If your company has invested in a good strategic marketing plan, it’s safe to assume that the plan will be enacted. After all, the hard work is done. The strategic foundation is set. The budgets and timelines are detailed. Everyone is ready to go.
So it’s just a matter of ticking off the boxes, right?
Many a newly minted strategic plan goes on a figurative shelf, digital trash bin, or mental backburner. But in most cases, there are signs that a plan will stall.
Let’s take a look at three common reasons a marketing plan goes to waste. If you feel like any one hits close to home, it’s likely you have some bigger problems to tackle before creating a marketing plan.
1. Cultural dysfunction can slow progress to a crawl.
At the risk of sounding pedantic, a B2B marketing plan details the strategy and tactics of the marketing department. But the marketing department is only one piece of an organization. Even in a growth organization, when a plan might extend to the sales department (or combine sales and marketing into one revenue team), it’ll still be focused on a small piece of the operational whole.
Organizational culture plays a major role in the success of a marketing plan. For a marketing plan to thrive, a marketing department needs internal support. For example, good content stems from access to willing and open subject matter experts. Streamlined lead processes involve ongoing fine-tuning with salespeople. Progressive messaging requires a measure of trust from company leadership.
Strategic marketing plans are much more likely to gain momentum in collaborative and understanding cultures, where employees feel encouraged to work together to accomplish greater goals.
If your company culture is on the protective and inflexible side, know that initial excitement about a marketing plan can easily devolve into stalled progress and frustration.
2. B2B marketing plans stand no chance against a lack of accountability.
An important part of our marketing plans is a clarification of roles and responsibilities. We spend a lot of energy ensuring that overall marketing roles are clear. Then we assign each task in the strategy to a responsible party, and we put a deadline on those tasks.
For the plan to stay on track, everyone involved must embrace accountability—not just individually, but as a team. They need to strive for their marks, help their teammates, and hold each other accountable for their responsibilities. If for some reason, tasks aren’t completed on time, then the team must be willing to engage in dialog to avoid similar snags, adjust tactics, and improve future performance. Team members also need to be able to take personal responsibility for the consequences of missing their targets.
Though accountability can seem scary at first, it brings tremendous benefits. As employees assume responsibility for their actions, they build a sense of autonomy in their work. They can also take personal pride (and receive rewards) for successes.
Environments without accountability lack the positive pressure needed to accomplish tasks. They also lack a focus on forward movement. So if you find accountability is an afterthought in your organization, your marketing plan will likely have a hard time taking flight.
3. Fear of commitment turns the focus on immediate concerns.
In order for a strategic plan to work, an organization has to commit not only to its execution, but also its ultimate direction. Just as a leader and a clear vision can empower an employee, a leader with a short attention span can wreak havoc on spirit and long-term success.
A strong marketing program doesn’t happen overnight. As I’ve written about before, revenue growth takes time in B2B settings. If leadership reserves the right to change direction at any moment, it can negate all of the progress made since the last shift.
I want to note that fear of strategic commitment is different than tactical commitment. As you’re enacting a plan, it’s healthy to question the tactics. You should test, measure results, and tweak or adopt new tactics as necessary. But if you feel that your company is continually questioning the broader strategic direction, then that’s a real problem.
In the absence of strategic commitment, employees will focus on individual concerns. They’ll tackle challenges as they come in, create their own priority systems, and unwittingly build internal silos. In this sort of enterprise, the problem isn’t a matter of drafting a departmental plan, but rather aligning the entire company around a common purpose. That alignment creates a context in which every employee and department can operate effectively.
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