writing relevant posts and posing intelligent questions that will stand the test of time. These evergreen posts will form the basis of your social media communications.

On top of this foundation should sit a thick layer of delicious buttercream icing in the form of topical, newsworthy posts that crop up during the month.  This can also include curated content with links to other (non-competitive) people’s articles and videos that serve your prospects and clients. You can’t predict these posts, but by following the accounts of the gurus and thought-leaders in your industry, you can aggregate the content that your prospects will value being brought to them by you.  Again this kind of post can be managed by an outsourced marketing function if you and your team don’t have the time.

The final layer is the ‘sprinkles’ as we call them – the ‘in the moment’, spontaneous posts celebrating successes, meetings and events as they happen.  They also include quick responses to comments, messages and enquiries that come through day-to-day. These are often best managed by the business owner or an in-house member of the team to keep them spontaneous, lively, helpful and authentic.

6. Advertising Plan

Finally, your advertising plan should be pre-scheduled and budgeted for the online and – sometimes – offline media platforms where your prospects spend time looking for solutions to the problems you can help them with.

Digital advertising is not a ‘set and forget’ activity.  It needs to be continually monitored and adjusted to make sure you’re seeing a return on your investment and not wasting your hard-earned cash.  We’ve reviewed too many Google Adwords accounts that have been set up and left to run without the tweaks and adjustments that are needed to make sure this budget is being well spent.

By having an advertising plan you also won’t fall so easily for the charms of those wiley old advertising sales types that offer you last minute space at a steal of a price.

Advertising works best when it is placed strategically in key places, regularly and over a decent period of time so that your prospects can come to know, like and trust you.  One-off, sporadic ads rarely work well.

Plan for Success

A bit of planning at the start of your year and as early as possible in your marketing strategy pays dividends, but here’s where we also add a word of caution.  Keep your plans fluid and flexible and be willing to tweak and adjust them as you go using the data you have gathered. By monitoring your results carefully, using data and analytics to help understand what worked and what didn’t, you can build on your progress and constantly improve your marketing strategy.

If you’d like some help developing a realistic and effective Marketing Strategy and Plan, then do get in touch and ask about our START Marketing Meetings or Marketing Review & Reboot.