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Date: March 27, 2016

Author: Jan Fambro

Do I Really Need a Marketing Plan?

Yes!  Your marketing plan is essential if you want to be successful in the highly competitive triathlon marketplace.  There was a lot of conversation at the January TBI Conference about the crowded event market – competition between the small, local races and the large race organizations that are coming into their space and siphoning off competitors.  The same discussion was held about the burgeoning specialty races (e.g., color, mud, Spartan) vs. traditional triathlon events.  The discussion also included the small, one-store retailer vs. omnichannel retailing.  Question:  Do you have a marketing plan to answer the challenges faced in your business, and meet and beat your competitors?

A marketing plan helps you stay focused

Your marketing plan is a map to guide you toward the quantifiable goals that you set.  A plan will help you coordinate your efforts and be proactive.  With it, you are more likely to be realistic about your time, energy and money.  A plan will help you stay organized and on track throughout the year.  Your marketing is more likely to get done when you take the time to identify what you want to do, when you want to do it and how (staffing, budget, time) it will get done.  

Write it down

Your marketing plan doesn’t need to be a huge, lengthy document, but it does need to be put in writing and you need to periodically re-evaluate how well it’s working.  Your quantifiable goals are your benchmark.  If you’re not seeing improvement in reaching these goals, take time to review your plan and make adjustments. 

Your plan should identify:

  1. who your target audiences are;
  2. where and how they get your information about entering your event or buying your product/service;
  3. what and when marketing activities and communications outreach needs to get done;
  4. how much money you have to spend on your communications activities; and
  5. what your quantifiable goals are: do you want to increase the overall number of competitors or just a specific age group or event; do you want to sell more of a specific product or just see more foot traffic in your store.

In today’s cluttered world where people are bombarded with “do this” and “buy that” messages, a single/one-time outreach activity implemented once won’t make an impact.  The same message needs to be conveyed multiple times in multiply ways.  Marketing is an on-going, long-term process.

Creating a marketing plan doesn’t need to be a complicated, labor intensive process, but it is a critically important one. And once you create your plan, you need to stick with it.  Don’t be distracted when a ‘shiny object’ flashes by (someone calls out of the blue and offers you a ‘great deal’ on a banner ad) and you veer off in an unplanned direction. Put the proposed banner ad to the litmus test of your marketing plan: Does it reach your target audience? Will it help you meet one or more of your goals? Will it take resources (money or staff) away from your existing plan and efforts?  Back to the first section of this blog:  Stay focused.

Use facts and research data as the foundation of your plan

Research data is extremely important in finding and identifying your audiences, and learning more about them and what they want.  Your own registration lists, competitor data and surveys, sales reports, informal surveys and anecdotal information like in-person and online conversations can be very helpful in learning about your audience, what they like and don’t like, and where they get their information.  Publicly-available research like the recent Voice of the Athlete Survey by Athlete IQ can tell you a lot about what lifestyle athletes want related to race content.  GameFace Media also published a survey that provided data on how runners discover and select the races they will run.  Other research like TBI’s U.S. Triathlon Market Trends Survey can provide you a bigger marketing picture of what’s happening in the triathlon marketplace today.  Facts and data are available to you, and should not be overlooked when deciding your goals and how you will reach your goals.

Be realistic

Determine two to three goals you’d like to reach. An example of a measureable goal is:  “increase the number of youth (14 and under) competing in my event by 15%.”  This is a realistic number, as opposed to, for example, increasing numbers by 75%.  Be realistic about your time and your staff’s time.  Better to pick two activities and do them well, then 10 and do them minimally.  Be realistic about your available budget.  Everything costs you, whether it’s money or staff time (which is also money). 

Use a calendar to keep on top of your marketing efforts?

Once you have identified the events and activities you want to implement, incorporate your marketing plan into your time management/action items system.  Some people find it easiest to use a wall calendar.  Others like a desk calendar or a computerized program.  There are many deadlines to meet during your season or year, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up.  Use a calendar/timeline system that is easy for you and keeps deadlines in front of you.

Assess your progress?

Your quantifiable goals will be your yardstick as to whether you’re getting to where you want to be.  Always review what you’ve done and how it worked.  Keep pre- and post-activity records on all your marketing communications activities.  Don’t expect progress overnight or success with a single activity.  Give your plan time to work before you do your assessment.  The point of your assessment is see what worked well and what didn’t.  If something didn’t work well, it’s time for an adjustment. Keep the elements that worked, discard or modify those that didn’t.

Whether you are a race director, retailer, manufacturer or service provider, a written marketing plan is the road map you must have for a successful journey for your triathlon business.  Your marketing plan is a tool not just for you, but for everyone in your business.  Knowing the goals and how they are being achieved will give everyone a sense of ownership, which always leads to better business results.

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