“Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”

— Opening lines of “Winnie-The-Pooh” by A. A. Milne

This is one of my favorite books because of its simple commentary on life.  In marketing, most of us can’t slow down enough to spend the time we want on strategy.  Things move too fast.  There are always more campaigns to run and revenue to generate and never enough time to make sure we’re doing everything we can.  Maybe once a year we lock ourselves and a small team away for a day or two to do some strategic planning.  And then we put that plan on a shelf and don’t look at it again until we are planning the next year and want to know if we met our goals.

How can we change that? Don’t plan ahead!  At least, not that far ahead.  The once-a-year planning sessions aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  They help you define those big goals, like we want to produce so much revenue influenced by marketing this year or we want to penetrate a certain market by some percentage.  These should be driven by the business goals for the year and ideally be planned in conjunction with your sales team.  And you can even give an overview of the tactics you will use in that plan and the frequency of those tactics to ensure you can meet those goals.  But no need to lock yourself away for days to write this – a few hours should suffice.

However, I don’t like to plan specific marketing tactics and campaigns more than 1 quarter in advance.  This strategy lets you be nimble to changing market conditions, new products, etc.  Spend a day every quarter to map out your campaign topics and specific use of tactics.  Sure, there are those big events that you know about years in advance that can go on the calendar in anticipation – you can plan further ahead for those.  And you may know that you will do 2 webinars per month for the year.  But the topics?  Those shouldn’t be planned more than a quarter in advance so you can have fresh topics that your clients and prospects care about right now.  With the advent of social media, it is easy to start monitoring their conversations to figure out what they do care about.  And here’s a novel concept – you can even ask them what they care about!  These are the inputs that should go into your quarterly marketing tactical plan.

Your quarterly plan doesn’t have to be some big fancy document.  I used to do this as a spreadsheet with the tactics, topics, audience, and ROI. If you have a pretty complex marketing organization, as most large organizations do, you can have each business unit create their own tactical plan and then get together to make sure these plans are syncing up.  At the end of the day this will result in a dynamic marketing strategy that makes it look like you spent tons of time and energy on it, even though it only took a day or two once a quarter.

What are your secrets for finding new ways to come downstairs?

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