“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” - Benjamin Franklin
Marketers are not always known for their planning skills. We are great at reacting to problems and crises as they come up, but we are often lacking in our ability to plan for the future of our department much less the business we support. Some of that is organizational - most organizations don't do a good job at planning anything other than budgets - but some of that falls on us. We can help set the tempo for the company as it relates to marketing by building a process and deliverable cycle that puts things in order and create a pattern of behavior that makes marketing a priority.
If you are stuck in a firm with little to no marketing planning, here are some things you can do to improve it:
- Set a schedule and stick to it - if you want to have a comprehensive plan for your brand by January 15, work backward to see when you need to start and what gates have to be hit to get there. Beginning with the end in mind will help you know what needs to happen and when.
- Create templates and a process - consistency and clarity are important to planning regardless of the function, but marketers need to create templates as well as a process for getting their plans done. Accounting for each section and area plus a defined, detailed approach to getting it done will make it easier and more efficient.
- Get buy-in for the annual plan - this area has two parts. The first is getting senior management to accept the fact that a marketing plan (and by default a strategy) is a good thing and will make sure the company will support it. The other critical path is a formal acceptance of the plan once it's complete. That way you have affirmation of the plan and acceptance of its contents, which will help marketing execute with minimal static.
- Do quarterly reviews of the plan - the best way to make sure your plans are in line with the business as it moves is to have a regular review of the plan and its progress. That way you can correct the plan if things have changed and adjust strategies and tactics If you can't get quarterly try and get one at the 6-month mark.
- Be quantitative and qualitative - these days a marketing plan must have both qualitative and quantitative information in order to really add value to the organization. Gone are the days where marketers can just put up pretty slides with ads and tell someone where they are running. Each component in a marketing plan that is executed with a return in mind should have that built in. It puts more pressure on us as marketers but this accountability is critical to getting budgets as well as showcasing that marketing is adding and enhancing revenue.
This may be a tough climb if your firm has not had this kind of planning architecture before but promise me that it will pay dividends in the short and long terms. With a plan, you can budget, hire, train, develop and execute properly and give everyone a real sense of what marketing is doing to help the organization. All of that will create opportunities for you and the team, which helps everyone grow and prosper. Embrace the planning journey and it will take you far.