Why you should NEVER EVER bypass the strategic marketing planning process.

I have been doing this (marketing and PR) for a couple decades now, representing hundreds of organizations – from start up companies to international FORTUNE 50 corporations – and it never ceases to amaze me how rarely organizations take the time to develop strategic marketing plans.  
Whether launching an entire new business or a single new product.  Whether planning a global multichannel marketing campaign or a local market direct mail post card campaign, there is NO GOOD EXCUSE for not planning.
So, here are my top 10 (of about a thousand) reasons for NOT bypassing the planning process:
1.  If your marketing plan is not in writing there is no legitimate accountability for anything that gets done (or doesn’t get done, as the case may be).
2.  If it is not in writing there is a very good chance it will get overlooked, forgotten or ignored.
3.  While it is possible that you may intuitively “know” what needs to be done, you may be (and probably are) wrong.
4.  And if something happens to you, then the “intuitive knowledge” is lost with you.
5.  If you do not document specific, detailed objectives, there is no reasonable way to measure results.
6.  If there is no way to measure results, there is no way to determine ROI.  But hey, it’s only money.
7.  If there is no plan documenting prioritized objectives connected to prioritized target audiences, how will you know what to do first?  Or where to spend the majority of your budget?  Or what to cut out if budgets shrink?
8.  If there is no plan, there is no documented situation analysis – no overview of your place in the business world.  Theodore Levitt, author of the article “Marketing Myopia” points out that many companies get themselves into deep trouble because they fail to understand just exactly what business they are in.  A little self-analysis goes a long way.
9.  Without a comprehensive marketing plan you will never be able to determine if any particular tactic (advertising, direct mail, publicity, trade show, special event, Web site, social media, etc.) is the best possible marketing investment or just another intriguing idea (the idea du jour).
10.  [Insert drum roll] When was the last time you went on a very important, long-term, long distance journey without a map or an itinerary?  When was the last time you went to the grocery store without a list?  When was the last time you gave a speech without notes. Such rarely rarely if ever end well.
And for any skeptics out there:  Planning is not intended to prevent, avoid or otherwise stave off the work that must be done, it is simply an essential precursor.  In the words of Peter Drucker, “Plans are only good intentions unless the immediately degenerate into hard work.”
Do the planning. Then do the work.

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.