When I tell people about my passion for scuba diving, they often ask about fear. “Aren’t you afraid of …?” Sometimes they ask about sharks, sometimes about the depth of the dives, sometimes about the unknowns lurking in the ocean. My answer is usually the same: I learned for experts. They taught me the steps to be safe, to be confident, to be a good diver. I didn’t just pull on fins and jump overboard.
Unfortunately, a lot of people think they can do that when it comes to marketing and communications. Slap some words on paper, upload to Facebook, hit share and you’re a marketer. Or, they don’t pause to consider the impact of an announcement or business decision and find themselves blindsided by unwanted, or unflattering, press. You may not end up in a watery grave, but you certainly aren’t a communications expert—and the impact on your business could be staggering.
Plan the Dive, Dive the Plan
Marketing is much more intrinsically linked to sales and development, long-term strategy and data than anyone wants to admit. Every decision you make as a marketing expert should have customer engagement and sales growth clearly in the middle. In scuba diving, the rule is simple: Plan the dive, dive the plan. Marketing and communications are very similar—taking a day or a week to think through what you are saying, how you are saying it, who you are saying it to—can help you avoid a world of hurt.
What does a marketing plan look like? It’s not quite as fun as a dive plan, and rarely involves a beautiful Eagle Ray, but it is very similar. When we plan a dive, we talk through where we want to go to see what we’re looking for, we evaluate the risk, the timing, the gear we need, any obstacles or concerns, and then we think through each step before even getting in the ocean.
Invest the Time, Reap the Benefits
For marketing, you’ll need to sit down with your team (or yourself) and think through the steps one by one. You likely won’t have the same plan for your business end-to-end, just as my scuba partner and I don’t have the same dive plan for every dive. You must consider what you want to accomplish first, then you move forward. Consider your goal—brand education, product announcement, event presentation, roadshow, thought leadership, content marketing, nurturing existing clients, reaching potential clients, etc. Then, identify your target audience and the best way to reach them. Set out a timeline for content of all types and have a plan for creating content that builds to a crescendo in conjunction with your goal. A marketing plan doesn’t have to be complex, but it does have to be thorough. Not sure how to start? HubSpot has a fantastic set of downloadable templates that can help you with ideas. Just using a framework will help you start the right conversations with your team.
Each marketing plan is unique, and only you know what is critical for your business and where and what you want to invest. But trust me, whatever that amount is, it will go farther and deliver better results simply by taking the time to write the plan, and then follow the plan.
Gotta’ run—the ocean is calling!