The wisdom of planning

Plans are a little like checklists; we know we need them but we often try and get away without them. For instance, we know that surgical checklists, when properly implemented, can make a substantial difference to patient safety and outcomes.

We also know that the process of thinking and completing a plan forces us to think of all the issues.

You often hear quite experienced marketeers saying “…social media? I have a strategy for that.” Strategy is both a framework around a plan and part of the body of a plan, cascading from strategy to tactics and then detailed actions. You should reply: “You may have a strategy but do you have a plan?” Strategy is an approach; a plan brings a team together, directs action and allows to monitor and measure its results.

Running digital marketing communications well is a complex task. It needs a plan. The plan can be as simple as telling members of a team what to do, and when, but it will be considerable enhanced if you add the analysis of a current situation, objectives, strategy (that word again!) and monitoring, tactics and action.

There are some classic planning models in marketing. P R Smith’s SOSTAC® template is very useful but can produce something too complex for smaller enterprises.

As we head towards Web 3.0, Christian Bluemelhuber’s brand marketing and communication model ‘Porn, Style and Series’ tries to match this new communications environment.

SOSTAC planning systemPorn  are the smallest raw materials of brand communication – the individual stories or ‘experiences’ that you publish. The function of this ‘porn’ is to help the consumer explore your value as a brand. Style: over time, the recipients of communications will begin to find their own patterns within the stories. As Christian says: “It is not the company who creates the brand, but the customer who elicits the brand.” Series: this is the ultimate challenge of a brand – where we not only have recognisable patterns (or ‘style’), which we can reinforce, but also an actual transformation of the perception of the brand. The simple days of linear predictive analysis, of input/output, are gone.

But let’s get back to the present. SOSTAC® offers this set of headings:

  • Situation – where are we now?
  • Objectives – where do we want to be?
  • Strategy – how do we get there?
  • Tactics – how exactly do we get there?
  • Action – what is our plan?
  • Control – did we get there?

For more details, and a free guide, visit Smarter Insights.

RACE is a mnemonic that Smarter Insights has developed to help digital marketers plan their activities better. RACE is Reach-Act-Convert-Engage; it helps plan and manage the main activities businesses need to work on to improve their online marketing communications. There is an interactive tool to help you understand how to use RACE to improve your inbound marketing communications.

Whatever system or template you use, create a plan. It can be reviewed, monitored, improved. But it is the start of a planning process that counts. Really counts. Enterprises who create plans survive and prosper.

If you want some informal advice on how to create a plan, please call or email.