I recently shared why it’s important to commit time for strategic marketing planning. Based on my combined experience as a marketer and planning facilitator, here are my top three tips for developing a successful planning session.
1. Be Mission-focused.
The basis for your strategic marketing plan is rooted in your organization’s mission. If your marketing efforts don’t support the company’s mission and goals, then don’t bother.
I post and review the company or nonprofit mission statement in every planning session I facilitate. Keeping the mission front-&-center is critical to helping participants avoid the situation that one executive described: “We spent more time focusing on what we could do rather than what we should do.”
2. Be Creative
Critical thinking and creative thinking are not mutually exclusive. To keep your planning process interesting, you can better envision and explore possibilities while engaging in “What if … ?” questions. For example: What if we had unlimited resources — what could we achieve? What if we could start over from scratch — what would we do differently? What would happen if our products, services, or brand disappeared — would we be missed?
You can also try a different perspective with this two-step scenario. First, you’ve been hired away by a major competitor’s consulting firm to help them assess your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. Following this assessment, return to your current company role and consider how you can improve your marketing to gain and keep a competitive edge.
3. Be Realistic
Besides being mission-focused, it’s also important to recognize the scope of your organization’s capacity and commitment. In the course of creative and meaningful discussion, it’s easy to develop an extensive list of marketing ideas for consideration. That’s why I advocate planning participants develop and agree on a realistic set of two to four mission-focused marketing activities that support their company’s strategic goals. The worst possible outcome from a strategic planning session is for participants to generate an exhaustive laundry list of ideas and actions that overwhelm them. Seriously, it’s a small step from discouraged to disengaged.
For being realistic when it comes to marketing planning, here’s my favorite quote from Dr. Phil Kotler:
“Marketing is a learning game. You make a decision. You watch the results. You learn from the results. Then you make better decisions.”
Happy marketing planning!