“Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan.”
– Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister
“Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you’ll be surprised how successful you can be. Most people don’t have a plan. That’s why it’s easy to beat most folks.”
– Paul “Bear” Bryant, former football coach, University of Alabama
Three Different Levels of Marketing Planning
Since we created a robust marketing planning app, we’re clearly big proponents of marketing planning. Marketers at different types of companies on average engage in different levels of planning:
- Frequent & Detailed: Fortune 500 marketers and experienced B2C marketers create extremely detailed plans for strategy, creative, campaigns, distribution and sales execution.
- Annual: Marketers at mid-market companies typically create an annual marketing plan and budget, yet rarely plan to the same level of detail as their big-company counterparts.
- On the Fly: Marketers at small to mid-size companies typically create a marketing budget and (sometimes) create light plans “on the fly” as they’re launching marketing initiatives.
Most of the difference between these levels of planning is caused by experience and bandwidth – marketers at the bigger companies typically have more experience and more time and resources to plan their strategy and campaigns. It makes sense, because their budgets are large.
Marketers at mid-market and smaller companies typically have smaller budgets, fewer resources and less time for their marketing initiatives. Statistics have shown that up to 85% of small to mid-size companies operate without a written annual marketing plan.
Start with Simple Marketing Planning
The good news is that the distribution of knowledge from the Internet is leveling the playing field. So much information is readily available — if you’re in the On the Fly group, it’s easy to improve your marketing planning.
The first step is to carve out the time to think through your strategy and tactics, and put pen to paper. If you’re not sure where to start, think about the different categories of marketing activities:
- Strategy: Positioning, branding, pricing, distribution, selling, campaigns
- Tool Creation: Websites, messaging, literature and collateral, corporate identity, software systems
- Demand Generation: SEO and SEM, social media, email marketing, online advertising, customer retention, direct mail, publicity, telemarketing, traditional media
- Measurement: Marketing return on investment, customer lifetime, customer lifetime value
Then, consider your next marketing task, and create a simple outline for the strategy and tactics. Use bullet points, outlining the strategic drivers for your activity and listing all of the steps to complete the activity.
Here’s an example of a skeleton plan for an online media buy:
- Business goals
- Online media options
- Objective and target audience
- Offer and desired actions
- Resources needed and timing
- Content and creative ideas
- Goals and metrics
- Target websites
- Fulfillment steps
- Run dates
- Ad sizes
Add Detail, Rinse, Repeat
Continue using these simple outlines for three weeks — which will create the habit — and then begin adding more detail to the outlines.
Even using only a simple outline will likely place you two steps ahead of the marketer at the average small to mid-size company, and give you a greater chance at success with your marketing initiatives.