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5 Key Factors to Keep Marketing Plans on Track
Whether you’re introducing a product that’s been upgraded or a new product to a new market, there are five key factors that impact the probability of your product’s success – that’s a properly implemented marketing plan. Here are two types of plan scenarios that are dependent on executive sponsorship and a dedicated project leader.
A few years ago, I was invited by Ed Bradford to contribute some thoughts for his book Marketing Navigation.
The question he posed was: “How Do Your Keep Marketing Plans on Track?”
When assessing the performance of one firm against the goal stated above, I would like to frame my response based upon the type of plan in question.
There are two types of plans, in my opinion, based on my experience at two very large corporations:
- Introducing a product or service that is basically more of the same (a routine modification, extension or upgrade to an existing product or service). In this case we knew the customer needs fairly well and the technology/processes required to match those needs. We had a stage- gate process that supported this as well. It progressed ideas to commercialization through five key gates. The first two stages are business planning. Stage 3 is product development. Stage 4 is beta testing, and Stage 5 is preparation for commercialization. We worked hard on this award-winning process, and our new product development was cut from two years to less than six months. Multi-functional teams looked at every aspect of the issue and the team got rewarded if they achieved their performance targets.
- New/New or adjacent projects. These are new markets and/or new technologies to the firm. Here, the process of implementation is, by design, more flexible to address uncertainty. We had basically two tracks to follow: one led by our technology group to look at new technology introductions to market and one led by marketing to look at how to enter new markets with existing technologies. Both might converge for New/New. Our track record in both processes was pretty good. Looking backward, however, there were two important success factors:
- Success is dependent on good executive sponsorship.
- There must be a dedicated leader to run the project. By dedicated I mean full-time not part-time. Moreover, that leader must have passion about the product or service, must be evangelical and have some authority over the required resources. He/she must be charismatic and the right person at the helm. Unfortunately, the risk is to pick the wrong person because they are available, rather than because they have the right stuff. This must be watched for and acted upon swiftly through project review processes.
- Success is dependent on good executive sponsorship.
Regardless of the type of project there are five key factors to marketing plan success.
- Projects need to aim at displacing old stuff with new stuff. If you don’t prune the old, you will never get enough room or resources to grow and will be grounded in the past.
- You also need to make the distinction between approval and commitment. By commitment, I mean that not only has the plan been signed-off, but all the resources are committed and will be in the right place at the right time. When a business plan is approved, it should get the total resources it needs but this might not happen for several reasons. You need to be watchful for these pitfalls. For example: The approval is granted off budget cycle and cannot be funded without a major reshuffling of all the other projects. Resources may be needed mid-year and may have to wait until the start of the next financial year.
- In any structure, decision by consensus might take a long time to get all stakeholders to commit the resources required. Executive sponsorship is crucial. Ninety-five percent of the time this works and our regular review process takes care of issues. However, five percent of the time the project requires a serious commitment across the business to get it implemented. This tends to happen on New/New projects that do not necessarily follow a standard process and need “corporate” support. Great organizations are good at getting new and disruptive ideas embraced and applied. You can see how effective Apple is in doing that.
- Key to implementation is the translation between the marketing organization and local execution. Planning may be led by the marketing function but the best implementation successes are where these plans have been diligently converted into regional plans, where the product is launched when the sales teams have been trained, and the customer service teams are ready.
- Another key to success is the structure of the review committees. They must be composed of senior credible executives (VPs or directors) that have authority on resources allocation and acceptance of plans. This again comes ultimately down to good leadership – by the project leader and the company.
Francois Gau is President and CEO of
Thanks, Ed, for the opportunity to contribute. Marketing Navigation helps marketers improve their chances of success through properly implemented marketing plans.
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