Planning: What's In, What Not?
Is planning biblical? I believe it is. The Bible encourages us to write down our visions and plans. However, all plans must be submitted to the Lord continually for new direction and clarity. Today things change rapidly and it is very difficult to develop plans much farther out than five years. And even that is questionable. Technology is changing so fast that a five-year plan will be obsolete in six months. My suggestion: write your plans in "pencil".
Here are a few scriptures on planning:
1 Chronicles 28:19 "All this," David said, "I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan."
Prov 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
Prov 29:18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Hab 2:2-3 Then the LORD replied: "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
Ex 34:27-28 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments.
Prov 3:5-6: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,and he will make your paths straight.
Ps 138:8: The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me;
Why You Need a Written Plan
The purpose of a marketing plan is to simplify the execution of the marketing idea: moving goods or services from concept to customer. You may ask, “Why do I even need a plan?” The answer is because without it, you are likely to use your limited resources in a wasteful way and thereby fail in the effort.
For almost everything we do, we have a plan to accomplish it. Whether your plan is one page, five pages, or 50 pages, a good plan will always have the basic SOS formula: S-Situation: Where are we now? O-Objective: Where are we going? S-Strategy: How are we going to get there? These elements do not always have to be in this order, but any good marketing plan will have this formula included somewhere.
God Calls You to Plan Beyond Your Capability
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).
Let me share another perspective on planning by way of a story I wrote about in my devotional series, TGIF. “The CEO walked into the president's office after reviewing his new marketing plan for the next year. It was a well-prepared, thoughtful plan.
‘This will not do!’ exclaimed the CEO. ‘This plan describes how you will achieve these objectives through your own planning. I am certain you can achieve these objectives through normal business operations; however, you have allowed no room for faith in your plan. Now you must determine what God wants us to trust Him to accomplish through this business. You must go beyond what you can naturally achieve.’
What was this CEO saying? If you and I want to experience God in business at the practical level, we must be willing to trust Him for more than what our natural abilities can accomplish..”
Consider the Cost of Your Plan
We also need to consider what is needed to implement our plan. It is not enough to write the plan, we also need to make sure the plan is achievable. Our plan should be mixed with faith and measurable goals along the way. Consider what Jesus in Luke 14:28: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
I believe what Jesus is saying here is that we don’t want to operate in blind faith. There has to be some realism in what we are attempting, but it still requires faith that would require God’s help for it to be accomplished. There is a fine line between using our skill and ability and placing total trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5,6 cautions us to place our trust in the Lord. There should be a balance in all things.
Before starting your plan, the first step is to write an outline. You may not need every topic, but using this outline as a checklist will determine if it applies to your situation. The following outline represents all the basic ingredients of a good marketing plan:
II. Situation Analysis
III. Market Current Situation
A. Direct Competition
i. Market Share
B. Indirect Competition
C. Target Audience
4. Problems & Opportunities
- Marketing Objectives
- A. Positioning Product
- B. Price
- C. Packaging
- D. Distribution
- E. Promotion
- F. Creative
- G. Media
- H. Direct Mail Tactics
- I. Budget
Now that you have your basic outline, let’s discuss what each topic entails.
Corporate Objective: Before you can devise an effective plan you need to know where the chief executive officer is taking the company. Where does he/she want to be in two years? Five years? Or even 10 years? If you don’t know this, you are going to spend a lot of wasted time and energy developing a plan that may be totally opposed to the philosophy of the company. Sit down with the CEO and find out this information. Then, condense it into one or two sentences. You now have the Corporate Objective for the company.
Situation Analysis: Here’s where 90 percent of the work lies. Situation Analysis is also the phase where market research occurs. Research can be an invaluable tool to help determine the necessary strategies to take in your marketing plan. However, research alone is insufficient. It needs to be objectively reviewed.
An example is Coca-Cola’s use of market research in the decision to introduce New Coke. Research indicated that consumers liked the taste of New Coke. Unfortunately, their research didn’t convey the tremendous emotional attachment consumers had to the old product. The result was almost devastating.
Market/Current Situation: Describe the market in which you are competing. How large is the market? How many players are in the market? How do you fit within this market? You may need professional market research, or need to conduct some of your own with what I call “bird dog” research. Find out as much as you can about the product and companies in the marketplace. Paint a picture of how your company fits into this overall market.
Direct Competition: Who are your direct competitors? If you can, state the sales and size of each one of these competitors. See where you fit into the scheme of things.
Share: What is your current market share? If you do not have a product in the market, find out who owns what share of the marketplace among your competitors.
Position: How is your company perceived in the marketplace? Notice I didn’t say how you think you are perceived. Only an outsider can tell you how you are truly perceived. This is best done through research. How is your company positioned in the marketplace? And how is your competition positioned? Are you known for your quality of service? Research will uncover the unique traits of your product or service. Eventually any negative trait—from poor service, to slow delivery—will have a negative impact on your business.
