It’s a common lament among many marketers today – their work is more reactive than proactive. While they acknowledge the need for formal marketing planning, they’re overwhelmed and pressed for time dealing with customers, co-workers, information overload and other work demands.
So they wrestle with whatever marketing projections and data are needed to compile an annual plan and budget as required by those in the C-suite. Then it’s back to business-as-usual. For organizations that just keep on keeping on, how can they tell if they’re making any real progress?
“The truth is that in a time when we could change everything, we’re running without clarity of direction or vision.”‘ Brian Solis
It’s a serious concern for marketers because our function is so visible and the people that deliver the brand promise – our employees – need to know where we’re headed in the marketplace. When employees don’t know and understand our marketing goals and what’s expected of them in achieving those goals, they’re more likely to disengage. (So much for nurturing employees as brand ambassadors!)
Not having the time to plan is just part of the excuse. The sad truth is the planning process is still perceived as a tedious one that many marketers don’t want to make time for. They understand the value of creating a plan, yet dread participating in the process.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! I’ve seen first-hand people actually enjoy the planning experience. What I’ve found that works is bringing marketing and other critical staff together for the sole purpose of exploring and developing marketing strategy in a limited time frame (ranging from a half to a full day). Whether the planning session is held in an on-site conference room or off-site venue, it’s important to create a sense of “safe space” where participants will respectfully listen to and share their ideas with each other. Food and beverages including, but not limited to, caffeine and sugar (i.e., fresh fruit and healthy snacks in addition to candy and/or cookies) are also needed to fuel the planning process.
Strategic marketing planning’s true value is in setting a clear direction and marshaling the required resources to get there. It also enables marketing and other key staff to step back from the daily grind to engage in strategic thinking for/about the organization — a process that leaves them feeling re-focused and re-energized. A refreshing change from working reactively!
Note: I’ll share what’s needed for a successful marketing planning session in my next post.