The Secret to Success

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Marketing is a game...a learning game. You make a decision. You observe. You learn and make better decisions. It all seems easy, except for one small detail — the game is constantly changing. And more than that, it's getting extremely complex. All kinds of things can happen.

August 02, 2005

Marketing is a game...a learning game. You make a decision. You observe. You learn and make better decisions. It all seems easy, except for one small detail — the game is constantly changing. And more than that, it's getting extremely complex. All kinds of things can happen.

Think about a typical community opening. Anything could go right...and anything could go wrong. Take for instance your core positioning. That might be the "one thing" that sends you over the top. Or for that matter, your results might stem from selecting the right piece of land or the target market. And that's just for starters. Your success or failure could range from your product design to your price positioning or from your value proposition to your advertising to your selling process. How would you ever know?

The answer is simple.

The secret to success is starting with a plan — a marketing plan. Not only should it be your key planning tool, it should be your key decision tool, too. Think about it. If you know where you started and why, it's pretty easy to observe where you are and whether you're headed in the right direction or not. In other words, it's easy to figure out what's working and what's not if you have something to compare to. Without a plan you're simply guessing.

It's Not Much Fun

Writing a marketing plan isn't much fun. And besides, it takes a lot of time. I've heard marketers complain about spending more time planning than they do achieving. And they probably do. It's one of the reasons home builders shy away from marketing plans. The other reason is a little more complex.

When you use price and incentives as your primary marketing tool, planning doesn't seem so important. Sadly enough, the lack of planning is the very thing that makes price and incentives so important to home builders. And marketing in the home building industry, in most all cases, is centered on price discounts and incentives. This requires little or no planning.

Philip Kotler, considered to be the father of modern marketing, takes thoughts about planning to another level. He states, "You can't be considered a good manager unless you're a good planner." He goes on to say, "Marketing plans must be simple and to the point. They must reflect what has happened, what is happening and what might happen." Let's take a look and see what he means.

Simple and to the Point

Marketing plans should be simple and to the point. To some companies, that might mean one or two pages. And to others, like Pulte or Centex, that might mean 100 or more pages. I guess it's important to remember that "simple" and "to the point" are in the eye of the beholder. Here are a few things that you'll want to think about and possibly include as you develop your own marketing plan.

Type of plan

Many companies write two plans — a Strategic Plan and an Annual Plan. Everyone needs an annual plan, but most companies aren't big enough to need a strategic plan. Just remember, an annual plan almost always begins with a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat) analysis and sometimes a vision and mission statement. In addition, your plan should always include your budget.

Sections you might include:

What you include in your plan is completely up to you. You're in charge and you set the rules. Here are some of the basic items that you might want to consider as chapters in your marketing plan. They are in no particular order:

Brand

Sales Office Design

Sales

Research Plan

Advertising

Sales Training

Land

Collateral

Customer Satisfaction

Product Design

Broker Program

Customer Service

Target Market

Reporting

Signage Program

Community

Merchandising

Point of Purchase

Internet

Public Relations

Promotions

Topics for each chapter:

Here's the heart of your plan. Use each of the topics below to address each of the chapters you choose to include in your marketing plan. In other words, each section or chapter should address your current situation, marketing objectives, marketing goals, marketing strategy, marketing actions and measurement plan. Here's a separate look at each:

  • Current Situation: Use this topic to outline your current program or position. In some sections you'll want to compare yourself to your competition.
  • Marketing Objectives: State your objectives in terms of what you want to do. Take the Sales section for instance. You might write, "Our 2005 goals are to: Increase sales, decrease cancellations and increase customer satisfaction scores.
  • Marketing Goals: State your goals in terms what you want to accomplish. Let's use our Sales example again. You might write, "Increase sales by 10 percent. Decrease cancellations by 15 percent and increase customer satisfaction scores by 4 percent.
  • Marketing Strategy: Your strategy needs to provide a big picture look at what you will do to achieve each of your goals. In other words, what "core idea" or "key strategy" will you employ to be successful?
  • Marketing Actions: These are the tactics will you use to give your plan "life." Said differently, the programs and processes you will use to achieve your goals. These actions are normally time sensitive.
  • Measurement: The last section should detail how you will track and measure results and check your progress against your goals. Don't forget to define how often you will measure.

A Magic Pill

There you have it...a "magic pill"...a "simple" and "to the point" method to write a marketing plan. Is it the only way? By no means. There are as many ways to write a plan as there are opinions about them. Whichever way you choose, you only have to remember three things:

  • Don't shortcut. Every minute you spend planning will pay you back tenfold.
  • A marketing budget isn't a marketing plan. I can't tell you how many times I've seen one confused for the other.
  • It isn't a plan unless it's written. Ditto my previous comments.

I want to finish by leaving you with a question. It'll give you an idea of where you stand with marketing and a marketing plan. And you'll know exactly what you need to do as soon as you answer.

Ask yourself, "What role does marketing play in terms of helping you accomplish your business goals?"

If you answered, "Find or generate new customers," you've got more thinking to do.

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