By Elizabeth Harr, Hinge
Taking a thoughtful, deliberative approach to your marketing plan is not only good strategy; done right, it also can produce a number of valuable benefits that can jumpstart your organization’s success.
1. It Forces You To Reexamine Old Marketing Habits And Assumptions
In the rapidly evolving world of value adding reselling, you have to continually adapt — because doing what you’ve always done is not a winning strategy. You probably already know some examples: that annual golf tournament sponsorship, those fruit baskets at Christmas, or that large ad buy in a major industry publication. If your company has been doing things one way for years, you may rarely, if ever, truly examine whether it is worthwhile and what’s not. That’s the power of going through the marketing planning process: it gives you a chance to view all your marketing expenses to determine whether, and how much, they support and align with your organization’s goals. To a certain extent, a good marketing plan helps you question everything you’ve done to date, and how well each tactic has succeeded.
2. It Mitigates Risk By Providing Strategic Insights
Developing a marketing plan requires you to reexamine exactly who you are — including your marketplace, competition, target audience and value proposition to prospects. This process actually reduces risk, because it compels you to evaluate both your business model and marketing program before you commit additional time and money to them. This is especially critical in the VAR marketplace, where so much of customers’ buying decisions are based on constantly evolving technology capabilities — meaning that what worked the last time you developed a marketing plan may be obsolete today. According to our studies of professional services marketing firms, those that conduct systematic research into their target audiences grow faster and are also more profitable.
3. It Increases Accountability
One of the challenges shared by many corporations is that their marketing function doesn’t operate with the same kind of accountability and metrics that apply to the rest of their organization. While many business units can quantify their costs and ROI at a granular level, marketing often remains a “black box” in which practitioners can get by with fairly vague projections and limited accountability. One of the great values of the marketing planning process is that it makes both your marketing and business development teams set quantifiable targets and measure their progress toward them. Likewise, management is more accountable for providing enough resources to ensure the marketing plan has what it needs to succeed.
4. It Replaces Reactive Behavior With Proactive
Effective planning gives you greater control of your marketing and helps you maximize its impact. Done correctly, it also allows you to be agile, tracking results against projections and reacting to changing circumstances. A well-documented marketing plan makes it easier to adjust course as needed.
5. It Can Provide A Competitive Advantage
High-growth firms use their marketing planning process to identify and exploit their strategic differentiators. This is especially valuable in a marketplace like value added reselling, in which firms often have more similarities with each other than differences. By investing some time and effort into identifying what makes your firm unique — in ways that are true, provable, and relevant to your customers — you should be able to develop compelling reasons for customers to select your firm over an apparently similar one.
Without a well-developed marketing plan, a VAR organization has no systematic approach for promoting itself to potential customers. Keep in mind, however, that marketing planning processes that work well for other market segments (like consumer goods or not-for-profits, to name a couple) are not well suited for VARs. That fact, along with the other benefits outlined above, makes it even more imperative to take the marketing planning process seriously — and invest the time and resources needed to adequately plan your market success.
About The Author
Elizabeth Harr, Partner at Hinge, is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, branding and growth for professional services. Elizabeth cofounded a Microsoft solutions provider company and grew it into a thriving organization that became known for its expertise in Microsoft customer relationship management.