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Mosaic logo only_with_color_circle2-150x150The SWOT Analysis process must have a solid framework to be useful for your marketing strategy.  Each element of the SWOT analysis is based on answering questions that are grounded in reality and in the experiences that your business has had over the last year. Instead of just listing a bunch of items or points of interest, you are answering questions that will actually give you insights into the next appropriate action to take inside your business. This isn’t the complete set of questions; however, it will get you started in thinking about new ways that you can grow your company.

 

Strengths: Build upon strengths and weaknesses will take care of themselvesStrategy-management-diagram-SWOT-Analysis-Color-Arrow-Blocks

 

Strength Questions:

  • In what areas does (YOUR COMPANY) perform exceptionally?
  • What important bids or proposals did (YOUR COMPANY) win this year? Why did (YOUR COMPANY) win them?
  • Which target markets or customer groups created the most sales? Which created the most profits?
  • What did (YOUR COMPANY) do best this year? What were (YOUR COMPANY) greatest triumphs?
  • Which customers or market segments grew the most? What caused this “success”?

 

Weakness Questions:

  • What important bids or proposals did (YOUR COMPANY) loose this year? Why did (YOUR COMPANY) loose them?
  • Which target markets or customer groups created the least sales? Which created the least profits?
  • What were (YOUR COMPANY) greatest disappointments or failures?
  • Which customers or market segments achieved the least? What caused this “failure”?
  • Weaknesses with respect to: Target market needs, wants & consumption trends

 

Opportunities: “If Opportunities do not knock build a door”—Milton Berle

 

Opportunities Questions:

  • What new customer wants can you meet?
  • What economic trends are benefiting?  How can you take advantage of them?
  • What technological factors are creating opportunities for you? How can you profit from them?
  • What niches and opportunities have your competitors missed?
  • What alternatives does your ideal customer have to purchasing what you have to offer?
  • What major changes are taking place in the industry?
  • What are some things that “would never happen” in your industry? How can that become an opportunity for you?Competitive-Advantage

 

Threats: “It is dangerous to exist in the world. To exist is to be threatened. We must live with threats.” ― Adam Levin, The Instructions

 

Threats Questions:

  • Are there technological factors creating threats?
  • In what ways do your competitors threaten you?
  • What scares you most about the future of (YOUR COMPANY)?
  • Are major changes taking place in the industry?
  • Is the government increasing the burden of any previous regulations?
blogging for success

Listen to your Customers

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The drive to gain consumer insights cannot be an occasional endeavor. A company wishing to establish a brand or sell a product cannot simply conduct a focus group or survey, and say it now has everything it needs to know about consumers. It must take some very concrete steps to get a firm grasp of the target consumers’ tendencies, including:

 

  • Showing a genuine interest in what consumers have to say.
  • Going above and beyond to capture insights.

Today’s consumers may like something for years, and then suddenly change their minds. We watch in amazement as Hewlett-Packard twists slowly in the wind, trying to figure out what their printer customers want. Perhaps if they had better insights into their consumers’ needs, they would have realized that relying solely on high-priced ink cartridges was a sure road to failure.

 

The company that does not have its finger on its consumers’ collective pulse may be in danger of falling behind more astute competitors. The drive to gather, analyze and capitalize on consumer insights must be an ongoing and integral function of the entire corporation.

 

The management must review product development strategies, and marketing discussions to ensure that the company remains customer-focused.

 

1. Consumer Insights should be Driven from the Top Down

The decision to be consumer-driven often comes from the very top levels of the organization. Senior executives who lead by example inspire skill sets which allow everyone under them to search for new insights and understandings. Some of the characteristics which these open-minded leaders foster in their organization may include:

 

2. Ask Why

This childhood question has been known to inspire both curiosity and frustration. Corporations which try to understand “why” something happens or “why” consumers act a certain way may find answers they never expected, or that they don’t even like, but those who ask can also learn what they do right and build on it.

 

3. No Limits

Understand your Customers

Understand your Customers

Corporations that choose to rely only on old strategies are a long way from becoming truly consumer-centric. They need to be open to new ideas and insights when the winds of consumer needs change, and have the internal flexibility to be able to adapt quickly.

