Why Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail
Planning is essential, but not inevitable. Some marketers, especially at fast growing companies, often find themselves so overwhelmed with activity that they don’t find time to plan. They pay lip service to the importance of planning, but they don’t make it a priority. They’re so busy chopping wood they don’t make time to sharpen the axe.
Some companies make planning harder than it has to be, possibly in the naïve belief that more data is better and in the hope that they can research their way to good business judgment. But while data is important, insight is essential. And the insights that are most critical are the ones that lead to prioritizing goals and allocating scarce resources
Companies need planning to forge activity into progress.
- Focus: Planning is a process that begins with prioritization of goals – making sure we work to achieve the most important things first
- Internal Alignment: planning explains how a proposed program fits with corporate capabilities and supports specific strategic corporate goals.
- External Alignment: planning anticipates what impact the plan will have on customers.
- Implementation: planning defines activities and timelines, how we allocate time and scarce resources (time, talent, money.)
Marketing planning is all about engaging customers.
Keep your eye on the prize. Strategic business planning focuses on core company values, long-term vision, and strategic imperatives to achieve the vision. Operations plans focus on objectives and strategies for enhancing productivity. But sales/marketing action plans focus on objectives and strategies for turning prospects into customers, building customer loyalty and building brand preference.
Some reasons why marketing planning fails:
- Too much looking in the mirror (what we want to do) and not enough looking out the window (what our customers and prospects want us to do).
- Planning the solution before defining the real, actionable problems
- Failure to measure, monitor progress (meaningful, realistic and few KPIs)
- The tyranny of low expectations
- Underestimating what it takes to affect change (saying it isn’t doing it)
Good planning focuses on Critical Actions
Realistically you don’t have time to consider everything, so examine the things that matter:
- Why change what we are doing now?
- If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got. (Same old horses; same old glue).
- What things should we start doing? What can we do and what do our customers want us to do?
- What things should we stop doing?
- What things must we do better?
- Which of these will have the greatest impact on our performance?
Good plans identify Choke Points and Critical Dependencies
- Choke Point: The most critical obstacle to success within your sphere of control; gaining control of choke points must take priority in time, effort, resources.
- Critical Dependencies: The capabilities, resources, developments essential to achieving a stage of progress (may be within or outside your sphere of control).
Successful Planning is 10% Vision and 90% Implementation.
Only the ideas that are implemented become business advantages. Marketing plans have to be actionable. They mean nothing if they do not immediately evolve into action. Emphasize the pragmatic –make sure it’s realistic, not theoretical. Ask yourself candidly: Do you have the time, the talent, the capabilities, the budget, and the will to do what it takes?
There’s a big difference between plans and planning.
Plans are control documents, a summary of relevant data, a blueprint for action.
Planning is a process:
- Realistic situation analysis — (what can we do)
- Imagining the ideal outcomes — (what should we do)
- Defining and prioritizing specific goals — (what must we do)
- Crafting strategies for action — (what will we do; how will we do it)
Achieving the important before it becomes urgent
Marketers are asked to accomplish more with less. And nobody has enough time in the day to do everything. So it’s imperative to focus on doing first things first. Effective planning identifies the most important things so you can address them before they becomes urgent.
- Urgent and Important activity leads to continuous “firefighting”, mistakes, insanity
- Urgent but Unimportant activity leads to distraction
- Non-urgent but Important is effectively planned activity
Plans should be roadmaps, not roadblocks
Monitor key performance indicators to make sure your plan is working. When marketplace reality changes, be ready to adjust. Competitors are not standing still while your plan unfolds. Technology will change. Customer expectations will evolve. But don’t abandon your plan before it has a chance to work. Stick to your priorities –focus on first things first and always.
No plan is worthwhile until it is put into action
Wishful thinking is not a plan. Planning without implementation is a daydream; Implementation without planning is nightmare.