Thursday, May 04, 2006

Talkback: A plan to avoid fear and loathing

By Robert Bree

Given the option of accompanying an axe-murderer on a camping trip or running the annual marketing plan "summit", just about everyone I know would start shopping for those little strap-on head-mounted torches.

No-one doubts the importance of the marketing plan, so why do we loathe doing it so much and, more importantly, how can we make the whole exercise more rewarding, painless and efficient for everyone involved?

Attitude is very important. If senior management present the plan requirement as a burden, then so will the marketers. I personally recommend treating it as a great creative opportunity to bring the wider team together on a regular basis to objectively evaluate how we're doing, discuss our problems, opportunities and aspirations, agree on our goals and "create" strategy - i.e. awesome brand marketing.

One problem I frequently observe is the "popular" burden of form filling. Every multinational and increasingly more of our local companies are becoming obsessed with planning templates, standard operating procedures and global uniformity of planning systems. So let's get real. A marketing plan is simply an assessment of our market and brands, pending market opportunities, and current company or brand performance married to an assessment of our intended future capabilities. Once agreed, we then compile a set of activities that will result in improved appeal, activation, penetration and adhesion of our brands.

I recommend a four-step process from where we are now to where we plan to be:

* Current situation analysis/brand review leading into key issues by market, segment and brand;

* Overview of growth opportunities including assessment of various best-case/worst-case market scenarios;

* Confirmation of strategic/brand priorities including objectives, brand strategy, customer plans and financial forecasts (including any capital investments);

* Key programmes/tasks including tactics, timeframes, budgets: what we'll do, how we'll do it, what it will cost.

Do it in stages, maybe spreading those four meetings or steps over four months. Using this approach you can test your team's thinking at each step and agree on key decisions before moving on.

At this rate, you should be able to reduce pressure and still complete the plan by the end of the third quarter.

Start your planning around five months into the financial year with a business or brand review. For the brand review I recommend you pull last year's plan out of the drawer and take a day out reviewing the predictions you made, performance vs the targets you set, progress on any key initiatives identified.

Get your wider team involved at the relevant points. Not only the agency, but your research partners, your sales managers, maybe even one or two of your key accounts.

Treat the plan as a team effort, that way everyone will feel committed to it and its results.

Finally, put someone in charge. Alternatively, check out those strap-on head-mounted torch dooberees. Pronto!

* Robert Bree of Viso Cognito is a growth solutions consultant. You can contact him at


Post a Comment

<< Home