There are certain documents that should never be edited. The Declaration of Independence, for instance, or the words on a marriage license. And it would be confusing and frustrating if your rental agreement changed or the department of transportation was constantly editing the speed limit for your road.
Marketing plans are meant to be changed
Of the documents not meant to be edited, however, your annual marketing plan shouldn’t be one of them. By all means, create a plan, but call it a draft and accept that the best plans are in constant flux based on changing consumer preferences, new technologies, and the effectiveness of various ad campaigns.
You can’t predict everything
Committing yourself to following a plan written months ago based on 8-month-old information is like planning today what you’re going to wear next October 8th. You can guess what the temperature might be based on averages, but until you wake up that morning, you don’t really know what the weather will be.
Jim Joseph, the chief integrated marketing officer and president of communications agency Cohn & Wolfe put it this way: “Your plan needs to remain flexible. You can’t possibly predict what will occur over a 12-month period, so you can’t be certain that the plan you’ve written will be effective throughout the year.”
Real-time marketing requires real-time response
In fact, in the realm of marketing plans, the more often you change tact and update your strategy, the better. Joseph said the most competitive brands “have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on with your business and [are] ready to respond to it.” Social media requires a certain element of real-time marketing based on current events and market fluctuations, something you can’t really plan ahead of time.
Another important aspect of effective marketing is the ability to track and react to customers’ reactions to your marketing programs. You’ll need to be ready to update your campaign at a moment’s notice based on positive or negative feedback. Missteps in marketing are inevitable, but the bigger mistake comes when you fail to change based on your audience’s feedback.
Plan your responses ahead of time
One way you can make your plan more flexible is by predicting several scenarios and planning your response in each instance. That way when the time comes and you realize a campaign isn’t working—or it’s working better than you anticipated—you have your next step planned without the need for a lot of discussion. In today’s world of instant communication and feedback, the difference preparation makes can be significant.
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