The secrets of the good planning in times of crisis

If there is a difficult business year ahead because of economic crisis, it’s good to remember that the crisis is a challenge for marketers and the companies they work for, and this challenge can bring new opportunities. It’s good to know that the ancient Chinese have the same hieroglyph for „crisis“ and „opportunity.“ To take advantage of the crisis, we need a good plan. Planning is one of the secrets of the successful marketer.

Secret №1: Use the right planning approach

A very small part of the startups and medium sized businesses makes a detailed marketing plan. Most of the firms make only a rough estimate for marketing expenses and desired turnover,  with a focus on sales goals, and in the best case this becomes a small part of the annual business plan.

The well developed marketing strategy results in achieveing the desired business results at the end of the year.

What does it mean to use the appropriate planning approach?

  • To carefully define our goals.
  • To identify the distinctive features of the products and services we offer.
  • To define customer benefits.
  • To choose the appropriate marketing tactics.
  • To find out what resources are needed to implement our plan.

Proper marketing planning means setting the correct goals.

For example, in the context of a global crisis and at the expected cost reduction of our potential customers, one can’t plan a higher sales growth for the year to come.

Therefore, the objectives in terms of marketing activity should be more ambiguous: the information about our products should reach more potential customers, in our list we need to have more active leads, with which we maintain continuous contact…

If we have not set correctly the goals and have not planned proper activities, we will not be satisfied from our financial results.

In times of crisis, we need to rethink the value of our products and services.

At such times customers want to gain more value for the same price.

If we forgot to explain in detail the benefits that customers will receive with the purchase of our products, now is the time to try to do this. It is also possible to add something more to our offer – an improved service or more product features for the same price, opening a user forum, adding an option for remote software installation …

This will be appreciated by the customers in times of economic difficulties.

It is nice to choose appropriate marketing tactics with a proven effect.

Your company also needs to save costs in crisis, so carefully analyse which of the marketing approaches that you used in the last years have had the best results and the less successful for now turn off your plan.

Focus on proven successful practices. If you have followed your competitors, you can take advantage of the successful marketing approaches they apply. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of the achievements of others.

I am constantly watching how other companies in various business sectors from Europe and the USA make marketing. You can learn a lot from companies in the most advanced economies. Usually these companies, despite the crisis (or especially because of it), practice rational and effective marketing.

You can learn from these companies what new marketing approaches you can use. Corporate blog or newsletter are widely spread marketing tactics there, which might be used to quickly generated new leads or build user trust.

Secret № 2: Provide management support and ensure resources for your marketing

At the end of the year usually business managers are very busy. Negotiations with new clients, renewing contracts with old clients, analysis of team and individual achievements, setting the company goals for the next year, Christmas parties…

Get support of the management.

If you try to discuss marketing strategies with leadership at the end of December, you most likely get a response like: (1) you know how, (2) as you decide, or similar. Don’t leave this conversation unfinished. Make it start again in early January and discuss with the managers your vision! Get their opinion. Get their support.

Provide the necessary resources.

Provide the necessary resources for the implementation of the marketing plan – people, knowledge, time, resources.

If you need more people, now is the time to look for them. If unfortunately, someone on your team is not performing well, now is the time to let him leave. If you need training, January is a wonderful month for team training. Define also the exact tasks and responsibilities for each of the marketing team during the year and communicate the tasks with the colleagues.

Prepare a detailed time schedule.

Plan marketing activities for each month.

We usually plan a big marketing effort in the months from January to June and in the September-December period, and leave the summer as a wonderful marketing hole. You should never let that happen.

In the summer months you can update your advertising materials or your company web page, you can prepare a user forum or work on the company blog. You can also use the summer months to train the marketing team, analyse the results from the first half of the year and adapt your plan to the second. Just don’t leave the summer to be a big vacation for the marketing team.

Secret № 3: Plan how to measure performance

We often analyse marketing and sales activities very roughly, and measure the success with the turnover. This is very important but can not be the only measure. Because when you notice a decrease in sales, it will be post-factum and you would have lost valuable time to adjust the plan. It would be difficult to react proactively.

Measure your marketing success with the number of meetings held, with the success of organised events, with the number of incoming inquiries from the target group… This is a real-time measure of the ongoing marketing activities.

Do this analysis after each marketing project and at the end of each month. If things don’t happen according to your plan, look for the reasons. Seek and resolve the problems. and respond quickly.

The marketing plan should not be a closed paper document put on your work desk but your daily and useful working tool.

This post was initial published in Bulgarian on 3 January 2009.


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Pavlina D. Kozarova

Pavlina has worked for 20+ years as marketing specialist and business development manager for several Bulgarian and international IT and consulting firms.