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Getting Caught Behind the Marketing Strategy 8-Ball

March 3, 2010

On the way to the pocketAre you feeling a bit thrown by sudden changes in your well-laid marketing plans for 2010? Did your fabulous idea somehow roll right off the rails, leaving you with a big problem?

Despite most companies’ best attempts, many often find one or two months into the New Year that they are, indeed, stuck between a rock and hard place. (I know, I’m mixing my metaphors!) The best laid plans can easily go awry: Marketing plans made with the best of intentions were never implemented completely at the beginning of the year for numerous reasons. The biggest reason is that they’re still winding up or cleaning up the prior year in January. Another reason is that “crucial” information on which everything rests for the New Year is missing for the marketing budget. Perhaps a bid didn’t come in as expected on a website or a major print campaign. Or worse yet, a key member of the project team gets fired or leaves for the competition. Now you wonder if your great plan is being rolled out at ‘the other guy’s’ company?

Whatever the reason your carefully laid-out marketing plan hasn’t been fully implemented, you’ve got to roll with the punches. In fact, the actual point of having the plan in the first place is to give you framework with which to bounce around in because there are always changes in the field, in the moment and on the floor. A printer can’t make a major delivery deadline. The key products get sunk to the bottom of the Pacific during a storm and two containers get tossed from the freighter. Stranger things have happened!

The successful marketer will have some backup plans to throw onto the fire to keep the flames fanned. If you’re missing crucial budget information that pertains to the centerpiece of your strategy, make a best guesstimate, get another bid or make the decision to revamp the strategy for the year altogether. There’s a reason “crucial” information disappears when it’s most needed: you’re too reliant upon it. One of the keys to marketing strategy is not putting too many eggs in one basket. When a big hippo comes along and sits on that basket, you’ve got a really big problem. You’d better be sure you have backup plans.

What about that ‘can’t miss’ deadline that your printer just missed? Is it product documentation, promotional brochures or a newsletter? If you’re missing a legal deadline on delivery of information, you’ve got a whole new problem (and I advise you to find an attorney’s blog for advice in managing that problem). But if it’s product or services documentation, there are a number of alternatives to getting out the word: Can you issue a PDF copy via email instead? What about a tweet or Facebook post about a new place to find the info? Can you put a notice on your website home page about the delay?

Most consumers can be pretty forgiving of mistakes or missed deadlines if you make an attempt to apologize AND reach out to them. When it’s the inability to deliver product, many retailers offer discounts or gifts to curry favor and not lose their valued clients. If it’s a marketing snafu, you’d better have a similar mea culpa plan.

Here are a few ideas to help you overcome these nasty business surprises:

  1. Don’t dwell on the mistake, omission or Act of God that has caused your best plans to be rendered worthless. It’s now the past and unchangeable. Acknowledge it and move on.
  2. Immediately reassess what you can do. Is it an email blast? Sitting at a bank of phones and calling each and every client or prospect to apologize is an option to consider. Can you launch a different product or sale that was planned for next month instead? Think fast and be decisive.
  3. Make your recommendation strongly. You are likely the one with the best expertise, so act like it. Tell the owners your plan and why you think it’s the best solution under the circumstances. They will nod approval with glazed eyes because they are in panic mode. You cannot afford to be in panic mode unless you can afford to be unemployed.
  4. Delegate the “new” plan’s components to whoever is best-suited to execute the parts of it. That includes you! Roll up your sleeves, address the problem, and get the solution in place as quickly as possible.
  5. Do not put an ounce of energy into complaining or blaming. The guilty parties will get what’s coming to them in time. And you need every bit of positive energy to convert this disaster into a home run.
  6. Thank everyone who helps avert the disaster and manages to put you on a new course of success graciously and genuinely. This, too, will help feed your energy level.

Life is full of detours and surprises. The measure of your true worth is your ability to roll with punches. Think on your feet. Marketing plans get bent, ripped, punched, sidelined and all other manners of destruction. They are as organic as your garden or the kid next door. Be prepared for constant change. The unchanged marketing strategy doesn’t exist!

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