8 Clues Your Marketing Plan is Stuck in a Time Warp (and Won’t Generate Results)

by Debra Andrews | February 16, 2023

Your marketing results are only as good as your marketing plan. But if you’re stretched too thin, you can easily fall into the trap of dusting off and sprucing up the same old document every year.

The problem? Marketing today bears little resemblance to marketing 10-15 years ago—back when most of the buying journey still happened offline, with a sales rep, and websites were mostly brochure-ware. If the starting point for your marketing plan is a document that originated when food trucks first hit the scene, it’s not going to drive revenue growth. 

These 8 clues are sure signs your marketing plan needs an overhaul.

1. Your plan is caught in awareness-building mode.

While most companies call it a “marketing plan,” ideally what you want is a growth plan that drives new revenue. With marketing involved in a much larger portion of the revenue funnel now, your growth plan needs to go far beyond building awareness. An effective modern marketing plan outlines the buyer’s journey from end to end and maps relevant marketing activities to each stage, keeping buyers moving further down the revenue funnel until they become customers.   

2. It relies on antiquated ideas about your competitors.

The Web has created a broader environment for selling products/services, and that makes it tougher to truly know who your competitors are. If your plan assumes the same static list of competitors, year after year, you may be missing a big part of the picture. A modern marketing plan critically assesses the digital landscape for the products/services you sell, providing an eye-opening look at which companies rank well for those offerings.

3. It’s a list of disconnected activities.

What’s billed as a marketing plan is often just a laundry list of marketing “things,” none of them connected to each other, grounded in strategy, or aligned to business goals. These random acts of marketing might keep your team busy, but they sure won’t deliver results. An effective marketing plan carefully curates various marketing channels and approaches that interrelate and work together to move buyers down the revenue funnel. And every marketing effort in the plan reflects a broader strategy and aligns to a specific business goal.

4. It isn’t intentionally built around methodologies.

As marketing has evolved, specific methodologies have emerged, each appropriate for different situations. If you’re trying to attract a high volume of smaller customers, then an inbound marketing method designed to draw a lot of leads might be the right fit. But if you’re trying to catch a few big whales, a much more targeted account-based marketing (ABM) methodology is likely a better approach. These are just two of the various methodologies you’ll want to consider when developing a marketing plan, intentionally choosing the approach that will help you reach your goals.

5. It doesn’t optimize social media. 

Ten years ago, everyone was still trying to figure out how various social media channels could support marketing. Much of the activity was one-way only, pushing out messages from a company-level LinkedIn or Facebook page. Today, we have a much better understanding of how to optimize social media for great results. But has your plan caught up with the times? If you don’t have a strategy for engaging with buyers via social—by getting your subject matter experts and thought leaders interacting, as individuals, with your target audience—then sadly, the answer is “no.”

6. It’s designed around the wrong metrics (or none at all).

A decade ago, many marketers declared success if they boosted website traffic or the number of “request information” forms. Now, marketers are expected to measure much more meaningful metrics, like how many leads you’re attracting, how fast you’re turning them into marketing qualified leads (MQLs), what percentage you’re converting to customers, and more. A well-oiled marketing effort can even begin to predict how much revenue each activity will bring in! The good news is, we now have robust analytical tools to measure what matters—connecting marketing activities to KPIs that contribute to revenue growth. Your plan needs to define the right metrics to measure, then align marketing activities around them.      

7. It isn’t keeping up with modern marketing technologies.

Everything we know today about marketing technology will be obsolete in a flash. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a prime example; between continually changing Google algorithms and the emergence of AI tools like ChatGPT, the SEO approaches that work today may not work tomorrow. As marketing technology evolves, you need to keep your marketing plan agile—constantly re-evaluating, tweaking, and optimizing to achieve the best results.  

8. It doesn’t consider your available talent

For most companies, talent represents a big chunk of the marketing budget. But if you spend a disproportional percentage on salaries, you won’t have enough to implement activities that generate leads and drive revenue. The most effective plans are built by an experienced marketing strategist who understands how to power up marketing to achieve aggressive growth AND how to structure a marketing function for maximum ROI. Often, the best approach is a hybrid structure—hiring internal staff for functions you need full time on a daily basis and using fractional marketers for specialty capabilities that don’t require a FTE. Tapping a strategist to help you structure your marketing function can save you tens of thousands, leaving much more for implementing marketing activities proven to drive growth.