 

4. Break the Barrier of Conformity

It’s easier to set rules and regulations, or say that a product should be marketed in a certain way, but it’s not always best to do it that way. If consumers are changing so rapidly, what makes corporations think they can still market to them in the same old ways? Where would social media be today if Mark Zuckerberg continued to look at Facebook as “just a dating site?”

 

5. Respect for the Customer

Far too many corporations today view the customer as somewhat of an enemy. The goal is to make the most money possible, and force consumers to use what the company is offering. One only needs to look back at the disastrous introduction of “New Coke” to find out what happens when consumers push back. A far more effective strategy is to find out what the consumer wants, and then move the company in that direction.

 

6. Yes We Can

Many creative ideas that could have taken a product to the next level are stifled from the start by someone who simply says, “We can’t do that. It will never work.” These are the statements which need to be challenged and questioned, not the original concept. Some of the best products and marketing strategies have been initiated by someone who said, “Interesting. Let’s talk about this.”

 

7. The Nitty-Gritty of Consumer Insights

Of course, all of those concepts are more about attitudes and corporate mind-sets. To really find and act upon consumer insights takes some actual discipline and hard work as well. Some of the skill sets which come to the consumer insights table include:

build a good website with seo

Do Your Homework

 

  •  Strong Research

Consumer insights are not formulated by guessing about what consumers want. They are found by going out and gathering this information. Remember the 1990s, when Clairol revitalized its tired Herbal Essences shampoo line by advertising the sensual experience of washing hair? The ‘‘Totally Organic’’ campaign featured women who simulated sexual ecstasy while shampooing their hair, instead of hum-drum shower shots.

 

  •  Analytical Thinking

Consumer insights are not all intuitive. Sometimes it requires studying information and formulating theories to make informed recommendations. Numbers need to be translated into actionable insights.

 

  •  Problem Solving Capabilities

When sales are dropping, or brand recognition is fading rapidly, consumer insights can be applied to help point a way out of the dark.

A corporate culture that is consumer-driven is not afraid of finding out what consumers want. Ask yourself these questions to find out if your corporation is truly consumer-centric:

 

When was the last time you really tried to find out what our consumers were thinking and are saying?

 

  • Are we stifling creativity by adhering to formulaic patterns?
  • What is one consumer need we can identify and fulfill using our current product line, or by making a minor adjustment?

 

The great news is that social media and today’s connected society make it easier than ever to mine the gold of the consumer mind-set. The results may not always be what you “want” to hear, but you do want to hear them so changes can be made.

Mosaic logo only_with_color_circle2-150x150I recently had a conversation with an astute Health Care Interactive Marketing Executive about her plans for the year. She mentioned that her current website was roughly two years old and that now was the time to start thinking about a redesign. She had quite a few items on her redesign wish list (upgraded CMS, trimmed down Flash elements, etc.), but one thing that stood out to me was her keen interest in making sure that mobile users were accounted for.

Sure, she wanted the core website to render well on mobile browsers, and for good reason. After all, the balance has shifted in favor of consumers with smart phones as opposed to “dumb” phones.

That’s more or less standard fare, though. (Note: If your site isn’t optimized for mobile browsers, then perhaps a redesign should be on your agenda.)

What really struck me was her insistence on making sure that her core website experience and functionality could be mirrored on tablets.

The following statics are an important consideration:

  • Internet browsing from mobile and tablet devices accounts for 13.2% of unique visitor traffic.responsive-WEBSITE
  • Social networks account for 20% of the time spent online.
  • 70-80% of users ignore the paid ads online. Source.
  • Overall Content Marketing Strategy Leads to 2,000% Lift in Blog Traffic, 40% Boost in Revenue.
  • SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. source: Search Engine Journal

Redesigning your website can help you capture the shifting tide in the way consumers use technology and use it to your advantage. Here are five important things you need to include in your website redesign.

Fresh Content

You don’t want your website to feel like the waiting room at the dentist’s office with those old and outdated magazines sitting on the table. If you want to attract visitors to your website, there has to be a reason for them to stop by!

