Everything Starts with a Good Marketing Plan

In our work with a lot of government organizations, professional associations and non-profits, the first step in planning is often the one where many organizations have the most difficulty – and that is defining the strategic direction for whatever initiative they are working on. In government organizations, politics tends to supersede any notion of proper planning for the sake of “looking like we are doing something about the issue”. In the not-for-profit sector, it’s usually the board of directors who put pressure on staff to immediately solve a revenue challenge, increase membership or enhance marketplace visibility.

Earlier in my career, I used to be one of those who said; “what’s with all this high-level thinking and objectives naval-gazing – let’s just get something done”. Fortunately, I learned early enough that the problem with this approach is that you usually end up doing nothing because your efforts are not focused. If you ever have had one of those days where you are running around like a chicken without a head, you know what I’m talking about.

Marketing offers an incredibly disciplined approach to strategic planning. The very nature of the marketing discipline forces you to think about key issues such as:

  • Who you are;
  • What you do;
  • Why is it important;
  • Who it’s important to;
  • Where you are;
  • Where you want to be; and,
  • How you will know when you’ve arrived.

Effective marketing planning sets a blueprint for action. It establishes parameters and provides a clear focus for your efforts. It defines your value proposition. And it leads to better results. And as you can see from the above, the questions you need to answer to get started are not overly complicated (although articulating the answers usually takes a lot of work).

So, whether you are a government organization promoting a service, an association looking to expand its membership and find new sponsors or a non-profit working on affecting social change, a clear sense of who you are, your value to the marketplace and where you want to go over the long-term will set the stage for everything else you do.

Over the coming weeks, I will be examining how a marketing approach can help you achieve tangible results for your efforts and why we need to overcome the urge to jump into the water (tactics) before first assessing why we want to jump in the first place (strategy) and what’s below the surface. In the meantime, here’s a quick test you can take to see if you have what it takes to be a marketing-driven organization.

You Know You Are A Marketing Driven Organization When…

□      You do not use terms like “general public” when referring to your target audience

□      “Plan” is more than a four letter word

□      All marketing activities are coordinated and integrated into an overall plan

□      You focus on results and NOT process and politics

□      Your organization takes “risks”, although ensuring they are “reasoned risks“

□      You do not keep doing the same things every year  i.e. programs, services, products

□      Marketing campaigns consistently meet their goals and objectives.

□      You take action when results are not achieved.

□      You have a clear understanding of the needs of your target group(s)

□      You have a dedicated marketing budget

□      Your organization’s brand has value

□       Reinventing the wheel is not standard operating procedure

□       Your organization is focused on “outcomes”  not “outputs”

□       Evidence-based decision making is in your organization’s vocabulary.

□       Strategic Alliances/partnerships are a key component of your marketing activities

□       Your marketing objectives are SMART (Specific Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Limited)

□       Your organization does not use the web as a warehouse to store information

□       You value training in areas like marketing and communications

□       Performance measurement is something that your organization does regularly

□       You are up to date with the latest trends, technologies in the area of marketing and communications

□       Branding is more than a visual identifier

□       You are open to change

□       You see the need to understand your “competition”

□       You use all the elements of the marketing mix (4 p’s) and not just use promotion

□       Your believe that the ultimate objective for marketing is not creating awareness but behaviour change

If You Scored:

20 – 25: You have the tools, processes and culture in place to be successful and sustainable

15 – 19: You are on the right path, but need to examine those areas where you are weak

10 – 14: You are most likely struggling and need to take a hard look at priorities and processes

6 – 9: You are on the borderline of existence as an organization

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