According to John C. Maxwell, “visions don’t change, they are only refined”. If – like me – you’re pitching a marketing strategy to a client, or you’re creating a new plan for your business, how do you know if your marketing plan will work? Is there a way to guarantee marketing success? A key component of marketing strategy is often to align marketing tasks with the business plan, goals and targets. Here are some pointers to help to reduce uncertainty and develop a plan set for success:
1. Commit to the Plan. Procrastination is a killer of confidence and motivation and therefore successful ideas and plans. At the core, plans should portray a strategic mission, vision, values and goals. Put your perfectionism to one side and get stuck in. How? Consider that your 80% is often good enough or better than what others expected (the 80% approach), so if the Plan is 80% ready, and you have a clear vision, then it may be time to go for it.
2. Bite Size the Plan. While you may consider a strategic plan to be developed over the longer term 12-months or more, split it up into smaller, easily digestible pieces. This should help everyone involved to help fully understand the plan in the short, medium and long term. For example, I prefer to ‘theme’ individual sections of the plan and set them to a timeline, with monthly check-ins to account for adjustments based on timely news, unexpected changes, or new opportunities.
3. Schedule Milestones, Checkpoints and Reviews. Plot your progress. You may wish to build in milestones, checkpoints, and reviews into your marketing plan which are all project management tools. If you work with a marketing consultant like me, or an agency, you could also schedule payments around the achievement of key milestones. This pay as you go flexibility will enable you to pay for the actual hours worked and tasks completed so is the perfect solution for busy businesses on a budget. During these checkpoints consider implementing qualitative and quantitative research criteria so you can gather data, observe results and adjust your plan based on what is working, and what isn’t. This can help to ensure that you manage your budget and expectations as you go.
Celebrate small successes and wins and enjoy and communicate what’s going to plan. There may be PR opportunities to be found in even the completion of smallest checkpoints which may give you more bang for your marketing buck.
4. Plan for Opportunity. Although you may have a nice shiny written plan, stay flexible and keep your eyes peeled for new initiatives, and opportunities inside and outside of the business which may take you slightly off-piste. When you see an opportunity to capitalize on an emerging trend, breaking news, or social buzz, there may not be time to develop a new comprehensive plan or implementation process, you may wish to run with it using calculated risk instead. For example, you may spot an opportunity to use augmented reality (AR) in your business or industry which hasn’t been used before (see Blippar for inspiration). If this is the case, LinkedIN is a great tool – your contacts may be able to help with researching successful examples, proof of concept, and budget implications.
5. Ask for Help. Outsourcing some or all of the strategic planning tasks leaves you time to concentrate on growing your business. As an independent marketing consultant, I’m used to being asked for client references and examples of work from new clients. This is used as proof that I do a good job – I’m happy to give these because I’m proud of the work I’ve done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from agencies or third party providers to share results of similar work projects, experience, professionalism and qualifications (PI cover etc.) before choosing them. Rattle their cage! Most successful marketing professionals will want to work with you to get you what you need to build trust and confidence and for your peace of mind.
6. Understand your Audience. Feel free to ask your clients and stakeholders for help to understand what they want, need or would value the most (please ensure you manage their expectations during this process). This may be used to test some of the key hypothesis of your plan, or to develop new ones. Many larger organisations implement continuous improvement plans by researching performance ‘v’ importance gaps, reporting back key findings then demonstrating ways in which they are aiming to improve. Examining your audience’s lifestyles, interests, and habits alongside campaign statistics can help you develop marketing plans to gain the best response rates.
7. Timing is Everything. Understand that successful plans need momentum, so it may be a bad time to begin a large campaign during a seasonal holiday like Christmas. However, some holidays that are uniquely British can provide unique opportunities to get attention – like Easter, or Halloween/ Bonfire Night.
8. Account for the Unaccountable. Ideally plans should not be a rigid fixed framework because unforeseen circumstances or surprising outcomes may arise. Changes may happen to throw the plan off course, or refocus the plan based on surprising success. Some marketing results will always be unpredictable and so it helps to plan for contingencies too.
“Failed plans should not be interpreted as a failed vision. Visions don’t change, they are only refined. Plans rarely stay the same, and are scrapped or adjusted as needed. Be stubborn about the vision, but flexible with your plan.” John C. Maxwell
If you would like to know how strategic marketing can help your business, please contact Angela Consulting firstname.lastname@example.org