Why Do Marketing Plans Fail?
A CEO was once famously heard to say: “Half my marketing budget is useless, unfortunately I don’t know which half!...”. It’s a poignant comment which no doubt strikes a chord with many CEOs and their Finance Directors but why is it that so many carefully crafted marketing plans often fail to achieve impact and recognition in the boardroom?
So where does the problem lie and what can marketers do to increase the strategic impact of marketing within their businesses which, as we begin to emerge from the most profound recession to visit us in modern times, has a key role to play in leading business back to prosperity? In truth we think there are four things marketers must do to overcome marketing plan failure.
1. Identify the Value Drivers in your business
Too often the marketing department is relegated to focusing on activities which at best are tactical in nature which deliver up precious little in the strategic value. This is not borne out through a lack of desire from marketers to make a real impact; it’s often due to a lack of understanding by business leaders at the top of organisations of the role marketing can play in shaping the direction of the business.
Marketing needs to elbow its way into the boardroom but to do this it needs to understand and champion the organisation’s marketing value drivers. Value Driver marketing is all about identifying and focusing on the activities that can genuinely help drive value within an organisation which in turn, enhance shareholder value.
The focus on marketing value drivers includes strategic activities relating to brand management, reputation management, customer retention, market selection and market knowledge and product/service differentiation. These are the areas where marketers can create a positive influence on business performance and stakeholder value. Although the mix and importance of these value drivers will depend on a number of factors including the maturity of the organisation, its size and complexity and the customers it wishes to attract and retain, they have relevance to any organisation, irrespective of its size or business sector.
2. Mind your language!
How often have you heard it said by senior executives that they don’t understand marketing? For many organisations marketing is seen as a nefarious discipline, heavy on jargon which only those close to the subject can understand. Couple that with a genuine concern uttered by many CEOs and FDs that they find it hard to evaluate and sometimes justify the amount the organisation spends on its marketing it’s not surprising that some view marketing with a hint of suspicion.
And when it comes to the annual budgeting round, it’s no surprise either when marketers come away with the feeling that those who hold the purse strings “just don’t get marketing”, as budgets are habitually cut. If marketing is to be understood, marketers need to help themselves. Cut the jargon when you are around those who profess not to understand our profession. Communication holds the key just as in any situation, if the people in power don’t understand your language you had better soon start talking theirs! Use the language of the boardroom to get your point across to show how your plans fully align with the strategic direction the business is planning to take.
3. Borrow from the Finance Director’s Kitbag
Not only must marketers learn the language of the boardroom they must also be prepared to borrow from the Finance Director’s kitbag. That means having your marketing plans not only fully budgeted but also fully appraised in terms of the likely return on investment. Just like any other investment appraisal that comes to the board for approval, marketers need show the financial payback as well as market growth potential. That means getting close to the Finance Director and asking for help in finding a way to financially evaluate your plan in a manner which will gain support at the very top of the organisation.
4. Be alert to and exploit shifting priorities
John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Quite simply, the most considered and relevant marketing plan which looks so right today can be so wrong tomorrow! Back in 2007 how many would have predicted the biggest and most far reaching global banking crisis to send us into economic freefall? The point is, major events can occur which render useless existing plans. Not all may be of the scale of a global banking crisis but whatever the trigger, priorities have a habit of shifting within organisations. For marketers, ensuring that their marketing strategies and plans are fully aligned with the business priorities will not only elevate marketing to where it needs to be – i.e. a strategic rather than a tactical function within the business – in so doing it will help lead the business in the direction it wants to take.