Five Reasons Your Marketing Plan Won’t Work (And What to do About Them)

by Debra Andrews | December 18, 2014

A comprehensive marketing plan is your most valuable marketing asset.  That’s right – it’s more important than a website, social media activities, email marketing and any and all other collateral and tactics combined. A marketing plan connects a firm’s outreach and communications to its growth objectives.  It breaks down exactly how marketing resources should be allocated and spent to achieve a return.  Do you drive to new places without your GPS?  Didn’t think so!  Think of a marketing plan as your company’s GPS.

Many firms do understand the importance of having a comprehensive marketing plan and create one annually.  Unfortunately, the lion’s share of marketing plans are pretty terrible and that makes me sad.  Since this document is pretty important to your firm’s short-term and long-term success, let’s take a closer look at the reasons why they fall short and what to do about them.

Why Marketing Plans Don’t Work:

1.  Who forgot the strategy?

Marketing is about communicating targeted, relevant messages to clearly defined targeted markets and personas with the purpose of driving profitable business activity.  You need to strategically define your targets and understand what’s most important to them. If you don’t have strategic marketing capabilities in-house, consider outsourcing the strategy development.  Without a solid strategy behind your plan, you have a list of random activities.

2.  There’s no ‘I’ in team!

Many marketing plans only provide a list of the activities and campaigns that the marketing department can do. Marketing should not be a siloed activity.  For more on this topic, read “Modern Professional Services Marketing isn’t Reserved for Just Marketers.”  With Inbound Marketing becoming the dominant and most effective approach to realizing measurable results, almost every employee needs to be wearing a marketing hat and playing an active role.

3.  The case of the missing KPIs

It seems that most marketing plans state the BIG goal. For example, “XYZ firm will grow from $10 million to $12 million in 2015.”  This goal is followed by a long list of needed marketing platforms, resources, collateral and campaigns.  Without any other measures in place, how will you know during the year that your marketing activities are incrementally moving your firm towards the big goal?  This is where Key Performance indicators (“KPIs”) come into play.

  • KPIs are a set of quantifiable measures that a company or industry uses to gauge or compare performance in terms of meeting their strategic and operational goals.

These mini-measures inform you as to what’s working really well and you should pour the gas on and what’s falling flat and needs a hard brake.  Some examples of KPIs are: email open and click-thru-rates (CTRs), landing page conversions, and blog traffic and social shares.  There are many, many more and it’s vitally important that you select the right KPIs for the elements within your marketing plan.

4.  Assets before outreach

There are a number of marketing assets that you’ll need to have in place before your company should do proactive outreach.  Before I share what they are, let’s review what an ‘asset’ is.  An asset is a resource with economic value that a company owns or controls with the expectation that it will provide future benefit. In the marketing world, here are some of the necessary assets you have to have in tip-top shape:

  • Website:  If your website isn’t built on an open source platform and is more than 4 years old, it’s probably time for a replacement.
  • Contact Database:  This is by far the greatest source of pain for all of my clients.  You’ll need a clean, segmented email database of clients, prospects and referral sources to do marketing in the modern era.
  • Positioning Statement:  How do you stand out from your competition?  Every firm needs a compelling positioning statement to set the foundation for any copy used to describe your company and its value proposition.
  • Brand identity:  Does your logo, tagline and color scheme fit your firm?  If you’re innovative, and one step ahead of your competition, it should be reflected in your branding.

5.  Who said there are no hard and fast marketing deadlines?

Every action item in a marketing plan should have a tentative completion date.  With larger projects and initiatives, you will need to create milestone deadlines.  All marketing plans should have rolling 3-month time lines that include all actions that need to happen to drive that plan forward and who’s responsible for completing it.  Never let anything fall off the time line unless it is decided by the marketing department and/or committee that it’s not beneficial in driving the firm towards its ultimate goals.

Like everything in life, creating a marketing plan that is effective and actionable takes practice.  Hopefully, this post jumps you down the learning curve.

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