Tag Archives: marketing plan

Lean Business Plan to Get What You Want From Your Business

Are you running your own business or looking to start a new business? The lean business plan is an easy way to set down your strategy, tactics, milestones, and essential business numbers. Just do it for yourself and your team, with a few streamlined bullet points for strategy and tactics; plus lists of key milestones, tasks, assumptions, and performance metrics; and essential business numbers. Then review and revise it regularly and you’ll have your progress towards goals, and accountability.

Lean Business Plan in Four Steps

One: Strategy

Strategy is focus. A lean business plan uses a few bullet points to remind yourself and your team of your focus on a well-defined target market, and how your business offering solves the problem your business solves for that target market, and how your unique business identity makes you different.  Keep it in bullets, reminders you’ll use yourself.

Two: Tactics

Strategy is useless without tactics. In a lean business plan, tactics define your choices related to pricing, channels, website, mobile app, launch dates, features, benefits, messaging, media, promotion, platforms, locations, signage, financing, recruitment, bundles, and so forth. There is no reason to define all this in detail, or defend it for outsiders. Just decide and set it down as a bullet points. These are the core thoughts of marketing plan, product plan, and financial plan — but just what you need to do it. You don’t need elaborate text. Keep what you say about your tactics simple.

Three: Concrete Specifics

A lean business plan includes milestones to make your planning real. Milestones include dates, deadlines, tasks, responsibilities, and plan your budget and goals to reach specific milestones. List your important assumptions. Set dates for review and revision, plan vs. actual analysis, at least once a month. Set performance metrics you can track. Match every key task with somebody who owns it and lives with its results.

Four: Plan for Cash Flow

A lean business plan includes a sales forecast, spending budget, and cash flow. Profits don’t guarantee cash in the bank. Allow for time to wait for clients to pay, and money to buy what you have to before you sell. The purpose of forecasting is management not accurately predicting the future. Connect the dots so sales depends on drivers of sales like traffic, conversions, leads, closes, and so forth. Match sales forecast to projected spending on sales and marketing expenses.

Review and Revise Often

Always track results and review and revise often. What’s happened with the plan? Were assumptions valid? Was it executed?

Management is tracking results and revising as needed. Leadership is knowing when to stay the course and when to pivot.

Lean startup? Yes. Borrow the concept of minimum viable product and apply it to minimum business plan. Borrow the concept of small steps and frequent reviews and apply it to planning and management.

Nothing lends credibility like milestones met. Nothing says planning better than a revised fresh plan. Be a line, not a dot.

The Lean Business Plan is to Get Stuff Done

Times have changed. Don’t do a big traditional business plan but don’t throw out planning either. Do it right. Do a lean business plan. Your business deserves it. Focus, set priorities, highlight execution and specifics, manage cash. Get what you want from your business, whether that’s high-tech growth and funding or independence and peace of mind. It’s not about a plan; it’s about optimizing your life.

For more on this, I have a whole site dedicated to it at leanplan.com.

Marketing Plans vs. Business Plans: What’s The Difference, and Why Do You Care?

What’s the difference between a marketing plan and a business plan? Doesn’t a business plan include a marketing plan? Why would anybody do one without the other?

Good questions, and since I get them a lot, I decided to answer them here:

  1. A business plan covers the entire business, including overall strategy, financial plans, target markets, sales, products and services, operations, and how they all relate to each other. A marketing plan, in contrast, focuses on the marketing: marketing strategy, target markets, marketing mix, messaging, programs, etc. Cash flow is vital for a business plan, but not usually included in a marketing plan
  2. Yes, a business plan almost always includes the marketing portion. Emphasis varies, and I’ve seen some plans that focus much more on product or service than on marketing. But those are unusual.
  3. Lots of people do marketing plans rather than business plans because their job or their attention or their focus is on the marketing, not the whole business.

I wrote 5 steps to creating a marketing plan in one of my columns for entrepreneur.com. I’m including a summary here:

Step One: Your identity as a business.

Create separate lists that identify your business’ strengths, weaknesses and goals. Put everything down and create big lists. Don’t edit or reject anything.

Then, find priorities among the bullet points. If you’ve done this right, you’ll have more than you can use, and some more important than others. Kick some of the less important bullets off the list and move the ones that are important to the top.

