12 Reasons Why Marketing Plans Fail

12 Reasons Why Marketing Plans Fail

In looking at why marketing plans fail the list of possible reasons is lengthy indeed. The following reasons should not be considered all inclusive, rather they represent some of the more common mistakes. Company Focus All good marketing starts with the customer. When companies engage in planning with a bias towards their own situation and knowledge, without involving the customer, bad things happen. This type of behaviour leads to things such as market segmentation based upon product lines as opposed to customer needs. When plans are created to please the bosses and not the customers, the end result will be unsatisfied customers. No business can survive in the long run with unhappy customers.
Too Aggressive This is literally falling prey to biting off more that you can chew. Particularly a concern in smaller companies this approach fails to consider realistically the resources at hand. Having a great plan you are unable to <>implement will get you exactly nowhere. Everything to Everyone All people are not alike, and neither are all customers. Failing to understand properly the differences between customers in your market means you cannot develop a plan to meet their particular needs. The days of blasting out a message over multiple media channels in the hope that someone will notice is gone. Engaging in effective market segmentation to identify groups with like needs leads to potential competitive differentiation and improved resource use from a more focused approach. Too Static A well-designed marketing plan packaged inside a well-prepared binder sitting on a shelf all year does nobody any good. With the rate of change that exists today doing the annual plan and not having a process for ongoing review means you wasted a lot of time preparing the plan. Beyond merely reviewing the marketing plan at regular intervals throughout the year though there should be a measure of flexibility built into the plan itself. Flexibility in planning (See my earlier post on Strategic Reacting and white paper on Temporal Based Strategic Planning) is grounded in having virtual teams, trained, and funded in the budget to address issues and opportunities as they arise. Process Focus Having a process for the development of your marketing plan is important. What is not important is blind devotion to the completion of the process. Marketing planning processes should exist to serve as a roadmap – not a destination. By paying too much attention to the process, you will miss the more important aspects of planning such as where you want to go and how you will get there. Tactics Before Strategy The rush to action. Strategy should come before tactics. Strategy answers the question “What are you going to do?” Tactics are simply the tools used to achieve the strategy. If you do not know why you are pursuing a particular tactic – then “Why are you doing it?” Strategy gives legitimacy to tactics and allows them to be successful. Companies that rush to act may get to the finish line first -but it may be the wrong race. Too Vague Marketing plans that are too vague to drive specific action or allow for measurement of the results of that action are dangerous. This type of planning encourages uncoordinated individual effort at the expense of a coordinated group effort. Essentially a marketing plan that is too vague is no plan at all. No Accountability If there is no accountability within the marketing plan then who will be interested in the results? Accountability for the marketing plan ensures that the proper effort will be used to move the plan forward. Without accountability for the marketing plan, there is simply no incentive to act. Only by having identified who is responsible for the results can you expect to have a chance of success. No Measurement It’s the old cliché “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” If you have no methods to evaluate the success, or failure, of your results how will you know what to change. As noted above having a static approach to developing your marketing plan is not a valid option. Measurement is what provides you with guidance as to the changes that must be made. Budget and Forecast Focus If the end result of your marketing plan is to develop a budget and sales forecast, then you do not have a marketing plan. Ideally budgets and forecasts are end products of the marketing planning effort. A strict focus on numbers also encourages behaviour designed to meet the numbers. Gaming is all too common a practice with respect to budget and forecast numbers. Marketing plans where the emphasis is in the numbers, and not the strategy, encourage inward focused activity designed to meet a number – not the customers’ needs. No Situational Analysis All forms of strategic planning should include an analysis of the present situation. Put simply to get to where you want to go you need to know where you are today. The importance of situational analysis, as incorporated in the marketing audit, is that it identifies factors that influence your marketing efforts. There is little value in putting together a marketing plan that cannot be acted on due to external or internal factors that you did not recognize. No Implementation Plan If the process is the roadmap, then implementation is about who’s driving. The action items that fall out of the marketing planning process must be ranked and assigned responsibility for. The implementation plan should indicate the responsible individual or group, the timing, and the resources required to implement the marketing plan. As I said, this is not intended to be a comprehensive list of potential marketing plan issues. If, however, you keep these issues in mind as you go about your marketing planning efforts then you have a much better chance of developing a sound strategy and plan to move forward with.
Scott Van Wagner is a senior marketing strategist. His marketing experience includes roles as a Sales Rep, Product Manager, Service Director and General Manager and Author. This practical experience is enhanced by marketing knowledge developed delivering courses on marketing strategy and management at The University of Western Ontario, Brock University, McMaster University and The University of Guelph.
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