A client recently asked me, “How do you create a marketing plan?” I’ve been thinking about marketing plans a lot lately, and about how few companies put together a comprehensive marketing plan. Of course big companies almost always develop a complete comprehensive plan but smaller companies often use the, "I’ll try that approach." Do you have a comprehensive marketing plan?

There is a right way and a wrong way to create a marketing plan. The wrong way is using the shotgun approach where you try a little bit of everything to see if any of it works. I have to admit that in the past I have been guilty of that myself. Like the old saying goes, if I throw enough mud against the wall some of it is bound to stick. The wrong way does not consider all of the stakeholders and doesn’t use the long-term approach.

Start with branding and a brand vision; what does your brand stand for? What do you want customers to know about your company? Can you use a different positioning than what your competitors use? Why should customers call your company and not some other? What makes your company unique? People buy uniqueness.

To write an effective marketing plan you must incorporate the strategic goals of your company and tie them to the marketing plan. This is the only way that marketing can help you reach those goals. Begin by creating marketing goals that relate to your strategic objectives. Develop strategies and tactics with which to attain your marketing goals. The goals must be specific and measurable in order to track your progress. Your tactics must generate maximum awareness for the smallest investment.

Keep your marketing budget in mind when you develop your tactics. Budget is everything. If your plan exceeds your budget, you need a new plan. Plan spending by quarters based on revenue generation so that you can stay on track. Make sure that you develop contingencies plans should funding not materialize, plans change, or if you develop an influx of additional marketing funds. A spreadsheet works well to help you visualize spending over the course of the year and you could use it to examine alternatives.

Benchmarking is an important part of a full marketing plan. Benchmarking is a process where you compare your company against best practices used by other companies. Include details for your benchmarking plan; this process can make or break your marketing plan. What companies are you going to compare? Are you going to use primary research or are you going to attempt to locate secondary research?

Secondary research will save money if you can find it because somebody else has already paid to conduct it. In addition, what metrics and tactics will you use for your benchmarking? Are you going to measure sales increase? If so, how are you going to tie the increase to the individual marketing campaign? Will you measure consumer awareness or the number of responses or leads to the call to action in a particular ad? You must measure your baseline awareness before enacting a new marketing plan because without it you cannot measure progress.

I also like to include a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Look at your company to determine its strengths compared to your competitors. What do you do well? What weaknesses do have that you need to shore up? Looking at your industry and your trading area, what opportunities do you see on which you can capitalize? Do you foresee any threats to your business or industry?

In addition, review all of the marketing or advertising strategies that you have used in the past and evaluate the effectiveness of each of them. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel but you also don’t want to duplicate efforts you’ve already expended particularly if they didn’t work as effectively as you had planned. When developing a list of tactics, don’t forget to include social media, mobile marketing, and email marketing methods. Facebook and Google Plus can be helpful in promoting your ad or product. Until next time, happy marketing.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.