Over the past 15 years or so, marketing plans have essentially been replaced with marketing templates. In fact, you can do a Google search for “marketing plan template” and find 13,800,000 results. It is the efficiency of this template approach that sucks the life (and reality) out of most marketing plans. It creates a series of check-box assumptions that primarily serve the purpose of showing that you know how to fill out a marketing plan template. More concerning is that templates – and template thinking – cause marketers to miss three huge elements of modern marketing:
1) Influencer relations. Every market and every brand has influencers. These range from industry thought-leaders to journalists/bloggers to customers to employees. These smart, connected and vocal influencers are the individual sparks that add credence and acceleration to brands. Seeking out these influencers is typically relegated to only a pitch – when the long term value of connecting with these influencers and deeper more reciprocative way is often overlooked.
2) Thought-Leadership Content. While many brands have started to consistently embrace the concept of content marketing, most content vacillates between mildly useful to awkwardly written advertorials. The brands that are the best at content marketing are approaching it from a position of thought-leadership. This means having the human experts that touch the brand be the voice of the content – usually in the form of stories.
3) Draw a Crowd. If you can create a crowd, you have a force multiplier on creating sales opportunities and brand amplification. This typically means creating your own events – everything from live events, to webinars to blended events. When you host the party, you get to make the rules. This means you can choose the kind of events to have – and the kinds of crowds to draw. All towards broadening the circle of people who know you.
All three of these elements require a high level of strategic intention and clarity – which is why they are missing from most marketing plans. Strategic intention is getting the right things right before you consider any form of marketing plan. Things like core values, differentiators, message, audience profile, brand narrative, first impressions, culture, etc. Discovering and refining these brand elements will help you arrive at the conclusion that modern marketing is simply connecting with an audience at an emotional, authentic level – which is rarely a check box on the marketing plan template.
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