We all know deep down that marketing planning is important whether we're a business or marketing leader.
We’ve all had that ‘how do I fit planning in with my day job’ stress. And we’ve all heard the often-used words of wisdom that repeatedly get rolled out at seminars:
• Fail to plan, plan to fail.
• Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat
• A goal without a plan is just a wish
Get your FAIL-SAFE marketing planning template here!
Instead of boring you with another ‘worlds best marketing plan template’ I’ve put together some slightly random but very real thoughts about how to approach marketing planning that may help you get the most out of it… irrespective of what template you use!
Change how you view the process
The idea of planning makes many go green. Never mind the word process! But it’s a brilliant opportunity to get some head space or to reflect and recognize previous achievements. It’s also a brilliant validation process. You might already know what your plan is and have strong ideas but sometimes you need to stop and just make sure that it’s actually a plan that will work.
Be selective who you get involved but get a mix of different perspectives and most importantly people who want to take ownership of creating and implementing parts themselves. Look outside of your business for inspiration, advice or someone to facilitate for you.
Start with why
A bit of an ice breaker but get people to think about why they do what they do – ditch the professional stuff that they think you want to hear and get to their real personal drivers. You can feed some of this into the plan and it helps to get people feeling like they have a purpose and are part of it.
Connect to a business strategy
If you haven’t got a business strategy (or at least a plan) then make one happen. Any marketing invest will otherwise have no anchor or purpose. Link all marketing that you do to your business plan and then create your own set of core strategies (or marketing pillars) that directly link to your business plan.
Cross function programmes
Get your marketing function and suppliers behind a few programmes that will have the biggest impact instead of lots of fragmented activities that sit in isolation. Get them working across disciplines to challenge them and hold each other to account. Appoint a designated programme lead (helps with leadership development) and they’ll feed off each other to do better stuff.
Vision vs. reality
Set yourself a BHAG or a vision that’s mega ambitious. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you aim high and have big expectations, you’ll always achieve more. Just make sure you can link them to realistic deliverables AND get people to buy into them. Otherwise you’ll be laughed out the room!
Outcomes and timelines
Have a clear focus on what your outcomes (and outputs) of planning will look like. These aren’t your ‘rank on page 1’, ‘get 200 qualified’ leads goals. They are your ‘written plan by x date’, ‘skilled up team in place’, ‘new website launched’ type of real outcomes. And put a realistic but stretching timeline against them.
Keep it simple
You don’t need a 54 page plan to justify what you’re doing. A one-page plan is often enough backed up with operational info in the background. Surprisingly one-page formats are sometimes harder to find. Perhaps because they’re just so simple that no-one thinks they’ve made them clever enough!
Whatever you do, make sure you get key non-marketing people to read, be presented or better still be part of the process. If you can’t get the rest of your business bought into your plan, then it will fail in its delivery. You will at least need all your customer facing teams to implement what you’re doing.
Don’t be afraid to recognize your dependencies (and risks). This is NOT an opportunity to make excuses for non-delivery or failure before you’ve even started. It IS a way to help others to appreciate how big a role they play in your collective success.
Keep it organic
I don’t mean print it on 100% biodegradable recycled paper. I do mean let it evolve, revisit it at least every quarter and don’t be afraid to make changes based on learnings or changes in market. It should be a living, breathing thing otherwise it’s just a process exercise to satisfy another purpose.
Your plan should be the bedrock of your marketing team’s objectives, goals and development. They are accountable for its delivery whether they’re direct colleagues or outsourced suppliers. That’s why you get them involved and bought in at planning stage.
Balance innovation with tried and tested
Always make space for something that innovates even if you can’t predict whether it will work. Balance your plan with stuff that you know will work and new shiny things. There is no harm in 70-80% of your plan being a rehash of things you already know work. Encourage innovation – even if something fails, the learnings will be invaluable.
Don’t rely too much on theories, models, previous data, other opinion or whatever else that might stop you just going with your gut. Yes, use some logic and avoid being reckless. Yes, spend a bit of time with your head in a spreadsheet. But sometimes the best ideas come from good old gut feel.
Customer customer customer
If you read this thinking why is this not top of the page, then it was just to make you read it to the bottom! And if you’ve made it this far then you can be the clever one that writes a comment agreeing that customer input is the most critical thing to your planning. Think like your customer – put yourself in their shoes or better still get them involved: be clear and confident in your value proposition, messaging, positioning and know that they are driven by customer insight. It’s one of the hardest things to make happen and I’ve been guilty myself on many occasions of ignoring in favour of speed. But ignore at your peril.
Would be great to hear your own ideas and thoughts in the comments to share the planning love!
Get support with your own marketing planning here
Get support with your own marketing plan