Sharing fresh content on your website through a blog is a great way to draw new visitors from search engines and from social media sites.

Mobile Responsive Design

More and more people are using tablets and smart phones to access the Internet. When a visitor comes to your website on their smart phone, a responsive design will resize your website to fit their device. (Mobile responsive design)

new web designCheck this out, if you’re reading this on a laptop or desktop, take your cursor over to the far right side of the page. Now shrink the size of the Internet window. See how this post is shrinking and reformatting. Pretty cool, huh!

If you want to test your website to see how it looks on different devices, check out this site: Studio Press Responsive Test.

Social Media Channels

20% of the time spent on the Internet is on social media sites. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +, Facebook, and Yelp have become the place where people go to get answers and recommendations.

Your potential customers may feel more comfortable communicating with you with a tweet rather than a phone call. We recommend making it easy for a prospect to connect with you by placing links to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn on your site.

So what’s the takeaway?

In a year that seems destined to further usher in the era of mobile devices as the mainstream computing platform (as opposed to the old desktops and laptops of yesteryear) companies must seriously consider a two-tiered approach to web design. Maybe even three-tiered when you take into account the difference between smart phones and tablets.

If your current web presence is still one-dimensional, focusing only on traditional computing devices, make sure to add these quickly developing dimensions into your overall redesign plan. And if your current design and development agency isn’t properly taking these dimensions into account, well, you know what to do…Please call us we can help you get your site Mobile Responsive..203-483-4598 ask for David on extension 306…You will be glad you did.

Mosaic logo only_with_color_circle2-150x150The point of a SWOT analysis is to help you develop a strong business strategy by making sure you’ve considered all of your business’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats it faces in the marketplace.

As you might have guessed from that last sentence, S.W.O.T. is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis is an organized list of your business’s greatest strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal to the company (think: reputation, patents, location). You can change them over time but not without some work. Opportunities and threats are external (think: suppliers, competitors, prices)—they are out there in the market, happening whether you like it or not. You can’t change them.

Existing businesses can use a SWOT analysis, at any time, to assess a changing environment and respond proactively. In fact, I recommend conducting a strategy review meeting at least once a year that begins with a SWOT analysis.

New businesses should use a SWOT analysis as a part of their planning process. There is no “one size fits all” plan for your business, and thinking about your new business in terms of its unique “SWOTs” will put you on the right track right away, and save you from a lot of headaches later on.

How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis To get the most complete, objective results, a SWOT analysis is best conducted by a group of people with different perspectives and stakes in your company. Management, sales, customer service, and even customers can all contribute valid insight. Moreover, the SWOT analysis process is an opportunity to bring your team together and encourage their participation in and adherence to your company’s resulting strategy. A SWOT analysis is typically conducted using a four-square SWOT SWOT_analysis_exampleanalysis template, but you could also just make a list for each category. Use the method that makes it easiest for you to organize and understand the results. I recommend holding a brainstorming session to identify the factors in each of the four categories. Alternatively, you could ask team members to individually complete a SWOT analysis template, and then meet to discuss and compile the results. As you work through each category, don’t be too concerned about elaborating at first; bullet points may be the best way to begin. Just capture the factors you believe are relevant in each of the four areas.

Once you are finished brainstorming, create a final, prioritized version of your SWOT analysis, listing the factors in each category in order from highest priority at the top to lowest priority at the bottom. Questions to Ask During a SWOT Analysis I’ve compiled some questions below to help you develop each section of your SWOT analysis. There are certainly other questions you could ask; these are just meant to get you started.

Strengths (internal, positive factors) Strengths describe the positive attributes, tangible and intangible, internal to your organization. They are within your control.

  • What do you do well?
  • What internal resources do you have? Think about the following:
  • Positive attributes of people, such as knowledge, background, education, credentials, network, reputation, or skills.shutterstock_32050237-large
  • Tangible assets of the company, such as capital, credit, existing customers or distribution channels, patents, or technology.
  • What advantages do you have over your competition?
  • Do you have strong research and development capabilities? Manufacturing facilities?
  • What other positive aspects, internal to your business, add value or offer you a competitive advantage?

