The Prussian General Moltke famously said in 1871, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”
More recently in 2012, Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I personally like the Mike Tyson quote better because of the wonderfully painful visual that it envokes.
At Fixyr we truly believe that you must have a marketing strategy and a plan to execute it. It’s important that you know and agree to where you’re going to focus to prevent you from getting distracted.
But we also know that things change. Forecasts can be off. Assumptions can be wrong. More often than not, marketing plans are overly optimistic in the results they expect to generate. When you put together your strategy and your plans for executing that strategy it was based on the market situation and the assumptions you had made at that time, and the current situation or the underlying assumptions may have changed.
Does this mean you should throw out your plans at the first sign of trouble? Absolutely not.
You should be willing to alter your plans, but always stay focused on your strategy. You should only alter your strategy under certain circumstances. At the same time, you should be flexible in your plans for how you achieve your strategy when it’s obvious that something isn’t working or business conditions have changed.
You need a system, a set of rules, that will help you identify when to adapt and adjust. Here’s a framework of three times to consider if you need to adjust:
Competitors are doing something different or something new – We are strong believers in monitoring competitive threats, but be careful about changing plans too quickly to copy or react to competitor activities. What do they know that you don’t? Do you know that what they’re doing is working? Even if it is working for them, do you know that it would it work in your situation or that you should do something different to react?
Underperforming marketing tactics – This is quite common, but is often more of an opportunity than a reason to change plans. Make sure you understand why a marketing tactic is not performing. The underlying reasons could be easy to fix, or they may be larger more systemic issues that won’t be fixed by changing tactics. Begin by trying to understand what’s going on. Do you have the data to understand which stage of the marketing tactic isn’t performing? Are you able to test different offers, different creatives and/or media? Quite often a series of modifications or improvements to your activities will help to improve performance dramatically.
Assumptions have changed – This is the most common situation when considering changing plans. Are the assumptions that you used to develop you original strategy and plan still valid? If not, what has changed, and what should you change about your plans?
New opportunities – Does this new opportunity help me to achieve my strategy better, faster, or cheaper than what I have planned? If so, what would it take to pursue and implement this new opportunity, and – this is the most important part – what will I remove from my plans to make space and free up time and resources to implement or pursue this new opportunity? Have you sufficiently thought through the new opportunity? As a general rule of thumb, wait 3 months. If it’s still a good idea 3 months later, it’s worth changing your plans.
Before dropping or changing plans, make sure you understand why you’re changing, what you would differently, and what you will stop doing as a result.
And always keep an eye towards your strategy. There are many paths to get there, but make sure you don’t go off in the wrong direction.
At Fixyr we believe that “one-size-fits-all” marketing is the enemy, that strategy should always come before tactics, and that the best path to success is a results-focused marketing plan built just for you.