Many startups aren’t executing against a documented marketing plan. I’ve heard loads of excuses for why a plan doesn’t exist. The 2 most common ones are that things are changing too rapidly to plan or the marketing plan is so simple everyone can track it in their heads.
I’m not a fan of overly complex, long-term (i.e. more than 3 months) plans for anything in a startup. I am however a big fan of having the assumptions and inputs to a marketing plan written down and an rolling monthly operational plan that the team (even if it’s just me) is working against.
There are a bunch of good reasons to create a marketing plan, work against it and maintain it. Here are three:
- Documenting assumptions/expectations– There are a set of inputs to any marketing plan: known information about the segment/buyers, how the buyers see the value of your offering versus alternatives, and the steps in the buying process. There are assumptions around each of those inputs based on things that are very likely to change over time such as the competitive landscape, the current capabilities of the product, and buyer behavior. You, and the other members of the team may not be in agreement on those (or even conscious of them). Getting those documented will both reduce the risk of incorrect or mis-aligned assumptions and will allow the team to recognize and react to changes that impact the assumptionHere’s an example: A few years back I inherited a marketing plan for an enterprise software application that was sold through a direct sales force. Until that time that type of software was purchased by IT departments with only minor input from the department that would ultimately be the end users of the product so the marketing had always been aimed squarely at IT buyers. What I was hearing from customers however was that budgets were shifting and business users were getting more of a say in the purchase process. I added a “target buyers” section to the plan that sparked a discussion around whom we should be marketing to that started with the head of sales saying “What the *&% – I assumed we were already marketing to business buyers!!” Clearly, there were assumptions in the plan the team weren’t in alignment on.