• Presenting detailed marketing tactic plans without the right context is a recipe for disaster
  • Securing consensus through progressive approval at each stage of the marketing planning process is critical to receiving final plan approval
  • The key stages to secure approvals and consensus for marketing plans include goals, personas, tactic and content selection

We’ve all been there – sitting in the audience as someone takes the floor and confidently unveils a detailed marketing plan, complete with line after line of carefully considered activities, only to watch the plan get picked apart by stakeholders like the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps you’ve even been that person defending and justifying your plan as questions and comments fly in from every direction, and wondering exactly how you got there.

So why is this experience so universal, and why does it happen so often? Many blame uncooperative stakeholders who are unwilling to listen to or accept the recommendations of marketing. While this may be true sometimes, situations like the one described frequently have a much more fundamental cause – one that in many cases would have doomed any plan presented regardless of its merit.

That cause is a lack of common assumptions and context between marketing and the stakeholders. Just as two people can’t agree on the length of stick without a common measuring system, marketing and the stakeholders can’t assess the value of a marketing plan and its elements without the objective measuring stick of common assumptions and context. This missing measurement stick usually results in the discussion and debate of every line item in the plan – a remarkably inefficient and painful way to improve a plan. Worse, a plan that starts out as an integrated whole can exit the process without key elements or with extra activities duct-taped to it.

Establishing the common assumptions and context needed to avoid this situation requires an approach designed to secure agreement at multiple stages, so that when the final plan is presented, it’s already largely approved. For marketing plans, this approach contains the following steps:

  1. Secure a “yes” on the business goals. This ensures alignment of the business objectives and the plan’s goals, and that success will be measured using the appropriate metrics.
  2. Use the consensus on goals to identify and prioritize the key markets and personas that need to be targeted. Obtain a “yes” on these target markets and personas before moving forward.
  3. Once agreement on the key markets and personas has been reached, use SiriusDecisions’ audience-centric methodology for marketing mix planning, discussed in the Core Strategy Report “Crafting the Ideal Marketing Mix,” or our Content Strategy Turbine to identify appropriate tactics and content for the target audience that will form the basis for the marketing plan.

With this approach, review of the detailed marketing plan becomes a rubber-stamp process, as the plan is clearly based on already agreed-upon assumptions. Implementing this approach effectively will take time and should be part of the planning process from the very beginning.

This approach provides other benefits to marketing. It helps create consensus on critical strategic questions, such as those regarding goals and targets, and elevates the marketing discussion to those topics instead of tactic-level questions. It also promotes “sticky” decisions by emphasizing the interconnectedness of the different approvals to ensure that any changes to decisions are considered with their full impact understood.

To make sure you don’t fall victim to “death by detail” when you present your next marketing plan, check all the boxes and secure all the approvals you need to ensure that the plan will be viewed and evaluated against the assumptions that were used to create it.