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Do you <STILL> need a marketing plan?

In this day and age of agility and iterative marketing, the bound and glossy 80 page marketing plan seems like a relic of the past.  And truth be told, most marketing plans--heck, most plans--start out great but then get tossed in the drawer anyway, only to be brought out either when it’s time for performance reviews or time to do the next one.

Are they even needed today?

I’d argue they are more than ever, but maybe not for the traditional reasons.  After all, in the digital age there are unlimited pivot points and shifts that you’ll likely be faced with or challenged with throughout the year--and a static plan, written back as the new fiscal year was upon year, will seem trite and quaint if your business objectives or circumstances are in any way fluid or changing.

But that implies the plan doesn’t change--and today’s plans should.  You still need the 30,000 foot view of what direction you’re going in and how marketing is going to help get you there.  You still need the alignment among the different functions within the team to know how you work together to achieve the end-goal, whether that’s more leads, more product adoption, more market share.

What should be up for regular review then, are the tactics to your plan--not the plan itself.  If the goal this year was to increase sales by 25%, then the “how” of how you do that is going to depend on a ton of factors that may not be apparent to you at the beginning of the plan.  A new competitor offering lower pricing, changing economic conditions, company health--all those are factors that will change the way you approach the goal. And those tactics need to be agile, responsive, and quick to reflect the environment you and your team find yourselves in.  But the plan is the plan, and until the business goals change, don’t worry about whether the plan is the right one, worry about how you achieve it, and review THAT regularly.

This cover is way nicer than the ones I've done.

The other reason I’ve seen to have a plan in place today is alignment within your team--especially for your earlier-in-career teammates.  It can be difficult for an individual contributor to find their place in the organization, and even more importantly, to get an understanding of how their work contributes to the plan and the goals of the team and company.  It’s easy to showcase something big and shiny like a new brand or new website, and if you’re on that project then you know that your work mattered. But what about the designer or content copywriter? What about a field marketer or marketing ops person?  Sometimes those marketers more behind the scenes need to understand how they are contributing to the team’s success as well, and regularly reviewing the marketing plan, talking about the tactics, and tracing their work to the overall goals is a key component to getting the entire team aligned and motivated.

So as you put the plan together, develop cross-functional teams that help you achieve the goals.  Make sure as you do quarterly performance checks that everyone in the organization knows the goals of the plan and understands how their work is contributing to its success.  And don’t be afraid to share the plan far and wide--the more it gets shared the more adopted and accepted it can be, and the more accountable your team can be to the results.

Don’t throw out the marketing plan--embrace it and make it the centerpiece of how you run a modern, agile, aligned, relevant team for your company.

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