Updated: Oct 12, 2020
For small businesses and nonprofits, the main focus is your work and mission. You have a limited budget, which may mean you're doing the accounting, managing volunteers or employees, and setting up your services or programs. Where in all of this do you have the time to promote and communicate with your stakeholders?
Too many times, that means "slapping together" some messaging and tools we think we need, and "running with it." If you think nobody will notice, think again.
You have "a story" you want to share so people know about your services, but you may struggle to figure out which tools to use (and when), and lack the expertise to pull it all together. Before you know it, your messaging will lose its focus. Marketing plans help avoid that.
1. Marketing Plans Provide Structure
Part of (or in addition to) your business plan, marketing plans provide the building blocks that determine how simple or robust your marketing and outreach will be. From your budget to personnel needs, to how and why you want to reach people and what tools you will use, starts with your marketing plan.
2. Marketing Plans Help You Build an Identity
Think of marketing plans as similar to a home renovation. All the little parts may not matter on their own, but they build a cohesive image about your organization and the work you do - which the community will become familiar with.
These components include:
Your "visual brand," - how you build a visual recognition of who you are and what you do:
Identifiers like icons and your company logo
What you say:
Tag lines - those little one-liners that you remember any brand by (e.g., "America Runs on Dunkin" or Nike's "Just Do It.")
A cohesive story on who/what/when/where/why you do what you do, and how.
3. Marketing Plans Keep You Focused on Your Target Audience
By understanding who your AUDIENCE is, you stay focused on your potential and current clients' interests, wants, and needs - and how to reach them. This helps prevent those last-minute social media posts or blog pieces that are totally off-topic or unrelated to the work that you do.
4. Marketing Plans Help You Create Consistent Messaging
Note #2 and #3. Think you're on top of it? Consider Charlie, who heads a nonprofit dedicated to helping physicians launch direct primary care services (a specific niche).
One day, Charlie decides to cross-post a Fourth of July social media post because he loves the message's patriotism. He then shares an op-ed piece about the pandemic, followed by an article share on veganism. A month later, he writes an article on the pros of providing direct primary care in low-income communities.
Based on these social media posts and articles, would you understand the work that Charlie's organization does? What other messages would these varied posts inadvertently say about his organization?
5. Marketing Plans Help Determine Your Budget
Your budget establishes all sorts of parameters.
It determines which projects you can and can't do given your skills, budget, and time constraints.
It helps you gauge the need for staff - and the specific expertise you need (or can afford).
Do you need a full-time generalist or part-time specialists?
Do you need a consultant as needed?
How many monthly personnel hours can you afford
It manages your expectations and priorities. You'd love to have that slick video that showcases your work. For now, you find more affordable alternatives until that budget grows.
6. Marketing Plans Help You Identify Your Tools
The primary needs you identify and your budget will help you determine which tools are absolute essentials your organization needs to operate, and which ones maximize your time.
For example, do you have the budget for a developer to create a $10,000 website with all the bells and whistles, or are you willing to work with a simpler and much cheaper content management system that a consultant can create at a fraction of the cost?
What are the tools you will need to keep you on task and consistent with your messaging? Which freebies are out there to get you started - and which ones cost something but are critical time savers? The answer will differ for each organization based on their budget, goals, skillsets, and time dedicated to marketing.
While it can be time-consuming to create your marketing plan, careful strategizing will guide you to build a strong, stable presence. More importantly, it will help you avoid costly mistakes that can hurt your organization's image - and bottom line.