Weaknesses (internal, negative factors) Weaknesses are aspects of your business that detract from the value you offer or place you at a competitive disadvantage. You need to enhance these areas in order to compete with your best competitor.

  • What factors that are within your control detract from your ability to obtain or maintain a competitive edge?
  • What areas need improvement to accomplish your objectives or compete with your strongest competitor?
  • What does your business lack (for example, expertise or access to skills or technology)?
  • Does your business have limited resources?
  • Is your business in a poor location?

 Opportunities (external, positive factors) Opportunities are external attractive factors that represent reasons your business is likely to prosper.

  • What opportunities exist in your market or the environment that you can benefit from?
  • Is the perception of your business positive?
  • Has there been recent market growth or have there been other changes in the market the create an opportunity?
  • Is the opportunity ongoing, or is there just a window for it? In other words, how critical is your timing?

Threats (external, negative factors) Threats include external factors beyond your control that could place your strategy, or the business itself, at risk. You have no control over these, but you may benefit by having contingency plans to address them if they should occur.

  • Who are your existing or potential competitors?
  • What factors beyond your control could place your business at risk?
  • Are there challenges created by an unfavorable trend or development that may lead to deteriorating revenues or profits?
  • What situations might threaten your marketing efforts?
  • Has there been a significant change in supplier prices or the availability of raw materials?
  • What about shifts in consumer behavior, the economy, or government regulations that could reduce your sales?
  • Has a new product or technology been introduced that makes your products, equipment, or services obsolete?

Example of a SWOT Analysis For illustration, here’s a brief SWOT example from a hypothetical, medium-sized health care organization:

Strengths Weaknesses
(Internal)
  • A new and/or innovative service
  • Capabilities or cost advantages
  • Cultural connections
  • Extraordinary reputation
  • Other aspects that add value
  • special expertise and/or experience
  • Superior location or geographic advantage
  • Absence of marketing plan
  • damaged reputation
  • Gaps in capabilities or service areas
  • lagging in technology
  • Management or staff problems
  • own known vulnerability
  • Poor location or geographic barriers
  • undifferentiated service lines
(External) Opportunities

  • A market vacated by a competitor
  • Availability of new technology
  • changes in population profile or need
  • Competitor vulnerabilities
  • lack of dominant competition
  • New market segment that offer improve profit
  • New vertical, horizontal, or niche markets
Threats 

  • A competitor has an innovative product or service
  • Adverse changes in reimbursement or regulations
  • Changing insurance plans and/or contracts for major area employers
  • Competitors have superior access to channels of distribution
  • Economic shifts
  • Loss of key staff or associates
  • New or increased competition
  • seasonality
  • shifts in market demand or referral sources

 

Mosaic logo only_with_color_circle2-150x150No matter how it’s ultimately organized, your marketing plan should be a straightforward, easily understood company document. It should provide you with a clear direction for your marketing efforts for the coming year, and it should give an incisive look into your company for all readers.

Preparing to Write
Before you begin to write, pull together some information you’ll need. Getting the information first avoids interruptions in the thinking and writing process. Have on hand:

  • Your company’s latest financial reports (profit and loss, operating budgets and so on) and latest sales figures by product and region for the current and the past three years or, if less, for however long you’ve been in business.
  • A listing of each product or service in the current line, along with target markets
  • An organization table (If you can count your employees on one hand, you can probably omit this.)
  • Your understanding of your marketplace: your competitors, geographical boundaries, types of customers you sell to, existing distribution channels, latest and most useful demographic data, any information on trends in your markets (both demographic and product-related)
  • Ask each of your salespeople and/or customer-relations people to list the most crucial points, in their opinion, that need to be included in the coming year’s marketing plan. You don’t have to include all of them, but you do have to take them into account.

Market Situation
printy servicesThe “market situation” section should contain your best and most clear-headed description of the current state of the marketplace (this is no place for hunches).

