A Quick and Effective Guide to Building a Marketing Plan
Most of us don't have enough time to write a detailed marketing plan in flowing prose. So, unless you need a business/marketing plan to get funding for your company, a practical, easy to create and implement spread sheet is all you need.
In its simplest form, the marketing plan is a single sheet of paper on which you have planned the entire year's activities and look at every month. It can be posted on the wall as a reminder. Create it in a spreadsheet program such as Excel. If you are using your business plan to obtain a line of credit or additional funding this sheet can be made part of the plan and verbiage written to explain your activities based on the sheet.
Here's the three-step process:
1. Answer these questions.
- How many active customers do you have? This number is easy to determine if all you do is new construction. However, from a service perspective, it is much more difficult to answer "off the top of your head." Find out how many customers you have who have done business with you in the past year.
- How many total customers are on the list? If you're like most contractors the number of total customers will far exceed the number that have done business with you in the past year. Call some of the customers who you haven't heard from in a while. Find out why they haven't used you. Be prepared to find out that they have moved, died, or that they are using another company now in addition to "I just didn't have a need". Do something to invite them back. After all, they still need their HVAC equipment and plumbing systems checked each year. The results should help you establish your marketing goals for next year.
- What did advertising/public relations activities did you do in 2002? Were they successful? How do you know?
Plan to repeat the activities that worked well and determine why the others didn't work well so that you can either fix the problems or not do them again.
- Are you getting your customers' e-mail addresses? If you aren't, start. This is a very non-intrusive way to reach your customer base for reminders, tips on home comfort, etc.
2. Create the spreadsheet.
Putting ALL of the activities that you will do for the year along the Y-axis and the months of the year along the X-axis creates the marketing activity sheet. Divide the marketing activities that you plan to do into four groups: residential prospective customers, commercial prospective customers, current customers, and employees. Some activities such as newsletters, you may use for both prospective and current customers.
Here are some suggestions for your marketing activities. This is not a complete list of every marketing action you can take. It is simply meant as a guideline to help you plan your activities.
Residential prospective customers: Spring and fall door hangers, seasonal postcards, referral programs, yellow pages, radio, network television, cable television, daily and weekly newspapers, billboards, trade shows, public relations activities (press releases, articles for the media, donations to charitable organizations and schools, etc.), web pages, e-mail notices, manufacturer coop programs; telephone follow up.
Commercial prospective customers: Service agreement letters, seasonal postcards, referral programs, trade shows (if appropriate), public relations activities (press releases, articles for the media, donations, etc.); telephone follow up.
Current customers: Newsletters, calendars, flashlights (commercial customers), magnets,
open house, trade shows, referral program; telephone follow up; e-mail messages.
Employees: Service agreement and replacement sales contests; company gathering; bonus or profit sharing program.
Place an "X" under the month that you plan to do each activity. For public relations activities or media purchases in radio, television, or newspaper, it is helpful to put the planned action or source's name on the X-axis as a reminder to you. There are some activities such as telephone follow up or yellow pages that you will have an "X" under every month. That is ok.
Once the marketing sheet has been completed you can put it on a wall to remind you of what you have to do each month. Or, if you delegate this responsibility to another employee, it is a quick way of reviewing activities and the results of those activities.
3. Implement the plan shown on the spreadsheet.
This requires tracking. Tracking does not take a lot of time but it is effective. It lets you know is working, what is not working so that you know what activities you should continue to do and what you should not do any longer.
Tracking is a simple form. Write what you did from a marketing perspective and what the results are. If you sent out postcards, how many of those generated calls? How many of those calls turned into revenues? What kind of revenues were they?
Did you break even? Did you make a profit on that marketing expense? To calculate break even sales take the cost of the advertisement and divide it by the gross margin of the department doing the work. For example, if your yellow pages ad costs you $1,000 per month and the service department gross margin is 55%, you have to generate 1,000/55% or $1,818 per month in revenues from the yellow pages ad to break even.
These three steps will get your marketing plan created, implemented, and tracked.