Business is like boxing. There are competitors in every corner: some will engage in harmless sparring, but others have the ability to deliver a lethal knockout punch. A boxer must enter the ring with a strategy that includes understanding his or her opponent’s fighting style, strengths, and weaknesses. Your business, in contrast, must have an effective Marketing Plan that incorporates not only growth strategies, but defensive and contingency measures. Otherwise, your business will be down for the count. The consequences can be severe. You can lose substantial revenue, critical employees, or even your entire business.
Defensive Marketing Strategy
Can we agree that most of your competitors covet your clients? Most will never make direct overtures to undermine you or steal your clients, but beware of that competitor that will not hesitate to take the gloves off and sucker punch you right in the face when you least expect it. Can you get your guard up quickly enough to prevent it? If you entered the ring without a strategy and didn’t see the punch coming, you may take the hit. If you do, what is your contingency plan?
A comprehensive Marketing Plan drafted in the war room with a defensive mindset is your only defense. One of the key components of the plan is a SWOT Analysis that considers the firm’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The analysis is typically conducted during a strategic planning session where employees gather offsite, solicit an outside facilitator, and engage in groupthink to evaluate the firm. If it’s not obvious, the nature of this blog is to stress the threats so we’ll save the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for a future blog. It’s an exercise your firm should be doing at least once every few years. Make sure that the individual or firm preparing your Marketing Plan has the ability to think with a defensive mindset. Otherwise, you may end up with a plan that leaves you open to the knockout punch.
Keep Your Guard Up
Focusing on the fun things in business like growth and your vision is great, but surviving a knockout punch is your livelihood. When you’re increasing your revenue or profitability, you have a perceived safety net in plan in the form of existing business. When you get sucker punched, a large amount of revenue can bleed out very quickly. If that happens, what is your plan? Human nature is to get into the fetal position on the mat and try to cover yourself. Survivors quickly rebound and get their guards up until they can regain their footing. Which one are you? If you have no Marketing Plan factoring in defensive strategy and contingencies, it’s very possible you will end up against the ropes prior to the knockout punch.
Marketing Plan Contingencies
It is important to clarify that even a well thought out Marketing Plan is not foolproof. There are times where your defensive strategies won’t be enough and you will take the punch. This is exactly why your Marketing Plan should factor in contingencies. It should answer questions including…
- How will we react if a competitor steals a key client?
- What will we do if a key employee resigns or is hired by the competition?
- How can we retain a key client in the wake of poor performance or a missed deadline?
- What do we do if a key client ceases to exist or slashes its capital program?
- What is our plan if the economy spirals downward?
Your contingency plan must factor in the things that keep you awake at night. How will you react if a disaster strikes? Lay out specific strategies and tactics that you will implement. Be as specific as possible, including time frames, costs, and specific objectives.
Let me caution that a Marketing Plan is a working document that should guide your business. Don’t let it collect dust on the shelf like the rest of the books in your office. At the end of the day, a plan is just that. The implementation of the plan, combined with effective implementation and leadership are mandatory. The plan is lays out your strategy, but your grit, determination, and survival skills will be necessary to execute your plan. Follow this advice and you will be prepared to avoid or recover from the knockout punch and live to fight another day.