If you are a CEO managing your startup day to day, it’s time to stop putting out fires or jumping from one perceived opportunity to the next without results. To get organized and grow your business in 2013, create a strategic marketing plan to focus your team on gaining traction and attracting investors.
The ideal marketing plan is created thoughtfully, matching what you have to offer with market hunger. If possible, get professional help to create your plan–having an outside expert can help you explore new opportunities and approaches. If you prefer a do-it-yourself approach, it is possible to create a marketing plan, even if you are short on time. When developing your plan, focus on the critical aspects of your business, including customer acquisition and satisfaction, product and service development, new technologies, competition, expansion, partners, and distribution, to name a few. Here are three ways to create a do-it-yourself marketing plan on the fly.
#1: Meeting of the Minds. Invite key members of your team, select customers, valued partners, and, if possible, an industry expert or two to engage in a three-hour strategy meeting. Consider adding a successful CEO from a field not in any way related to your own–sometimes the best ideas come from the outside. Lead a discussion covering the major aspects of your business and solicit ideas and action steps. Ask someone from your team to chronicle the discussion. Schedule time the next morning to absorb the ideas and suggested action steps, then create a marketing plan using a slide deck to share the plan with your team.
#2: Hotel California. As the company’s CEO, you probably have great ideas about what needs to be in your marketing plan but have not made time to write the plan. Set aside one day to check into a hotel and do nothing but focus on creating your plan. Invite someone you respect to join you for breakfast and conversation about what your company needs to reach new customers, truly engage existing customers, and expand the business. That afternoon, pull up your slide deck and create the plan based on the ideas discussed. This can include working in the hotel’s lobby or restaurant, enjoying a great view of the ski action, to inspire your best thinking. Caveat: in this version of Hotel California, you can check out and leave, but not until your plan is completed.
#3: Industry Tour or Conference. Receive and share ideas with those in your field who have achieved traction and are willing to share their stories. Schedule a three-day tour to meet with CEOs in similar fields. In Silicon Valley, it is part of the culture to share what’s working and what’s not. If you find it difficult to get cooperation in your area, consider a trip to San Francisco and Palo Alto. If you don’t have three days available, attend a conference and talk with other CEOs and, if possible, some of the speakers. Use airplane time to pull together your plan.
The process of creating a marketing plan helps you think through key issues, threats, and opportunities. A good plan results in action steps that help you avoid traps and gain traction. The plan is key to sharing your vision with your team and also for recruiting talent. A tight strategic marketing plan can also be a useful tool for discussions with investors and others who can help you move the company forward.