  • What are your products/services or product/service lines?
  • What is the dollar size of your markets?
  • What is your sales and distribution setup?
  • What geographic area do you sell to?
  • Describe your audience in terms of population, demographics, income levels and so on.
  • What competitors exist in this marketplace?
  • Historically, how well have your products sold?

Much of this information exists in the heads of the management team, the way it is at many companies. But now is when you write it down. For example, how much information do you have in your office–right now–on your competition? A marketing plan gives you a chance to pull all this relevant information together in one place, to spur ideas and justify actions.

Consider each of your products or services up against the matching products or services of your competitors. How well do you stack up? Is there any significant market opportunity for you that neither you nor your competitors are currently exploiting?

You’ll also find that the best thinkers in your company may well have different ideas about elements of the current situation. Your marketing plan will provide a good arena to test different snapshots of the market against each other.

Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats

(SWOT Analysis)
This section is an extension of the “market situation” section, and it should focus on the bad and good implications of the current market:

  • What trends in the marketplace are against you?
  • Are there competitive trends that are ominous?SWOT_analysis_example
  • Are your current products poised to succeed in the market as it now exists?
  • What trends in the marketplace favor you?
  • Are there competitive trends working to your benefit?
  • Are the demographics of your market in your favor? Against you?

There are lots of places to go to get information on the trends in your market. City and state business publications frequently publish overview issues; you can talk to local business reporters; and local chambers of commerce publish projections, as do associations of manufacturers (the names are different in various parts of the country). Talk to your professional association and read your trade journals.

You should also evaluate your Strengths and Weaknesses. These are defined as follows:

  • Strengths: characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others.
  • Weaknesses: characteristics that place the business or project at a disadvantage relative to others.

Marketing Objectives

In the “marketing objectives” section, you paint your picture of the future: What marketing objectives do you want to achieve over the course of the plan? Each of your marketing objectives should include both a narrative description of what you intend to accomplish along with numbers to give you something concrete to aim for. Just to say you want to make a first entry into the Swiss screw machine marketplace isn’t providing much guidance. Saying you want to go from 0 percent to 8 percent of the local market in two years is easier to understand–and verifiable. If you’re not sure of the size of the local market, then aim at a dollar figure in sales. Your accountant will let you know whether you’ve succeeded or not.

Goal for It
If you’re new to the marketing plan racket, how do you set a quantifiable goal? Start with your past. Review your past sales numbers, your growth over the years in different markets, the size of typical new customers, and how new product introductions have fared. If over the last five years you’ve grown a cumulative 80 percent in gross revenues, projecting a 20 percent to 25 percent increase in the next year is reasonable; 45 percent is not. Make a low but reasonable projection for what you’ll be able to accomplish with marketing support toward your new marketing objectives. Set modest goals to start, until you get a feel for the terrain.

You should make it a point to limit the number of marketing objectives you take on in a given year. Let’s face it, change can bring stress, disorient staff and sometimes even confuse your target market. Keep your objectives challenging but achievable. Better to motivate yourself with ambitious but worthy targets than to depress yourself by failing at too many enthusiastic goals.

Here are some typical marketing objective categories:

  • Introduce new products
  • Extend or regain market for existing product
  • Enter new territories for the company
  • Boost sales in a particular product, market or price range. Where will this business come from? Be specific.
  • Cross-sell (or bundle) one product with another
  • Enter into long-term contracts with desirable clients
  • Raise prices without cutting into sales figures
  • Refine a product
  • Enhance manufacturing/product delivery

This third section of your plan should include perhaps a half dozen such objectives, spelled out with specific goals. Some examples:

  • Objective: Introduce our accounting and audit services to Blankville. By the end of the first year, we want to have six clients of significance and billed time of $75,000.
  • Objective: Reverse the decline in our package Caribbean winter tour sales in Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis. Sales over the past three years have declined 11 percent. We intend to increase sales 4 percent this year and 8 percent next year.
  • Objective: Introduce lunch fax business at the west side restaurant and deliver 420 lunches per week by June 1.
  • Objective: Demo updated X-ray crystallography at selected trade exhibitions in the summer of 1999. Capture 250 leads per show and secure 75 on-site demos.

