What's missing from everyone's marketing plan draft?
The action plan.
And a detailed marketing budget.
As a SCORE counselor, I read and comment on lots of business plans. Invariably entrepreneurs are unaware that marketing takes significant time and effort. And they typically underestimate what the marketing and sales activities that they so blithely propose will cost.
An action plan is a monthly or weekly schedule of marketing activities, an estimate of the hours required, and the name of the person or persons who will put in those hours. Or the quotes from vendors to do the activity. And weekly or monthly targets for hits, leads, sales, etc.
A marketing budget is a list of the costs of all marketing and sales efforts in a particular time period. When I read a plan, I note the marketing activities and estimate their costs on a yellow pad. I expect each to show up in a detailed marketing budget, with the total of these in business plan financials, on the marketing/selling line.
"Free" Activities Have Costs, Particularly Someone's Time You're going to go after partnerships where you exchange services, at no cost to either party? How about the transportation costs of making the calls to set up these deals? Expenses to pick up the tab at Starbucks? What about costs of an attorney to review agreements? Or maybe you plan on free PR, you say. Ok, who is writing the releases? How many releases per month? Are you going to submit them to professional PR outlets online? If so, you are likely to be paying $250+ per release. Do you have topics to write about other than your products and services? You are not likely to get much pickup from releases with a purely promotional angle. ("News" has multiple sources, while PR has one -- you. Professional publications are looking for topical news, not copy on your latest product offering.) Who's writing all those emails to prospects and customers you are talking about? Who will handle the email database, analyze results, refine the lists, deal with bad emails? Don't wave your hands and say viral marketing or word of mouth. These are not as easy as they sound. Furthermore, writing articles, creating products to give away, setting up affiliate programs and the like all take someone's time. Do you plan to do your own marketing at first, along with everything else involved in launching a business? If so, the action plan will show you how much time you need to allocate to marketing activities.
Plan for Ongoing Marketing Without a sustained marketing effort over the first year, your business has no chance to get off the ground. While concentrated in the launch stage, marketing activities and costs must continue throughout the year. Get some quotes from PR and marketing agencies to handle this, and you will begin to understand the time/money that "full court press" marketing requires. So if you're asking me to comment on a draft of your business plan, please include a marketing action plan and budget for the first year in your appendix.