Why long term marketing plans are worthless

For years we relied upon a standard long term plan and monthly reporting structure as the backbone to all our campaigns. Not any more.

Here are some reasons why long terms plans are basically pointless:
– It is almost definitely wrong
– You won’t know what the right plan is until you’ve started
– The plan that turns out to be right won’t be right for long

So what’s the solution?

The solution is definitely not to jump in head first without any kind of preparation either. There is serious groundwork that needs to be done and it involves the following:
– Thorough client, audience and competitor analysis – one of the few benefits of a long term plan is that it forces you to do many of the things you should already be doing but aren’t because you think you’re too busy. You’re never too busy to scrutinise your client and its market, particularly the activity of their competitors. For more information on market research and how to minimise the chance of screwing things up, check out my last post.
– A clear brand vision – assuming you’ve done the first part and truly understand your client, their audience and their competition, you now need to ensure they have a clear vision for their brand. What are they going to be famous for?
– A clear strategy for achieving that vision – we don’t want endless details, but we do need an overarching strategy that gives us a constant point of reference for all future tactics.
– A short term plan that iterates rapidly – finally we write our plan, but it’s not a 2 year plan based on the unknown that loses relevance after three months. It’s a short burst (typically 1-2 months) that takes us to the edge of the horizon but no further.
– Agile project management – even this short term plan will encounter roadblocks that we never could have anticipated, which is why having at the helm an expert project manager who can iterate the plan rapidly and with a great degree of autonomy is essential.

The Exception

There is one exception where long term plans are very worthwhile. When they’re written for someone else.

Investors, banks and other providers of funds tend to have a traditional perspective of business and (understandibly) want some reassurance that they’re not giving money to a moron. On these occasions I’m afraid you have no choice but to write a long term plan. Just don’t agonise over the details because guess what, they’re wrong.



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