Marketing without a plan is like trying to chop down a tree with a crowbar. You might get there in the end, but there’s a better way.
Taking the time to create a plan is the metaphorical sharpening of the axe. You increase your effectiveness, maximise your available resources, and bring a much-needed focus to your marketing.
But a plan is only as good as its execution.
How often have you seen a 50-page marketing plan that took months to create only to end up sitting in the bottom drawer gathering dust?
This article will help you take your plan from the bottom drawer to the bottom line.
When the S#*t Hits the Plan
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
One of the biggest reasons a marketing plan fails is…reality. As Mike Tyson puts it, “Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”
The video you’d counted on going viral achieves a measly 988 views. Your key distribution partner packs up shop and goes to a competitor. Half the marketing team decide to leave the business. Pow. Pow. Pow.
How does your plan hold up after that devastating combo of punches?
The second reason we often see why marketing plans fail is that the people involved end up not really understanding why they do what they do or how to do it. If you missed to identify learning gaps and missed the opportunity to coach your team and point them to the right direction, then you will not likely be successful.
Another reason is that you or your team are not clear on who is doing what. If you are not sure who is with you in executing and achieving your marketing plan, then succeeding will not be possible at all.
Often, those kinks in the tracks derail the whole train, and the marketing plan is forgotten. But having the resilience to bounce back, adjust strategy, and tweak tactics when things don’t go to plan is the hallmark of a great plan (and a great team).
But just as champions are made in the gym and not in the ring, being ready to respond when it matters starts with the right preparation.
Here are some killer ways to create a marketing plan that works.
Keep it Simple and Stay Accountable
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
— Albert Einstein
Forget the thousand-page marketing plan in size 10 font. If it isn’t easily understood by everyone involved, a plan is worthless.
This document should be simple. It should be able to be distilled on a single page. Complexity is the enemy of implementation. The working version of your plan should be clear about what needs to be done and what everyone’s role is.
A great way to clarify those roles is by using the RASCI system.
The RASCI system is a project management framework that assigns each person a clear role. This removes complexity, increases accountability, and ensures everyone knows where he or she fits.
If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s a breakdown.
R = Responsible
The R is responsible for making sure the project happens in scope and on time. They lead the project and are responsible for implementation.
A = Accountable
The A is the senior person on the job who is ultimately accountable for the success of the project. Though not as involved in the day-to-day details as the R, the A provides guidance and direction, and the buck stops with him or her.
S = Support
The S is there to help and support the R and the A in bringing the project to life but without the responsibility.
C = Consult
The C is someone who is brought in from time to time to provide advice and assistance. They often have particular expertise that is relevant to the project.
I = Inform
The I is simply someone who needs to be informed of the progress, typically a senior person who needs to be in the loop.
By clearly defining roles, you minimise confusion and increase the chances of getting things done.
What Gets Measured Gets...
As far as clichés go, “What gets measured gets delivered” is about as worn out as they come. But like most clichés, it’s true.
Without metrics, how will you know if what you are doing is even working? (Hint: you won’t.)
Each initiative needs a clear target and metric(s). A goal is what you are aiming for, and a metric measures how you are tracking.
Let’s say you are looking to get 100 new email leads a month (the goal). Beyond the obvious metric of new email leads, there are other metrics that contribute to that goal.
- The volume of traffic to the page
- The email opt-in rate (conversion rate)
- The source of users who opt-in
- The browser/device type of users
More detailed metrics give you the flexibility to test, learn, and improve. If something is working, scale it. If it’s not, fix it (or stop it). But you can only do that if you know what’s going on.
Sprints and Milestones
Being too tied to monthly plans can be dangerous. There’s nothing like the ebbs and flows of reality (a.k.a. punches to the face) to put the brakes on your plans.
To give yourself the flexibility to respond while still keeping a strong strategic direction, employ the use of 90-day sprints. Break the year up into quarters and regularly review how you are progressing toward the quarterly goals.
These goals should be aligned to key milestones. Milestones are strategically important events that must be hit.
They could be key product releases, seasonal surges in demand, or specific events that will return great value for your business.
By focusing on these key milestones, you ensure you’ve got the right resources allocated at the right times. The last thing you want is to realise that the big conference is only two weeks away and your marketing team is busy with another project.
Focusing on those milestones enables you to leverage events that really matter. A highly effective way of doing so is through the use of tentpole content. When you know what key events are on the horizon, you can develop and distribute content that aligns with these events, allowing you to maximise the impact. Strategically creating and feeding the right content in advance to lead your audience through the customer journey at the right time can reap enormous rewards.
So instead of simply turning up to speak at an event with a quickly thrown together deck, get the team working in advance on activities to maximise the return, such as:
- Blogs focused on the themes you will be speaking about at the event
- Social media ads promoting the event
- A polished keynote presentation with a strong call to action
- A professional video recording of your presentation
- A custom-made landing page with special offers just for event attendees
- Carefully crafted marketing automation follow-up sequences designed to move leads along the sales funnel
By aligning your resources effectively at the right time, you maximise the impact of each opportunity.
This kind of alignment is the trump card that separates the average marketing plan from one that gets real results.
Though the above points will level up your plan, in order for it to work at all, it must have solid foundations. Without a clear and differentiated value proposition, a deep understanding of your customers, and knowledge of how you fit in the competitive landscape, any plan will struggle.
The success of a plan lives and dies with execution. So if your plan incorporates the following principles, you set yourself up for success.
- Keep it clear and easily understandable
- Set clear metrics and accountability
- Leverage resources for maximum impact
- Be structured but flexible
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 13, 2017, and has been updated with additional relevant information.