To repeat, make your objectives simple, concrete, countable, ambitious and achievable.

Marketing Goals: Where the Details Start
Here’s where you come down out of the clouds and spell out how you’re going to make things happen. While your spreadsheet has shown increasingly stunning profits each time you bump up the market gains, now you’re in the real world. Gains must be made by brains and brawn.

Each marketing objective should have several goals (subsets of objectives) and tactics for achieving those goals. In the objectives section of your marketing plan, you focus on the “what” and the “why” of the marketing tasks for the year ahead. In the implementation section, you focus on the practical, sweat-and-calluses areas of who, where, when and how. This is life in the marketing trenches.

When Eisenhower and the Allies decided to invade Normandy in 1944 to open up a mainland Europe offensive against the Axis powers, they developed detailed plans for victory. While successfully landing in Normandy and holding it were the overall objectives, many intermediate goals were set to make this possible: lining up the needed boats, air cover, behind-the-lines paratrooper drops to cut off communications, feints at a Calais landing to fool the enemy and so on. And, of course, each of those steps had its own list of details.

The key task is to take each objective and lay out the steps you intend to take to reach it. As an example, let’s take the first marketing objective mentioned

Objective: Introduce our accounting and audit services to Blankville. By the end of the first year, we want to have six clients of significance and billed time of $75,000.

How can you make this happen?

Let’s suppose you’ve assigned this objective to a group of people, and they’ve worked up some plans on moving into Blankville.

If your objective is to build a business in Blankville, you have to put together concrete goals to make it happen. Each of these actions makes sense. You might come up with others (there’s no limit to human creativity, after all–especially in marketing). The point is that each goal should consist of concrete actions.

Each of these goals needs to have its own series of steps formalized. Who’s going to check on the advertising rates for the Blankville Bugle? And when should those ads run? Which professionals are moving to Blankville and how do they feel about it? How do we get a list of companies in Blankville? Lots of work to do.

One of the best ways to handle such details is through an activity matrix. A matrix is a grid table that lets you plot actions across time. When you’re developing a marketing plan, you’ll soon reach the point where you have to turn to your calendar and see when things should happen. A matrix provides you with a clear and very usable framework for such timeline plotting.

You can make the matrix as detailed or as big picture as you want. It should, however, include everything that’s scheduled, when it’s scheduled and who the responsible party is. Don’t forget to delegate responsibility as you go.

Budgets and Controls

Whether done well or poorly, business activity always costs money. Your marketing plan needs to have a section in which you allocate budgets for each activity planned. This information shouldn’t appear on the activity matrix since there’s enough detail there already. But it should be in writing with the individual carrying overall program responsibility. People responsible for portions of the marketing activity should know exactly what funds are available to them. In fact, you would be wise to involve them in planning those budgets.

Be as objective as you can about those costs you can anticipate. For things with which you have no budget experience, add 25 percent to your best estimate. Your budget should allocate separate accounting for internal hours (staff time) and external costs (out-of-pocket expenses). Make sure to enter the budget on a Lotus or Excel spreadsheet so you can manipulate it during construction to see which variant works best.

Your budget section might look like this:

Gross sales $142,000
Budget for annual marketing efforts $7,045
Yellow Pages $2,600
Sales letter mailing to prospects $625
Clerical help on mailing list $125
Advertising in local business magazine $500
Advertising in newspaper business section $1,200
Brochure design and copywriting $380
Brochure printing $315
Registration for business exhibitions $145
Attend training session in Chicago $930
Purchase new mailing label software $225

bebefits of blogging

 

Controls: Tracking Effectiveness
To track progress on your marketing plan throughout the year, establish a regular schedule of meetings, and spell this out in writing. How will you make adjustments to your plan midstream? How will you monitor progress in sales/costs to make changes during the year? You can’t leave yourself without this capability.

The reason you pick measurable marketing objectives is to have the ability to track your progress toward reaching them. Too many marketing efforts aren’t quantifiable, with the result that the achievements of your marketing campaigns aren’t satisfactory, or they’re just plain illusory.