This sometimes requires input from your managers as well. For example, your management team thinks being conservative on spending is a weakness but you don’t. That might be something to drop off the list.

Step Two: Focus on markets.

The next list you’ll need to make outlines your business’ opportunities and threats. Think of both as external to your business — factors that you can’t control but can try to predict. Opportunities can include new markets, new products and trends that favor your business. Threats include competition and advances in technology that put you at a disadvantage.

Also make a list of invented people or organizations who serve as ideal buyers or your ideal target market. You can consider each one a persona, such as a grandmother discovering email or a college student getting his or her first credit card. These people are iconic and ideal, and stand for the best possible buyer.

Put yourself in the place of each of these ideal buyers and then think about what media he or she uses and what message would communicate your offering most effectively. Keep your identity in the back of your mind as you flesh out your target markets.

Step Three: Focus on strategy.

Now it’s time to pull your lists together. Look for the intersection of your unique identity and your target market. In terms of your business offerings, what could you drop off the list because it’s not strategic? Then think about dropping those who aren’t in your target market.

For example, a restaurant business focused on healthy, organic and fine dining would probably cater to people more in tune with green trends and with higher-than-average disposable income. So, it might rule out people who prefer eating fast-food like hamburgers and pizza, and who look for bargains.

The result of step three is strategy: Narrow your focus to what’s most in alignment with your identity and most attractive to your target market. In other words, focus on the area that is shared by all three lines in the diagram here.

Step Four: Set measurable steps.

Get down to the details that are concrete and measurable. Your marketing strategy should become a plan that includes monthly review, tracking and measurement, sales forecasts, expense budgets and non-monetary metrics for tracking progress. These can include leads, presentations, phone calls, links, blog posts, page views, conversion rates, proposals and trips, among others.

Match important tasks to people on your team and hold them accountable for their successes and failures.

Step Five: Review often and revise.

Just as with your business plan, your marketing plan should continue to evolve along with your business. Your assumptions will change, so adapt to the changing business landscape. Some parts of the plan also will work better than others, so review and revise to accommodate what you learn as you go.

Business Plan, Marketing Plan, or Both?

“if I have a marketing plan, do I need (or want) a business plan too?” Good question. And so is its opposite question too, “if I have a business plan, do I also need (or want) a marketing plan?”

As for a lot of these planning questions, you’re going to get different answers from different people. There’s no consensus on this.  But here’s my answer:

  1. Marketing is critical to business, and every business plan has a lot of marketing plan in it. There’s no need to keep the marketing separate from the rest of the planning. The marketing plan is an extremely important part of the business plan. No need to do it separately.
  2. That is, however, unless you are one of those people who are responsible for marketing, but not for the whole company. You don’t manage cash or financial strategy or ownership of the business. Then your job is marketing and related functions like sales and customer service and branding and social media and SEO, and so forth. You ask for the resource, and somebody else reviews, prioritizes, and gives you that resource or a reason why not. You probably have to manage expenses and show how they relate to sales and the health of the company. You probably have to show how those expenses make good business sense. You should probably be doing marketing planning, not the whole business planning; just your subset.

So to me, at least, the marketing planning is different from the business planning because it’s a subset. It doesn’t deal with financial health or financial strategy. It should have projections for sales, cost of sales, and sales and marketing expenses. It doesn’t project overall cash flow or the projected balance sheet. It probably deals with personnel, but just the related personnel, not the whole company personnel or larger personnel strategies.

Somebody just asked me that in email.

The Marketing Power of Negative

Two strangers sitting next to each other on a commercial airplane: if one chooses to say something to the other, the most likely comment, by far, is going to be something negative about the airline. They’re always late, the seats are too small, something like that. It’s human nature. We break the ice by criticizing someone else because that unites us.

Blog posts, presentations, workshops and the like do much better organizing around mistakes and myths or failure than anything else. My posts on business plan mistakes, or startup mistakes, do much better than lists of tips. My workshops and presentations organized around top 10 mistakes to avoid do better than keys to success.

People talk way more about what’s wrong with something than what’s right with something.

I’ve seen research indicating that angry customers tell 17 people, on average, about what made them so mad. Happy customers tell three. Word of mouth is much more likely to be about what’s wrong than what’s right.

Does your marketing know that? How powerful is the negative? How does that impact your business? Your social media strategy? Your marketing message? Your customer service?

(Image: Copestello/Shutterstock)