54 Pages of Nothing

A number of years ago I started a new job as the CMO of a fast-growing software company.  As I was rummaging through my new desk and the charred remains of my predecessor, I discover something something shocking that explained his untimely demise – his 54 page marketing plan.  I’ve never been one to create those elegant, buzzword laden plans that delight the masses.  To me, plans are always a work in progress. This has often created friction between my more control-oriented bosses and me but they would eventually give up after I found a way to squeeze 30% more productivity our of marketing budget.

Upon further reflection, this comes back to the agile vs. waterfall marketer question I raised a month ago.  How can you honestly create a marketing plan for 12 or 24 months when things change so quickly?  Also, according Spencer Stuart the average CMO lasts only 22.9 months.

With that in mind, here is my ideal agile marketing plan.

  • Is a living document less than 2 page long (ideally less than one)
  • Looks no more than a six month into the future (one to three months if you can get away with it)
  • Clearly articulates target markets and customers
  • States specific, measurable goals (none of that generic “build a brand” stuff without measurable goals)
  • Allocates a majority of the budget to proven programs (if you know them)
  • Invests some resources to testing new, speculative media
  • Is based on learnings from prior experiences (ie busted programs)

In recent years I’ve seen more progressive types avoiding the document altogether and using a Mindmap.  In the end, the plan is a helpful guide but results matter more.  What you deliver will speak louder than a well written document about your cheerful parade of activities, so keep your eyes on what you deliver.

Author: Frank Days

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