We have a planning challenge for you. Are you game? Year after year you likely follow the same planning process for the new year. Are we right? The planning forms may change. The people involved may change. The approval process may change but it is the same approach year after year. Have you taken the time to challenge your established planning process and try something new and, we guarantee you, effective?
Typical Planning Process
The first step of the typical planning process is to identify all the standing programs that require funding like your samples program, coop funding, and collateral production. You are told by the sales team these programs are staples of our marketing programs with the customers and must be a priority.
Next, we prioritize either the programs that work or the programs we like best. The menu of programs is long since everyone has their own favorites. Advertising, trade shows, and events are the leading investments that tug at our heart strings. Sound familiar?
Number three on the list of priorities are the programs we know work but may not have your personal endorsement because you don’t really understand them or, in turn, appreciate them. Social media is the big player here since most marketers, salespeople, and executives have not taken the time to understand them or the power they possess. Public relations are another investment that may not receive the love the results it produces deserve.
Finally, new ideas that will likely better serve your business objectives or differentiate your business or both are considered as a part of your planning. A great example of this is dedicated Hispanic marketing. We are talking about more than a few rough translations. We are talking about dedicated website, advertising, collateral, programs, social media, and public relations speaking to the audience in the proper tone and feel, in several dialects, and with appropriate images.
We know how the planning process evolves with budget approvals. New ideas give way to the must-haves, the we wants, and what everyone else has. The ideas that may truly make a difference are put on a list for next year. We have seen and experienced all the above for decades.
Our Challenge for You
Look at your plan like a challenger to your business. Think like a competitor that is smart and clever. Look for the holes and your weaknesses in the plan because the competition is looking for them and planning to take advantage of some if not all of them.
Let us give you an example. If you are a leader in your category of business, you are likely better resourced than your competition. If they cannot match your resources, mirroring your marketing is a cost-effective way of competing with you. Mirroring is a thousand-dollar word for copying you, your messaging, images, programs, and products. This will lead to your competition saying we are as good as you to the customers if it is true or not. If you are not the leader in your category and you are under resourced, mirroring is not a bad strategy.
Whether you are a category leader or competitor, challenging conventional thinking will likely provide you with a place for new ideas without sacrificing them to budget. If you are the leader being mirrored, it is likely because your competitor does not have the resources you do. As a result, changing course is an expense they likely cannot afford. Caution: do not change course simply because you can. Do it because it is the right strategy.
The Eye of a Challenger
We are not advocating you spend your time looking in the rear-view mirror at your competition, though it is important to understand all the market forces that impact your business. We recommend inviting a person or a small team of people outside of your immediate team that has a working knowledge of the market, marketing strategy and skills that are forward leaning with the experience of challenging conventional thinking. Give them the task of critiquing you and the competition with the eye of a challenger. The more experienced at this effort the better to deliver the results you are seeking without bruising egos. They will find opportunities for you to make a difference with your efforts in the new year. Guaranteed.
We recommend using a person or people from outside your team because if these skills existed within your group, you would likely be using them. We also recommend using outside resources because of the inherent bias that may exist within the group that is producing and delivering these plans. An outside resource will be tough, honest, and clever just like your competition.
If you find yourself saying “of course we challenge our thinking during planning,” then this post simply reinforces your approach. If you find challenging your own efforts is not as effective as you had anticipated, you may consider our planning challenge to you. Certainly, if you find our planning challenge to be compelling, we encourage you to take the next steps. It will be well-worth the effort.