Strategy and planning are a critical piece of any business, and far too often don’t get the attention deserved. Particularly in the interactive marketing space, it’s really easy to run headfirst at a tactic as a perceived solution to what is often a larger strategic and planning issue. I can’t tell you how many times in the last year I’ve heard something like “We just need to do social media, I’m not worried about anything else” or “All we need is SEO.” – Yet these same folks almost without fail have nothing solid to show when we ask to see the marketing plan or the strategic plan for the year (not to mention 5 years). When there’s a plan, it’s often not much of one.
So we find ourselves constantly emphasizing the value of strategic planning. Big problems arise when strategic planning is viewed as a project, a one-time thing, an annual thing, or “that thing that happens at the annual retreat.” In those situations, typically the plan is thrown on a sheet of paper, and then the sheet of paper is thrown in a drawer – a drawer that maybe gets opened twice a year.
In reality, when done well, strategic planning is a continuous and ongoing process. Because guess what – while you are taking your good old time planning, the ground underneath you is already moving, and continues to move. Markets change, situations change, the landscape changes, so your plan must adjust accordingly.
All too often companies go out and hire consultants for a project: develop a plan. The consultants do their work, hand over a book, and walk away. Then, it’s up to the company to implement that static plan, with no allowances made for the ground moving beneath you and often not enough in-house knowledge on how to implement the plan. And, to no surprise, more often than not, this fails. Instead, it’s critical to view this plan as a living, breathing thing, and to have the right folks involved in constantly testing, evaluating and adjusting the plan as situations change.
Otherwise you can find yourself immediately off track, floundering, and not knowing where to go. Or as Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.”