Marketing plans are to 21st century marketing what the F-22 is to 21st century warfare: Cool and shiny-looking, but pricey and unhelpful.
Your carefully-prepared 12-month marketing plan will fail. Here’s why:
- It assumes a static situation. You can’t create a marketing plan that looks 12 months out and accounts for even a fraction of the possible changes in your audience. So you make assumptions based on right now. Which just passed you by – here that? Whoosh. There goes another one…
- It assumes you’re selling to computers. You grind the demographic data, conduct focus groups and then take the oh-so-spontaneous answers you get as gospel. Then you’re surprised when consumers in the real world look at you like you’re insane. People aren’t computers. You can’t predict how one person will behave based on another’s answer. Especially when you get that answer by bribing them with free sandwiches and coffee.
- You’re planning to interrupt. Your marketing plan says you’ll spend $nn on pay per click marketing, $nn on banner ads, another $nnnn on e-mail, and maybe $nnnnnnnnnn on print advertising. Then you’re gonna hope folks see you and divert their attention. That worked in 1968. It doesn’t work now. Now, you need to be there just when someone decides they need that shiny widget. Then you have to sell them on your particular version of that shiny widget.
- The plan smacks of desperation. See the previous. You wrote your plan based on the fact that you need your customers. Only they don’t care. You need to be there when they need you, instead.
- You haven’t checked your premises. You plan to spend $x to make 3 times $x. What if you make 10 times $x? 2 times $x? You haven’t checked your premises because you can’t yet. By nature, a marketing plan is self-defeating. The moment you launch it, it will affect your audience, throwing your assumptions all over the map.
Instead of a plan, try a playbook. Playbooks give you steps to take in different situations: “If X happens, we’ll go to Y.” Write a playbook that accounts for checking data, re-evaluating results and going where consumers take you, instead of plunking down $400,000 on a monstrosity of a web site and then ending up stuck on a one-way road to the unemployment line.