Strategic Marketing Planning for Printers (Part 1)

A couple of  weeks ago, my great intentions were to begin a series on the basics of marketing planning for printers.  Borrowing some images of favorite Hanna Barbera cartoon characters from the 60s (see Yabba Dabba Don’t), I interviewed two imaginary clients, Fred and George, and made the argument that if your printing company is still operating in the stone ages, it’s probably about time to move ahead. It’s also important to have a GPS or at least a good road map to get your company from where it is now to where you want it to be.  In marketing, that road map is a strategic marketing plan, and it includes six important elements:

  1. Goals
  2. Strategy
  3. Tactics
  1. Measures
  2. Budget
  3. Timetable


The next few posts go back to the basics to build a strategic marketing plan for one of our imaginary clients, Jetson Printing Company.  We’ll discuss one or two elements of his strategic marketing plan each week. This week it’s goals.

Goals – Got Any?

stuck on the treadmillWhen I finally caught up with George Jetson, he’d been stuck on the treadmill.  Since leaving Spacely Sprockets and forming his own company, George had been so busy that there was just no time for planning.  Things had gone very well for several years, but the market had changed and now Jetson Printing was struggling.

“So what are your goals?” I asked George.

“Simple.” he replied, “We’ve got to make money.  We need to increase revenues, keep costs low and increase our profitability. We’ve got to market so we can sell more.”

“OK, George,” I responded, “that sounds reasonable.  But what are you actually going to do?”

“I guess I’ll get back on the treadmill and work a little harder,” was the response as he glanced at his watch. “I really don’t have time to think about this, you know . . .”

If this sounds familiar, you’re not by yourself.  These days, most small business owners are so busy working in their businesses that they don’t take time to work on them.  That’s a mistake. It’s necessary to have business goals and marketing goals, and to take the time to formulate a plan.

Before really starting into the discussion, let’s make a few stipulations. First, we’ll be talking about marketing and marketing plans, not a business plan (which is also very important, but much different). Second, the goals we’ll define must be more specific than “make more money” or “sell more.” Every business has these goals. Finally, we’ll make a distinction between business goals, which can be internal or external, and marketing goals, which are primarily external.  Marketing goals are certainly business goals, but for the purposes of our plan we will limit the scope to goals that involve all aspects of our company’s contact with the customers and potential customers for our products and services.

Brainstorming Diagram


So how do you really define marketing goals for your business?  Brainstorming is a good place to start.  Here are a few guidelines to get you started:

  1. Collaboration – Two brains (or more) are better than one.  If you’re surrounded by a bright team, bring them in on the activity.
  2. Ground Rules – Set the stage with guidelines for discussion.  The engagement should be affirming and all ideas are welcomed, no matter how crazy they may seem.
  3. Question based – Start with broad and relevant questions.  The initial question could be as broad as “how do we make more money,” but it’s probably better to start with at least a little bit of focus. The SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, targets) approach can work well as a start.
  4. Scope of Discussion – Focus the discussion as you go along.  Begin with the general and then narrow to the particulars. Stay on topic. Take lots of notes.
  5. Goals, not tactics – This one’s a little difficult. The idea is to identify goals for the company.  Figuring out how to accomplish the goals comes later. As an example,”improve our customer service response” is a goal.  “Implement a CRM system” is more like a tactic.

Involving your team is a good idea, especially the ones who have been with your company for a while. It will probably be fun for them if you schedule  an hour or so to meet  just for the purpose of brainstorming, but there are other ways for this activity to take place.  The old fashioned white board still works.  Put the board up in the breakroom and ask the staff to add notes as ideas come to them.  For the techno-geeks out there, there are also very cool online applications for “mind-mapping.” A very easy to use tool is MindMeister, used to create the chart above.  Mindmaps can be shared for group access, so your team can collaborate in an office setting.

Practical Application – Organize and Prioritize

What you’ll wind up with are lots of notes and ideas with similar themes. Group them together so the ideas make sense.  For example, “get back to customers more quickly,” “improve access to information for customers,” and “empower the customer service team” all have to do with customer service.  They are “sub-goals” of the major goal of improving customer service quality.  Make sure to keep track of the sub-goals.  These are the information bits that will help determine the selection of tactics later on.

Now it’s time to look at reality.  It’s unlikely that you’ll have the time or the budget to implement all of the goals that you’ve generated from your brainstorming sessions.  Prioritization is necessary and the obvious question is “which of these goals will make the largest impact on my company in the shortest amount of time?” We’re going to prioritize the goals that are likely to produce the highest profit return for the investment of time and money.

At this point, the business school method would involve writing a detailed narrative description of each goal.  We don’t have time for that.  The Small Business School method will develop the entire strategic marketing plan in a worksheet.  We’ll be developing the Jetson Marketing Plan as we go along in a Google Docs spreadsheet.  I’ll insert some screenshots, but you’re welcomed to click the link or the images if you want to get a closer look.


List of Goals

So here’s what we came up with.  9 goals, mostly worthwhile, listed in order of priority.  Goal #9 is actually a tactic, but George insisted that we include it in the list.  Because our resources of time, money, and people are limited, it’s not likely that priorities 6 – 9 will get accomplished.  We’re crossing them out for now . . . if time and budget permit, we’ll come back to them later on.

What’s Next?

We now have a list of marketing objectives.  With the next post, we’ll begin the process of defining Strategy and Tactics for each objective.  Strategy and tactics are similar, but different, and both are important.  Combined, they determine the focus and the specifics of your company’s marketing activities.

The Last Part

contactbuttonDP Marketing Services  provides marketing services and support for printing companies.  Part of our mission is to help our customers plan their marketing program and execute it with consistency.  We hope you’ll take a look at our website while you’re here.  If you’d like to talk about your business, we’d be most happy to get in touch.  The first consultation is absolutely free and there’s no pressure.  You can contact Richard Dannenberg by phone at 478-719-4029, by email at, or you can click the button to fill out a contact form here on the website.


Photo attribution: Hanna-Barbera, pilfered from the Internet. Forgiveness asked in lieu of permission