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  • A dairy company ran a promotion that had a device inside small milk cartons that made a “moo” sound when the carton was opened. The promotion hit the wall when one of the cartons was opened on an airplane and the “lucky winner” looked inside and saw wires. Panic ensued and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing. The dairy company was held responsible for all the costs associated with the emergency and had to pull the promotion from the market immediately.

    So what went wrong? The company designed the promotion without taking into consideration a number of external factors that, if thought out ahead of time, would have helped it prevent this disaster from happening – that is, if the dairy company had considered exactly where its small cartons were being distributed, it would have realized that placing that kind of promotion in the hands of airline passengers may be problematic.

    The company was guilty of a tactical marketing approach. A strategic marketing approach would have prevented this disaster from happening.

    At home I have a toolbox. It’s filled with all the latest tools that enable me to fix things around the house. Then why is my house in a state of disrepair? Just having the tools doesn’t make me a handyman. There are tons of tools in the marketer’s toolbox – brochures, ads, social media, websites, etc. – and like most tools, only a few get used. So decide before you buy (or use) the tool whether it’s appropriate to have. That is planning.

    Many people feel that by just implementing a whole range of marketing tactics and activities, they are doing the right thing. Well, that may just be the noise before defeat. Without developing a strategy, those tactics could lead to trouble.

    As Thomas Edison said, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” Planning is a definitive process. It starts with having objectives, then creating a strategy. Finally, it involves developing the tactics and the tools. Marketing is not only about promotions or pricing, or advertising, but also it’s about customer needs, quality, the product, customer service, positioning, etc. 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.

    The whole idea behind strategic marketing planning is to make sure that you have all the information at your fingertips before making a decision. That way you improve your odds of creating marketing activities that will break through the competing messages and be most relevant in the eyes of your potential customers.

    The three areas of strategic marketing planning starts with understanding:

    1. The business environment outside the company, including markets, customers, competitors and the macro environment
    2. The system of marketing inside the company. This could include objectives, strategies, programs, implementation and resources
    3. The marketing tactics and activities themselves, including products, prices, distribution, personal selling, advertising, publicity, sales promotion, websites, and a ton of other tactics and tools.

    Each of these aspects is critical in the development of the marketing plan.

    It all starts with the company’s goals, objectives and strategy. And strategy ultimately is developed as a result of knowledge. Sun Tzu, author of The Art of War, 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.

    Once you can visualize what you would like to accomplish, develop a well considered and well thought-out strategy and a plan to get there.  Don’t rush into the doing phase.  That pause for thought and consideration will be well worth the wait.

    Neville Pokroy is a principal of Mastermind Solutions Inc., a Toronto-based consulting firm, and leads the marketing practice. He has more than 30 years of experience in corporate marketing and consulting in entrepreneurial businesses across an extensive range of industries. His focus is on helping companies with a vision to achieve business growth.  He can be reached at neville@mastermindsolutions.ca