Marketing plans.  It seems some marketing professionals love them and well, some don’t.  But we’ve all had to deal with them.  Everyone wants to see the document and we must submit budget numbers, so we create marketing plans.

I just completed a marketing plan project for one of my clients.  It’s a process I’ve done a hundred times, but this time I made a point to think about the big picture as I went through the process.  The observations I made may help you as you develop your next plan.

  1. You are never done.  As you think through all of the issues and choices in your plan, you realize that you could continue adding detail, thinking new angles, etc. almost literally forever.  We all feel that way.  But we must recognize the difference between planning and executing and draw a line and say “done!”
  2. The more time you spend planning, the better your marketing effort will be.  It probably goes without saying that the better you prepare, the better you execute.  The marketing plan is both the result and the process of that preparation.  When you have completed a marketing planning process properly, you’re ready to take on the world.
  3. No matter how hard you work, the plan is out of date before you know it.  It’s unfortunate, but your plan will be out of date almost before you use it.  It’s unlikely it will last a year, unless you are in a very stable corner of the business world.  In my career I have made a habit of redoing my marketing plans every 6 months.
  4. It’s only partially about the document.  Yes, a marketing plan is a document and an important one.  However, it’s more than a document; it’s really about the process of thinking it through, discussing it among the team, getting everyone on the same page.  If everyone on the team has their input and embraces the plan, execution will be so much easier.
  5. It must match the budget dollars.  I know, it seems obvious but the expenditures in a marketing plan must match the expenditures in the company budget.  Ideally, you create the plan in advance of submitting budget numbers, but often it doesn’t really work that way.  If you’re a 6-month planner like me, you know it’s a process of moving the dollars around, but keeping the total the same.

So for my client’s marketing plan, I’ve decided to call the plan done.  For now, anyway.  There will be discussions, there will be additional needs added by the sales or executive teams and we’ll recast the  plan again and add new information.  Then we’ll execute the plan and start the process all over again next year.

I’m reminded of an old cliché about plans in business: The only thing we know about our plan with certainty is that it will be wrong and it will not go as we planned it.  There’s some truth to that.  But it doesn’t diminish the importance of the marketing planning process.  Make sure you embrace it and give it proper respect.  You’ll be rewarded when you’re executing.

Do you create an annual marketing plan?  Does your company have a formal process?

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