Marketing Plans: Don’t fail to plan

There’s an adage that if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. I wholeheartedly support this point of view when it comes to marketing plans.

Why? Because without a marketing plan and without marketing goals you are 100% assured you will be investing your time (and perhaps a lot of money) in random acts of marketing.

True confessions. There have been times in my career when I didn’t do the marketing planning I needed to. Why? No doubt there are many lame excuses… too busy, nobody else saw the value in it, too early in my career to know better, and on and on.

I have worked for companies big and small and what I’ve learned along the way is that you must have a marketing plan. The plan needs to have measurable goals. And the strategies and activities in the plan should focus on accomplishing the goals. If you follow this formula you will make wiser investments with your marketing resources (both money and people.)

So what lessons have I learned along the way that are worth sharing?

  • Take time to build a marketing plan.
  • Before creating your plan make sure you’ve done your market intelligence. What are the current dynamics in your market? What is the competition doing? How have customer needs evolved? What are industry experts predicting?
  • Include clear, measurable goals/objectives in your plan. Associate metrics with the goals and monitor the metrics on a frequent basis.
  • Be sure your plan and goals are aligned with the overall business objectives as well as any plans and goals that your sales, engineering, finance and other teams have created.
  • The repository of your plan can take many forms. I’ve seen PowerPoint, Word and Excel all used effectively. And there are many off-the-shelf planning tools that can also be of help.
  • Socialize your plans with key stakeholders as it is being built (not after it’s completed.) You want their input. Make them part of the planning process rather than an audience.
  • If your company is a larger company with many products or divisions make sure the plans somehow connect and flow up into a master plan.
  • In a larger company there often can be an “infrastructure” of meetings or processes meant to build cross-functional alignment. If your company has one of these infrastructures, make sure the active use of your marketing plan is part of this process.

The timing of your marketing planning is a topic in itself. I’ll leave it for another post, but let me point out that if you plan on a calendar year and it’s mid-February and you still don’t have a plan, you’re not headed in the right direction. It’s time for a course correction.

Now, here’s the $64,000 advice. Perhaps one of the hardest parts of creating and then using your marketing plan throughout the year is the need to keep it current. The market in which you compete is dynamic and so should be your marketing plan. I have seen too many situations where a plan is created in Q4, approved in January, and then sits on a shelf for the next 11 months and is largely ignored. This again results in random acts of marketing and leads to frustration by all involved. As part of your plan, make sure you have a built-in mechanism for keeping your plan updated throughout the year as you execute on it.

Don’t fail to plan. Make this a good year with your best, most dynamic marketing plan yet.

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