There’s no shortcut to proper planning

“Today I will do what other WON’T, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others CAN’T” — Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers

Recently, I was watching a biography on NFL Network focusing on the life and career of Jerry Rice (yes, I’m a football junkie!). One of the things he was known for was his penchant for off-season training and work. As I watched the program, I thought of the work marketers typically do this time of year — annual business + marketing planning.

As many of you know, this process can be onerous — especially when you realize it’s a full time job on top of your day job of delivering current priorities. However, building your future plan is one of the most important things a marketer needs to bring to the table. It helps encapsulate the organization’s understanding of the current state of the business, the key issues facing it, the strategies that will be deployed to address them, and the ensuing tactics and metrics for success. To do this really well, you need to take the time and make the effort to doing this. There’s no shortcut.

In too many times in my career, I’ve seen marketers try to shortcut this process. Usually, their tenure on those businesses was short-lived.

So, how do you do this well? This process has a few key steps:

  1. Situation Assessment: Do an honest assessment honest assessment of where you’re at as a brand. Look at your 4Ps and 4Cs. Do the SWOT analysis. Take a really honest look at what’s working and what’s not. Do market research, which is something many marketers don’t want to invest in. When you’ve compiled those insights, answer a very simple, but impactful question — “so what?”
  2. Define your brand’s key issues: Now armed with a lot of great insights and implications, try to ladder them up into a few key issues facing the brand. Put it another way, what are the top three things that are impacting the brand’s ability to grow or deliver on its long-term objectives?
  3. Develop your brand’s OGSM: Develop a 1-pager that outlines:
  • Objectives: What are your brand’s overall business goals?
  • Goals: What are the financial metrics that support the delivery of your brand’s objectives?
  • Strategies: What are the two (2) to three (3) key strategies that will address these issues? Not a laundry list — keep it down to two or three. This forces you to be choiceful in how you’re going to grow your brand. Also, define the tactics that will deliver those strategies. What are the most critical ones for each? A
  • Measurements: This is an often overlooked step. Ask yourself how you’d define success? How would you measure it?

Sounds simple, right? Yes, but it requires a ton of work to ensure you’ve been thorough and rigorous. Because it’s such a large initiative, I’ve seen a lot of marketers take shortcuts, especially on the situation assessment part. Either marketers are too optimistic on their assessment of their brand’s situation or they’re unwilling to invest in market research to help answer critical business questions, thinking their experience is enough. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of being scrappy, but there are times when you need to hit the proverbial “pause” button and do some fundamental research to get the answers to key business questions and to help you see the brand’s current situation for what it is — warts and all.

The great news is that you have resources to help. As you embark on this process, solicit the help of your cross-functional partners (e.g. sales, operations, R&D, finance, market research). Also enlist your external agencies, as they may bring insights and external perspectives that your internal team may not be aware of.

With the OGSM document, you know have a simple roadmap that ties all of your major initiatives for the year with how you’re delivering your financial targets. Put it another way, you have clarity on goals, priorities, and how you’re going to achieve them. As one of my former bosses at P&G used to say, “Clarity drives action. Lack of clarity creates swirl.”

By doing ALL of this work, which is stuff that is often skipped, you’ll put yourself, and your brand, at a massive advantage over your competition, enabling better execution, and more growth.