The rules have changed! Biggest change: we're not "partners" anymore. We're customers. We always knew we weren't "partners" in the legal sense, since we had no equity. But while many of us benefited greatly from our relationships with our suppliers, too many of us relied on buzzwords as a way of hiding from realities. The winds of change that are roaring in and blowing away the murk and exposing our true supplier relationships are fresh and invigorating.
In the new era, what matters is what should matter: relationships with suppliers based on the mix of price, service and quality that fits in with OUR business plan, not theirs.
This puts the responsibility squarely where it should be (and where it always really was) -- on OUR shoulders. It makes OUR marketing plan now absolutely crucial. How often have we read in today's generation of business books that running a business by last month's financials is like driving a car by looking in the rear-view mirror. How true!
A marketing plan is a map to tell us how to get our business from where we are to where we want to go. Take a moment to think about maps with me. Let's imagine the "perfect" map of our city. This map corresponds ABSOLUTELY to reality.
This would be a completely useless map. First of all, it would have to be the exact size of our city, making it just a tad cumbersome. Secondly, even if we could get it spread out, it wouldn't TELL us anything. This is a critical point: maps are useful precisely because they leave things out. A City Landmark map should provide an easy-to-use, exciting depiction of our city's landmarks and how to get to them. A railroad map better have what brakemen and engineers need to do their jobs. The mapmaker's hardest and most important job is what detail to leave out. The "ideal" map is the one that tells us ONLY what we need to know, quickly, understandably and attractively.
Same with our marketing plan. We said that marketing is different than selling because it focuses on profit and loss and because it involves the WHOLE company.
Making a marketing plan is hard, but it's not complex. Here's where we have to think outside the box because the rules have changed in our favor. The new rule is like the wonderful magazine with the wonderful title: Fast Business This is great because the race course is, for a brief period of time, wide open, fresh, and the vital new wind blowing spells opportunity.
So here's an out-of-the-box way of looking at our marketing plan that we might find helpful. Throw out those ridiculous hundred page manuals. Like all great ideas of true power, our marketing plan can be simple. Not easy, perhaps, but easier if we approach with an open mind and complete self-honesty. In my view it can be reduced to two steps. First: self-analysis (where do I want to go?); Second: market research (how do I get there?).
Paradoxically, finding out where we want to go comes out of a ruthlessly honest analysis of where we are. The overriding concern, however, the sun that must shine to give light and health to the whole enterprise, must be Profit. How much do we want to make? As much as possible is no answer. It must be a CONCRETE NUMBER. Next, when do we want to achieve it?