It must be the season for marketing planning. Recently I’ve gotten multiple requests for pointers on how to develop a great marketing plan – even from my spouse who’s in a marketing strategy role for a major wireless company.
My reference library was packed away, due to an office remodel, so I launched a Google search – and was underwhelmed with what I found online. There’s an amazing discontinuity in the resources available: a chasm between the traditional contents of a marketing plan and the implications of the online/interactive arena, ecommerce, and the pressure for measurable, accountable vehicles for marketing activities. (Needless to say, the gap between what’s publicly available and what’s needed is one of the reasons why companies engage consultants like me.)
Here are some of the issues.
Hard to Find What You Need
Either pundits are narrowly focused on aspects of the Internet domain and tend to ignore what’s happening in the real world, or they’re traditionalists and focus on the 4 Ps without clarifying how the 4 Ps should be reinterpreted for the Internet era. Traditionalists’ references to online or mobile-enabled marketing are often missing altogether, simplistic or so badly out of date as to be misleading. As for marketing ROI – the subject tends to be tackled in books dedicated to marketing metrics.
This leaves today’s smart marketers scrambling to figure out how to bridge the gaps between these domains, or to synthesize the best of these approaches in meaningful ways. It’s not easy to find holistic resources.
I was looking for an all-inclusive resource that I could recommend to clients and so far, have failed to find one. For the moment, a useful (and largely traditional) resource for marketing planning is Marketing Plans That Work by McDonald and Keegan. It offers a good overview of the process to follow and the core contents of a strategic marketing plan. Having said that, ignore what they write about the Internet for marketers – it’s way too limited and out-of-date. And the subject of performance measures – key metrics for measuring marketing ROI – is largely missing from this resource.
What About Scorecarding?
Some of my tech clients have developed Strategy Maps and Balanced Scorecards for marketing planning; however, they tend to focus on the scorecards and under-invest in the hard work of developing a clear and logically coherent Strategy Map.
In the tech world the scorecard framework is compelling because it links strategic initiatives (what we’re going to do) with performance measures (how we’re going to measure progress, and the criteria for determining what success looks like). Sometimes initiatives are also linked to timeframes and budgets, which aligns the strategy with the needs of operating planning. This increases the chances that execution will be on target.
I’ve seen a number of client-confidential examples of this planning framework in use, but have not read any published articles or books on how to apply this approach more generally to marketing.
As practiced today, I see risks in jumping to scorecarding as “the new way” to do marketing planning, if it means abandoning some of the foundational planning activities.
Because there’s no place on the BSC template to summarize key findings from the situation analysis, marketing planning teams may fail to do their homework adequately. They may skip the time-consuming intelligence gathering and hypothesis forming work that prepares the team for key strategic decisions: how to respond to changes in the market environment, exploit company capabilities, or improve the competitive position via changes in the product offering, value proposition, segmentation model, go-to-market, etc. They may fail to clearly articulate their core assumptions or to define the most important things to do in the face of uncertainty.
And if the Strategy Map isn’t relevant to the situation, logically consistent and actionable, there’s high risk that the scorecard will be an elegant planning framework that misses the mark.