Three reasons EVERY business needs a marketing plan

If you’re launching a new freelance career or starting your own business and you haven’t got a marketing plan, you may be making a very expensive mistake, as marketing expert Paula Hutchings explains.

Starting a new freelance career or business is expensive. Before you’ve started work on your first job you often need to pay out for an ever-growing list of things – from business cards and a website, to stationery, equipment and accountancy fees for setting your business up.

Every business can benefit from a marketing plan

So you can’t blame freelancers and small business owners for trying to save where they can – and often a marketing plan is one of the first purchases deemed as a luxury that can wait.

And that’s even if a marketing plan made your list – many freelancers and small business owners assume that they’re a necessity for big businesses, and not for small home enterprises like theirs. However, the reality is that EVERY freelancer or small business will benefit from a good marketing plan.

A marketing plan is a vital document that will help you to keep on track and achieve defined business goals. It maps out all aspects of your marketing intentions and activities for a set period of time, and is a summary document that provides an important framework to ensure that your marketing activities are carried out in a controlled way to deliver maximum results.

And you don’t just need to be fresh to freelancing or starting out in business to benefit. Even if you’ve been in business for a while without a plan, it’s a good idea to create one.

Three reasons why you need a marketing plan

So what are the three key benefits of a marketing plan for your freelance career or business?

1) You’ll build a focused and forward-thinking business

Taking the time to build a marketing plan forces you to sit down and really think about the direction your business is heading in. You’ll need to consider important questions about where are you now and where do you want to be, and consider how you’re going to get there and what resources you have available.

You’ll also need to think about the wider environment – your competitors, customers, and current issues in the world that might impact the marketplace within which you operate.

Without a marketing plan or awareness of your business environment (and how this might impact your business), you won’t be able to plan ahead for challenges or consumer demand changes, and instead be left reacting blindly – often behind your competitors. There are so many examples of failed businesses that have been caught out this way. 

2) You’ll be able to make clearer business decisions

Dedicating time to understanding your business and how it fits within the wider marketplace will enable you to make clearer, more informed decisions. When you know your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and have a good idea of any challenges that lie ahead, you can invest your funds and resources in the right places. The ability to make controlled, logical decisions will help you drive your business or freelance career forward with confidence.

3) You’ll integrate long-term planning with short-term implementation

As a freelancer or small business owner knowing where to start with marketing can feel overwhelming. What opportunities should you explore? What can you actually afford, and what will give you the biggest return on your investment?

Creating a marketing plan allows you to document all your potential marketing options and to stagger them in a controlled way that will help you achieve your business goals. For example, you might not be able to afford a PR campaign in your first year of business, but you recognise that it’s something that you need to do. Create a three year marketing plan and you can earmark it as a future activity in year two, when you have built up more funds from implementing other less-costly marketing activities.

Integrating long-term planning with short-term implementation will help you to feel more in control and able to rationalise the choices that you make. Unless you’re incredibly lucky, no freelancer or small business has endless pots of money to invest in marketing – so well-planned, controlled and measurable strategies are essential.

Expect a bumpy ride without a marketing plan

‘I don’t have time to write a plan’, ‘I don’t need a plan – things are going really well just now’, ‘Marketing plan? I wouldn’t know where to start!’

These are just some of the justifications frequently cited by freelancers and small businesses as reasons why they don’t have a marketing plan (or perhaps worse, a business plan!). But if you want your business or freelance career to grow, you will need strategic direction and a plan to get there.

I recently read a great analogy between marketing plans and a road map. The question raised in the analogy was, ‘You wouldn’t start a long journey without a map, so why would you start a business without a marketing plan?’  This strongly resonated with me, as I really believe that without a marketing plan, you should expect a bumpy ride with lots of wrong turns and missed opportunities. 

A simple plan is better than no plan – so start yours today

Creating a marketing plan doesn’t have to be a daunting task. You don’t have to create a mammoth document – a simple, well-thought out plan that keeps you on track (and is readily available for you to refer back to) is better than no plan at all.

You don’t even need to hire the services of a marketing expert if you can’t afford to. With lots of templates and guides on how to complete a marketing plan freely available on the internet, creating a plan may be easier – and cheaper – than you think.

So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re new to freelancing or business, or need to give your career or company a boost, set aside some time today and start making a plan for future success.

Need more marketing advice?

You’ll find more great marketing tips in these articles:

Have you got a question on marketing plans? Tweet Paula and she’ll be happy to answer.