Marketing Plan Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Building a marketing plan takes time and effort. Here are ten common mistakes to avoid, and ways to enhance your efforts.

A marketing plan is an essential component of successful marketing. The process you use to develop the plan is just as important. In a recent two-part blog on Building a Marketing Plan, I shared some recommendations for a five-stage process for generating your marketing plan.

But what are some common mistakes that can occur during the marketing plan development process, or even during the year when the plan is being executed? What should you keep in mind and try to mitigate?

Here are ten common mistakes our clients have encountered with their marketing plans and ways to avoid these mistakes. All of the below assume that you already have a brand established, including the goals, vision, and focuses for that brand. This are the things that the overall marketing strategy and marketing plan should support.

Mistake #1: There is no established marketing strategy.

There might be a collection of activities or tactics, and some of them may be relevant to what the brand is trying to achieve (sales, awareness, etc), but there is no strategy to bridge the brand goals to the tactics.

How to Avoid: Once you’ve reviewed your current state and past performance and your company’s goals for the coming year, determine what overall methods or approaches (i.e., strategies) would help you reach those intended outcomes. Ultimately, every tactic you include within the marketing plan should align with at least one of the marketing strategies.

Mistake #2: Stakeholders were not included during the process and have no buy-in.

As a result, it may be challenging to get support and involvement for approvals and plan execution.

How to Avoid: Include colleagues, team leads, and others who will be essential in the execution or approval of your plan throughout the process. Have stakeholders who understand the bigger picture involved in strategy sessions. Involve stakeholders in brainstorms and prioritization exercises. Consult with team leads regarding resources needed to execute the plan and potential risks that could occur (and how to avoid them).

Mistake #3: There is a “game plan” but not a true established/approved plan.

You might share the ideas or high-level thoughts, but no plan exists. Or you may present the plan to leadership, but never actually receive official approval or the projected budget. Imagine how you might feel coming into a marketing role with no established or confirmed marketing plan.

How to Avoid: Ensure you build out a comprehensive plan with strategies, tactics, timelines, needed resources, and how you will measure success. Document who participated in the review and approval of the plan, the date of approval, and the approved budget.

Mistake #4: Trying to do too much.

While you may have many great ideas that could help the company, you will likely have limited resources and time to accomplish all of them.

How to Avoid: Prioritize your marketing strategies by limiting them to three (or max, four). It shows you are focused and have put thought behind these specific strategies. Leadership and colleagues will be more likely to remember three or four strategies. Additionally, identify your three most important and most impactful tactics for each strategy. This can allow you to prioritize your requests for budgets and staff resources to execute those plans.

Mistake #5: Repeating last year’s plan.

Perhaps you hear “We’ve always done it this way,” or “Last year was great, so just do the same thing.” The challenge is that you miss the opportunity to learn from the previous year and adapt to what’s going on in your industry or community.

How to Avoid: Look at each year individually. Review past successes and what made them successful (so you can repeat). Think about unsuccessful tactics and what could be done to either improve these in the future (or keep failed tactics from being reused). Consider new trends, new technologies, new social platform capabilities, new partnership opportunities, and even what your competitors have been doing. All of these things, along with your strategy for the year, should determine what goes into your plan.

Mistake #6: Not considering the details.

Your plan should be comprehensive, and you should consider all of the details, including how and when you will actually execute the plan.

How To Avoid: Be sure to include your strategy and all tactics supporting that strategy. For each tactic, you should consider the timelines, measurements, and who is responsible. It should also include needed resources (staff resources, budget resources, vendor partners, tools, technologies, etc.) so you know the overall cost and resource impact of your plan. Example: Don’t just reference social media as your part of your marketing plan. Determine which channels you’ll use, how frequently you’ll post, when you’ll post, and the types of content you’ll post. Identify who will be responsible for posting it, who will develop visuals, and who will manage responses from your followers. If you plan to promote the social posts, consider the budget to boost your posts for the year. This doesn’t mean you have to present all of these details to your leadership for approval. Present the high-level strategies and top tactics for each, along with the budget spend and measurement plan. If they have additional questions about the details, you’ll be ready to answer. Then as you are executing the plan, capture the actual costs, actual impact, and feedback or key learnings to refer back to as you build your next year’s plan.

Mistake #7: Working in silos.

While different teams may take ownership of different corporate initiatives, even the marketing plan can have individuals who take on certain tactics. The result may be disjointed campaigns that use inconsistent visuals and language, creating a misaligned— and potentially confusing—customer experience.

How to Avoid: While those responsible for executing elements of the plan may interact regularly, it’s important to have one central person who can monitor all from a bird’s-eye view. This person can consider all customer touch points that marketing (and other teams) are overseeing and identify potential synergies between tactics. Regular check ins (even monthly) with the initiative leaders can help share progress and game plans and help leaders identify ways to leverage opportunities within another tactic to benefit their own.

Mistake #8: Not considering or mitigating potential risks.

There are many internal and external factors that can impact the success of your plan. Taking the time to think through potential challenges you may encounter can save you time and effort later.

How to Avoid: For each of your strategies, and more granularly, your tactics, consider what could possibly keep that effort from being successful. Identify the likelihood of the risk occurring and the impact if it occurred. For each risk, consider what you could do proactively to keep it from happening. Also, think about how you would reactively respond if it did indeed occur. This can guide you during the execution of the plan and help keep your plan on track.

Mistake #9: Changing the strategy while executing the plan.

The results aren’t coming in, so you change the strategy. Or maybe there’s a new fad your leadership has noticed, and you are asked to change your strategy to respond to the trend.

How To Avoid: If based on company background (standing, past marketing results) and guiding factors (mission, vision, and goals), your strategy should be sound and stable. You can change or adjust the tactical plan, but the strategy shouldn’t change. If a tactic supporting the strategy isn’t working, optimize or change the tactic. Trends and fads are typically tactical in nature, so if you really want to add something to your tactical plan, you can. Just be sure that new tactics still clearly align with your established strategy. And be careful that you aren’t late to the party on the trend or fad—it can negatively impact your reputation.

Mistake #10: Not tracking and reporting results.

Company stakeholders and leadership will expect to see measurements, and if you can’t track and report on the results, your plan may be questioned. An example: a newspaper ad is published. How do you know if it was impactful? Can you attribute results back to this one newspaper ad?

How to Avoid: Incorporate “trackability” into every tactic you recommend. For that newspaper ad, perhaps there was a specific website address you used or a QR code to connect to a specific page only related to the newspaper ad. You could track visits to the page to identify the impact of this one tactic. Ensure each of your strategies have leading and lagging indicators. Identify how you will track and measure the success of your tactics (and avoid vanity metrics). On a monthly basis, gather key marketing leadership and stakeholders to share key results and discuss potential updates. On a quarterly basis, report on the leading/lagging indicators for the marketing strategy, including what changes you’ve already implemented based on the results. Make sure there is regular line-of-sight to the impact your marketing efforts are making. While there are many things to think about when building a marketing plan.

Consider the tips above and you should be in a better position to plan and execute your plan. If my suggestions above generated some questions, read my two-part blog series on marketing plans or feel free to reach out and discuss!

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