I always tell my clients that in order to grow your business, you need to market your business. You can’t see good growth without intention, strategy and a plan. I often hear myself saying, “Not having a marketing plan is akin to throwing paint on the wall and expecting good results.”

I met recently with a business owner whose business is on the very verge of exploding- both in new products, profits and sales. The business is literally on the edge of going to the next level because the product it sells is truly in demand. It’s a good problem to have. The owner called me to come in and evaluate and prepare the business for a marketing campaign. They were anxious to get started, to see results, and to create a marketing plan to help support this anticipated growth. They were also preparing to hire contractors to handle the additional workload.

During the consult, it became apparent to me that they put the cart wayyyyyyy before the horse. While they’ve been in business for many years, they had never, ever put together a business plan. The biz owner and his partner had never discussed the vision or the mission for the business. They just jumped in, and based on great word of mouth referrals, business had been buzzing along during that time. I also noted that they didn’t have an electronic database of customers. They were keeping their records in binders- ON PAPER- and had a bookcase full of notes and emails. I almost fell off my chair during the meeting, wondering how they kept it all straight.

They wanted to market, that was certain. They understand that a marketing plan was necessary for good growth. But the fact is, they were nowhere near ready. A good marketing plan has a series of tactics that need to be delivered based on the brand values. I found myself recommending to the biz owner that he and his partner start by improving their administrative and operating systems. For one thing, if they wanted to send a newsletter to their client base, somewhere around 6,000 names (!), they needed to hire a temp to come in and transfer their records from paper to an electronic database. As I explained, we would need up-to-date and accurate records to communicate with past and current customers.

This is not unusual. I run into this a lot. Many business owners I meet need to implement these systems in order to have them in place to support marketing initiatives. I like to imagine strong and effective administrative and operating systems as the foundation of a good marketing campaign. If the foundation of a business, including a strong business plan and vision, is not in place, you might as well throw paint at the wall, sit back, and hope for more customers.

I call this “Hope” marketing. “Hope” marketing is like throwing paint on the wall and hoping it’ll magically turn into a smooth coat with no streaks.