For most businesses a marketing plan grows on its own, over time, in an organic fashion.  As income grows and people are added marketing and sales activities start to occur as a natural part of opportunity and growth.

It’s usually sales first.  Usually the owner is the sales manager and the top sales person.  Slowly more sales people are added.  Eventually customer relationship management (CRM) software gets introduced.  Sales people are responsible for generating their own leads.

Several years into the business marketing activities such as lead generation, inbound marketing and corporate identity become important.  The business finally asks “Who are we and what do we do?”  The business has now operated for several years and the question is finally asked.  There are more employees and more responsibilities so the question has to be asked.

Eventually the business hires a marketing consultant or may even hire a marketing manager.  Real marketing structure starts to develop.

The organic marketing plan is largely undefined and informal.  Referrals aren’t tracked and word of mouth is nearly impossible to control.  Sales people aren’t required to track their sales funnel.  The business starts to try different advertising methods but doesn’t keep track of how they work.  Metrics aren’t used to track much activity at all. Things that feel like they’re working are kept and the rest are dropped.

It’s like working on a roller coaster ride.  One month you are on your way up and the next month you’re on your way down again.  Up and down.  Up and down.

There are some common characteristics of an organic marketing plan:

  • Up and down revenues.  Because the plan is slow, inconsistent and uncontrollable revenues porpoise up and down.
  • Reliance on referrals, word of mouth and networking.  These are the common marketing tools of the organic plan.  They are free.  A business doesn’t pay to use them.  However, they are completely uncontrollable and unreliable.
  • Capacity problems are prevalent.  Because sales move up and down so does production.  It plays havoc with production capacity.
  • Large customers dictate the terms.  The business becomes beholden to the one or two large customers generating the bulk of revenues.
  • Cash flow it tight.  The porpoising revenues cause cash flow to be tight.  It’s almost always a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.