The whole idea behind planning is to make sure that you have all the information at your fingertips BEFORE making a decision. By doing that you improve your odds of creating marketing activities that will break through the clutter and the noise of competing messages. And one of the important things to realize is that competing messages is not only in the area in which you compete, but in fact all messages that strive to attract your target customer, whether for business or for pleasure. So, the objective of breaking through becomes that much more daunting, but also that much more important. Hence the NEED to plan carefully and comprehensively.
Marketing planning is a process
So where does one begin. The most important starting point is to realize that planning is a definitive process. It’s not always a moment in time because as the planning progresses, new and important information always surfaces that may change you next decision. So be ready to be flexible – that’s where you will find the surprising next idea that you never considered before, because you had never approached marketing strategically before. This is quite invigorating because it’s almost as if you find yourself looking at things through a new set of eyes. It starts with having objectives, then creating a strategy, and finally it involves developing the tactics and the tools.
Take Hardee’s, the regional American fast food chain that competes against the likes of McDonalds and Burger King. For years they attempted to compete head to head, with all the same promotional approaches as their competition. They made no inroads and could not increase their same store sales or market share. It was only when they went back to basics and looked at their business from scratch did they realize that they had to outflank their competition and not take them on head to head. They researched their customer’s needs, revised their positioning, and concentrated on offering a higher quality product and customer experience. They then supported that through break through advertising that did not speak to their customers strengths (speed and price), but focused on their own strengths (quality and service). Immediately, their same store sales turned around and grew.
When they started their process, they probably did not know where they’d end up – but because they followed the process through to its logical end, they were able to develop a strategy that worked. And they keep fine-tuning the strategy, so it is a never-ending story of Planning, Producing, Doing and Evaluating. Round and round, adjusting and refining. Breakthrough marketing is a never ending process…
As Thomas Edison said: “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”
Marketing is all encompassing
So, the Hardees example clearly shows that marketing is all-encompassing. It’s not only about promotions or pricing or advertising. It’s also about customer needs, and quality, and product, and customer service and positioning and so on. It’s about understanding how the world is changing and how that impacts the provision and delivery of products and services. It’s about things that go on inside the company, but also about what happens outside the company (the external environment). To plan a really effective approach to marketing, you need to have a much bigger vision, a much bigger perspective on things in order to open up your mind to possibilities that you may never have considered.
However, what the public (or your customer) sees is just the tip of the iceberg. The tactics and the tools. It is the understanding, the planning, the strategizing, the positioning that is below the surface. That is the foundation upon which the tactics are built. Without the base that acts as the stabilizing force or the keel of a boat it will just topple over and sink below the surface, never to be seen again.
Yes, I know that this all-encompassing process makes marketing a little more complex. But, is making ad hoc decisions a better choice? That, after all is for each and every decision maker to decide. Remember: “If you don’t have a marketing plan for yourself, you’ll be a part of someone else’s”.
So let’s really understand what all encompassing really means.
1. the overall, external business environment that is outside the organization – this could include the markets, customers, competitors and macro environment
2. the system of marketing are aspects that are inside the organization – this could include objectives, strategies, programs, implementation and the resources that the organization has available, and finally
3. the marketing tactics and activities themselves – including products, prices, distribution, personal selling, advertising, publicity, sales promotion, website and a ton of other tactics and tools
Each one of these aspects themselves is an article – suffice to say, they are critical in the development of the marketing plan. In some instances, each and every aspect needs to be renewed. At other times, they may just need to be refreshed. At the end of the day they need to be looked at each time new marketing initiatives are considered.
One thing is clear however, it all starts with strategy. And strategy is ultimately developed as a result of knowledge. The process of planning is all about moulding all the knowledge into one place, evaluating it and identifying a relevant strategy. As Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War and a Chinese military legend (during the 19th and 20th centuries, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War grew in popularity and saw practical use in Western society – his work has continued to influence both Asian and Western culture and politics) once proclaimed:
“Strategy without tactics is a slow route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat!”
Let’s all learn from this master. We should not be rushing headlong into implementing a whole range of tactics without having a well thought out plan. It could lead us to a noisy, expensive and totally unwelcome outcome.
The final part of this article will appear in the newsletter next months. If you prefer to read the complete article now, please click here
About the Author
Neville Pokroy is a principal of Mastermind Solutions Inc. He runs the Marketing practice, which includes strategic marketing planning and execution, and now also includes the Digital Umbrella. Neville has over 25 years experience in corporate marketing and consulting in entrepreneurial businesses across an extensive range of industries. Neville’s special skills include the ability to translate his corporate marketing expertise into a disciplined set of marketing skills ideal for entrepreneurial businesses.
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