All your marketing efforts will benefit from the classic feedback loop: Act, observe, adjust, act again. Scheduling quarterly meetings is best. At these meetings, responsible individuals should report on what they’ve accomplished in the last quarter, including how much of the budget has been spent. Reports should be verbal, with a printed summary for the record.

As your activities move forward over time, you’ll doubtless find the need to adjust the timing, the budget or the tasks themselves. At these points you must decide whether to intensify your efforts, add more tactical steps to pick up the pace, or scale back your objectives. Make your changes in an organized manner, adjusting all the dependent tasks so that the plan shifts as a whole. Whatever your decision, make sure to update your marketing plan document. Put in writing your understanding of why you didn’t reach your goals. Keep the original, and date and number all changes. Your plan must be dynamic, but it shouldn’t lose its sense of history. All this information will be extremely useful when you create next year’s marketing plan.

Marketing isn’t a science, but it is a skill in which you can make steady incremental improvement.

Your effectiveness section might look like this:

A) Annual gross sales from the previous year $865,000
B) Marketing expenditures planned during the current year $40,000
C) Anticipated impact of marketing expenditures on gross sales $110,000
D) Actual marketing expenses during the current year $32,500
E) Annual gross sales at the end of the current year $971,000
F) Percentage of the actual difference between this year’s sales and last year’s sales that can be fairly attributed to the marketing effort 60%

Executive Summary
Put a brief summary at the front of your marketing plan binder. On a single page, sum up (with key financial numbers) in no more than a single page the contents of your marketing plan. Use bullet points, short sentences and bold type for major points, and stay focused on the big issues. What does someone have to know about your plan to have any sense of it?

This summary gives plan readers a concise description of what your company plans to do in the coming year. It also forces you to boil your thoughts down to their rich and flavorful essence, which is always a good thing.

Here’s a sample marketing plan summary:

The year 2015 marketing plan for: YOUR Business  and Associates, has four main elements:

1. We review our existing competitive marketing situation. Overall, prospects look good for our company. Boulder is growing at a steady 4.2 percent rate, with new businesses starting at roughly 750 a year. No competitive bookkeeping and accounting firm has made significant marketing efforts, although Acme Bookkeeping did run a series of advertisements in the business section of the Boulder Bugle. Our gross sales were $145,000. We’ll have to upgrade our software sometime this year, and this will cost us about $20,000, with associated hardware costs. Our supplier will let us spread these costs over three years.

shutterstock_32050237-large2. We plan on marketing ourselves aggressively in the coming year. In addition to speaking and training engagements, we will prepare a series of three half-page ads to run on a six-time schedule in late summer and early fall in the Boulder Business Bulletin. We’ll also produce our first company brochure, which we’ll use as a handout at the training venues. Costs for production of the ads, the brochure and placement of the ads will be $8,500.

3. We foresee the following results for the coming year:
Gross sales $ 154,000
Net profit $ 12,400

4. In the long term, we’ll explore the possibilities of opening a second office in the city. Over the next two to four years, we anticipate maintaining our historical growth of 5 percent to 7 percent per year. Toward the end of that period, we’ll hire at least one other employee and consider expanding our leased space.

Your plan must address two different time frames: the short-term (one to 12 months) and the long-term (over 12 months). Most of your document should focus on the coming year, which is the most important for the majority of small and medium-size businesses. Marketing typically demands the performance of a number of short-term actions planned in unison, which together bring about change. Once you’ve outlined the major year-end goals, the analysis will largely focus on the mechanics of media, mailing and promotion. But you shouldn’t stop your serious thinking at year-end. Stretch beyond your business’s immediate needs and envision the next two or three years. What are you ultimately reaching for?

Write this down, briefly and in general terms. Questions you might answer could include: How many employees do you envision adding over the next few years? Will your need for office space stay the same? Will there be major equipment purchases? Will you be able to hire a manager? Do there exist specific training courses or certifications you’d like to put your staff through? Will your profit margin stay constant, or do you think you’ll be able to better it? Will you become active in local, regional or national trade groups? How will market demographics affect your business in the coming years? Keep track of how your larger vision changes over time as well.