airt insights

November 18, 2012

Characteristics of Good Strategic Marketing Plans

"I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable."

Dwight David Eisenhower

The late President Eisenhower's laconic remark expresses a cardinal tenant of effective strategy formulation: Good planning is a process, not a document or event.

When conducted earnestly, the process produces a detailed but structured view of the business landscape and the forces at work in it. But the true value of the process has less to do with the deliverable (a document or report), than with exploring possible ranges of actions, with a wide array of contingencies and alternative scenarios accounted for. The end product is more like a map than a report—adaptable, fluid and informative in nature, not a two-dimensional to-do list of dictated initiatives, budgets and timelines.

Eight parameters can help in gauging the viability of strategic marketing plans. If your planning process reflects these attributes, it's probably off to a good start.

  • Accountability—responsibility is assigned for successful completion of initiatives.
  • Balance—the plans inform and guide not only financial decision-making, but also operational and human resource issues.
  • Flexibility—a mechanism for changing and updating the plan is built into the process.
  • Manageability—in-process measures are identified to ensure processes are working as intended, critical performance issues are addressed, resources required are projected, and methods of status reporting are in place.
  • Prioritization—priorities are established whenever multiple interdependent actions have been planned.
  • Realism—the question of what the organization really can do versus what it would like to do is addressed rationally, though the tone may be optimistic.
  • Specificity—expected results and milestones are clearly defined, along with the specific actions for implementation and the deliverables for each step.
  • Sustainability—a sufficient time period is allowed to close performance gaps.

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