Creative: How does your competition portray their creative product? Is their advertising effective? What is the value of their packaging? Examine every area of the physical nature of your competition.
Spending: How much is being spent by your competitor? How does that compare to your company? Your competitor may be spending more in packaging or perhaps investing more to reach the trade market, or they may even be spending more in direct mail. Find out what their emphasis is and where most of their advertising dollars are invested.
Indirect Competition: Sometimes it is important to look beyond the direct competition and to focus on indirect competition. A good example of indirect competition for a bookstore might be records and gifts found in a non-bookstore outlet like Wal-Mart, price club, or online store like Amazon.com. Is the direct competition other books, or is it in fact the records and gifts that are found in other places one can purchase books?
Target Audience: Whom do you really want to sell this product to? Who is the prime audience for this product? You’ll want to break this down in terms of demographics and psychographics by asking questions like: How old is the target audience? Are they middle class? College educated? Paint a profile of the individual most likely to buy this product. This is going to be especially important when you start planning your media buys.
Trends: What are the current trends that relate to your product? Has it been a down economy for this product or are forecasters predicting a bright future? Take a look at the industry in terms of the past, the present, and the future.
Problems and Opportunities: By now, you have had the opportunity to identify problems. You will be able to recognize your weaknesses and your strengths as they compare to your competitor’s. A good marketing plan turns a problem into an opportunity. This can work for your product, too. The problems you’ve worked so hard to unearth can become opportunities. Try to draw concrete conclusions from your problems and opportunities. These will be important to you in establishing your marketing objectives and strategies.
Marketing Objectives: Here’s where you want to state in clear, simple and achievable terms what your Marketing Objective is. Be specific. Increasing sales is not a Marketing Objective. Increasing sales calls or production by 10 to 20 percent per month is a marketing Objective. However we must be careful not to establish objectives that have not been adequately prayed about and gained through discernment given by God. Increasing sales should be the byproduct of activities done that may yield your result, not an end in itself. Set in place activities that may result in achieving your goal and leave the result to God. In other words, ask God what your Marketing Objective should be and then seek Him as to how it can be accomplished!
Be Realistic, But Plan with Faith
Perhaps you have gotten to this point and discovered through your research that it is impossible to achieve an increase in performance based on your findings. If you sincerely believe this, then it is your responsibility to state it unapologetically. Be realistic in your projections and make your projections based on the facts you have and what you believe God is leading you to do. God wants to work through the plan He gives you.
Strategies: Our Strategies section tells what action is needed to achieve your marketing objective.
Product Positioning: How do you want to position your product? If your product is toothpaste, do you want it to be positioned as a “whitener” or a “breath freshener”?
Price: How do you want to market the product? Above market, below market, or in-between?
Package: How do you want to package this product? Will it have bright colors? Will it be packaged similarly to your competitor’s product? Perhaps you will do something totally different in the packaging area. One of the greatest examples of the impact of packaging on a product is in the pantyhose industry. For years pantyhose was packaged in flat boxes and mostly marketed through department stores. Now through the efforts of L’eggs, women can go to quick-stops and other outlets to buy pantyhose found in unique egg-shaped packaging.
Distribution: Do you want to change the way the customer can get the product? If it is a book, do you want him to find it in a specialty bookstore? Or can you reach the customer through a grocery store or other outlet?
Promotion: Do you want to use contests, sweepstakes, or give-aways in your strategies of selling the product?
Creative: How do you creatively present your product to the marketplace? Will you use humor, “slice-of-life” approaches, or product-oriented advertising?
Media: What forms of media will best reach your targeted customer? Is this product best suited for television, radio, print, or direct mail?
Promotion: What other avenues can you pursue to promote this product? Perhaps you need to do a full PR campaign on the release of the product.
Budget/Projections: Here’s where you state what it is going to cost in order to accomplish your objective. Not only will you produce a budget, but also want to project sales based on that budget. The plan does not necessarily have to show profit on the product during the first year. Proctor & Gamble states it takes 18-24 months before they get on the upswing of any new product. But, remember, it must make a profit at some point! A good marketing plan will be an invaluable tool to your organization. It is your track to run on.
A detailed, concise plan takes the guesswork out of the marketing process and insures you the greatest opportunity for a successful marketing effort. It can be as simple as one page or hundreds of pages depending on the size enterprise you are running. The important thing is it must have the SOS formula addressed.
Practical Steps to Planning
In summary, I recommend the following when developing a strategic plan.
1. Pray. Get peace from the Lord about your plan.
2. Plan. Write it down. This provides accountability for yourself and others.
3. Consult. Develop your plan with other team members that will be responsible for implementation. There is wisdom in the counsel of many.
4. Review. Every month or two, pull out your plan and see how you are doing. Be willing to adjust as new information become available.
5. Apply Faith. God wants you to do more than what you think you can do. Trust God to accomplish even greater things through your plan.
Finally, make sure the spiritual emphasis is there. Don’t leave God out of your plan. Write it in pencil, seek the Lord about your plan and ask for his wisdom and direction for implementation.
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