We’re experiencing an unusual time right now… everything in life – and in business – is changing. And changing rapidly. And the speed of all of those changes is fundamentally impacting the way we conduct business.
One of the many business questions these changes are forcing us to answer (especially at this time of the year) is, “Do we still need a sales & marketing plan heading into 2021?”
An understandable response to that would be “no!” With so much change – and more likely to come – what’s the point? Why invest all that time and effort, just to keep erasing and rebuilding it as 2021 moves long?
However, I’m going to suggest that “yes” is the correct answer here – for all the reasons you traditionally want a plan – but you’ll need to approach it much differently than in the past:
- First, forget about planning for a year. Instead, look at 2021 by quarter. The speed of changes around us is forcing us to look at much smaller windows of time now.
- Reconsider who you sell to. Not just which current clients & prospects are thriving and which are barely surviving, but are there new markets, new industries or new types of companies you should be selling to? If your business focuses on those industries hardest hit – e.g. travel, hospitality, restaurants, etc. – you don’t really have any choice but to do this.
- Take another look at what you’re selling. With all the changes happening, do your clients have new challenges or problems that require you to deliver new products or services? And if you’re changing who you sell to (see above), do these new clients have a need for different offerings than you’re selling now?
- Think creatively! Even if your business is off, you can’t stop your business development efforts… though you probably have less dollars to spend. You still need to build awareness in the markets you serve, generate & nurture sales leads and so on. You’ll just need to be a little more clever about how you do that. Consider those things that might require a little time, but not a lot of money… think social media, email marketing, sales calls & emails and content development.
- Engage your clients more often. Managing through this crisis is hard enough… but doing it blindly – without input from your clients – is lunacy. You need to be scheduling regular and frequent check-in calls with your clients. The more you stay up-to-date about their business and their challenges, the more you can help. Even if you’re the CEO of a 500-person firm, have a handful of key clients you check-in with regularly.
- Simplify. Because you’ll be working with smaller windows of time, you’ll be updating your sales & marketing plan pretty frequently. Because of that:
- Limit the number of different tactics you employ. Focus on just a few… but do them really, really well. And do them consistently.
- Keep a simple, visual calendar – in a place you see every day – so that nothing you need to do falls through the cracks. Now is not the time to forget anything!
- Measure a few critical KPIs. Implementing a limited number of activities mean that they all have to work… so measure them weekly to ensure they’re effective. And adjust if they’re not.
- Become a better student. You’re probably already a pretty good student of the industries or markets you serve. With everything going on right now, however, ‘pretty good’ isn’t good enough. You really need to be on top of the information and trends that could have an impact on your business. And it’s not that difficult to do – you just have to do it. For example, set up Google Alerts with key industry terms, attend free webinars and virtual conferences, subscribe to the blogs of industry experts, scan the appropriate LinkedIn groups and so on. The more you know, the better you can adjust and focus your sales & marketing efforts.
- Talk about it. When you and your team get together for your weekly staff meeting (virtually, of course), make sure that sales & marketing are always key topics of the discussion. In these difficult times, the more your team is involved, the better.
So, do you need a sales & marketing plan? Yes, but like everything else these days, the way you create it and use it has to be different.
Remember the old phrase, “Businesses don’t plan to fail… they fail to plan.” And with everything going on right now, planning smartly is more important than ever.