Myths and truths of marketing planning

Bar MarketingBy Legal Futures Associate Bar Marketing

The beginning of a new year is the optimal time to put your thinking cap on, gather your team together, and brainstorm and plan for the year ahead. Why plan? To quote the poet and author Antione de Saint-Exupery: “A goal without a plan is just a wish”.

To reach your corporate goals, an effective, inter-functional, easy-to-follow marketing plan is critical. But, therein lies the problem for many marketers who, quite simply, lack the support, time and resources to create a marketing plan, implement it and measure results to reach defined objectives.

As ever, your trusted Bar Marketing newsletter offers a helping hand by busting the myths and revealing the truths about marketing planning processes…

Myth #1: Marketing plans should be lengthy, complex documents

The famous marketing planning guru Professor Malcolm McDonald once wrote, “If it’s quicker to weigh it than count the pages, it’s not a good marketing plan”. In reality, a single-page marketing plan is more than sufficient for many companies. The less complex, the easier to execute and track.

Myth #2: Marketing plans must be over a three-to-five year timeframe

It’s true that strategic (overriding) plans look further into the future and tactical (day-to-day) plans are much shorter in nature, but planning too far ahead leaves no space for agility and flexibility. A plan that’s totally set in stone is rigid and cannot adjust or react to changes within your business or industry.

Myth #3: Marketing plans always go to plan

Life is such that expected events often don’t happen and unexpected events regularly do. It’s difficult to know what the future will look like. This is why scenario and forecast planning are useful – to cast your lens wider and make predictions with a greater degree of accuracy.

In contrast, your marketing plan should…

Truth #1: Be a roadmap, not a contract

Echoing the point about rigidity, your marketing plan is a document that evolves with your organisation. A strict, immovable framework is no benefit to today’s nimble marketer.

Truth #2: Follow PR Smith’s SOSTAC method

Sometimes it’s necessary to go back to marketing basics when undergoing planning. SOSTAC stands for situational analysis (where are you now?), objectives (where do you want to be?), strategy (how do you get there?), tactics (what do you need to do?), actions (who does what, when and how?) and control (how do you measure it?).

Truth #3: Comprise a high-level marketing plan and low-level tactical plans

Your overall plan feeds into your business’s priorities and your tactical plans set out how to deliver your strategy. Use the power of three – three core strategic pillars each with three supporting tactics. That’s a maximum of nine priorities this year (just like the combined three myths and six truths in this article).

Truth #4: Define critical success factors

These are the elements that must be in place and managed in order to ensure you achieve stages of progress. It’s essentially your capabilities and resources in actioning the plans.

Truth #5: Identify choke points

On the other side of the coin, what are the likely obstacles to success within your sphere of control? Channel sufficient focus and effort into gaining control of these potential barriers before they arise.

Truth #6: Promote clarity of thinking

By documenting the direction in which your marketing is heading, you’re creating consensus and alignment. Everyone’s singing from the same hymn sheet and working better as a coherent team with a shared vision.

To end with a quote by Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

In other words, your strategic plan and tactical plans are dependent upon and complement each other. Get your long-term (strategy) and short-term (tactics) planned well and the (competitive) battle is won.

Of course, this article only touches the surface of marketing planning. For further assistance with your strategising project, why not read the free chapter from our book, ‘A Practical Guide to Marketing for Lawyers’, on the related subject of developing a brand strategy? It’s accessible on Law Brief Publishing’s website.


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