Rethink your marketing communications plan

I’ve spent a lot of time helping clients develop their annual marketing plans. The process usually begins in September and wraps up sometime in December. Okay, who am I kidding… February. After that, one of two things happens: 1) key initiatives change, and/or 2) day-to-day work takes over, and the plan doesn’t get revised until the next planning cycle.

It’s a challenge that happens to nearly every marketing team. So, do we need to become more disciplined about following these plans? Or, do we need to get better at planning?

I believe the answer is “no” to both of those questions ─ the days developing a comprehensive marketing communications for the year are over. Instead, marketing should be all about defining your goals for the year, setting fundamental strategies and milestones to reach them, and making a lot of little tactical adjustments along the way to get to where you want to go.

In Seth Godin’s podcast series “Startup School”, he tells a story about how when a plane departs from one airport it may have to make a lot of adjustments in flight to reach its final destination. For example, the pilot doesn’t change course because the wind is blowing a different direction than the plane is traveling. If that plane is scheduled to land in Dallas, the pilot makes adjustments to make sure it reaches Dallas as scheduled.

The same thing applies to your marketing plans. Set goals. Develop strategies to define your journey for the year. Determine the stops along the way (key milestones) that you want to reach. But, let your tactics be flexible.

This approach offers you a better chance of reaching your goals, and you are less likely to avoid revisiting, or even completely scrapping, your marketing plan later in the year.