Ask any successful businessperson, and they will explain the virtues of planning. It also goes way beyond business, as planning is prevalent in life success, sports, politics, and of course in war. There is an interesting quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower that relates to planning:
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
It sounds conflicting – so planning is useless but simultaneously indispensable? Eisenhower’s point was that the plans you develop will never actually be implemented as you originally intended. Planning itself however is key because it will force you consider alternatives and devise contingency plans. It will also make you set up a system for testing; which we have mentioned numerous times as being extremely important.
While it is 100% certain your plans will change, planning is essential because you have to start somewhere.
So how do you get started in the planning process – building a marketing calendar? Here is a checklist to get you started.
- Determine your overall goal. This will have a large impact on your calendar since some initiatives can have a quick turnaround (like a holiday sale). Others have a longer horizon, like launching a new product or service.
- Identify the various steps/milestones in the process. Let’s assume you are launching a new product. Major steps probably will include:
- Determine which steps are “trigger/dependent activities” These activities send other activities automatically into action when they are completed. An example of a trigger would be “Initial inventory arrives into stock” would then trigger activities like “Samples sent to existing customers” and “Product made available for purchase on web site”.
- Input all of these activities into a planning system. There are various project planning systems out there, or you can simply set up an Excel spreadsheet. Key to the planning system is having activities linked to one another. In the example above, if the inventory coming into stock is delayed, the system needs to push back the trigger/dependent activities automatically. Without this being in a system it makes the updating of activities cumbersome.
- Plan on things getting derailed. It is inevitable, things happen to disrupt the “best laid plans”. You can build contingencies right into the plan, or just realize that you will have to adjust frequently along the way.
- Set up a recurring project review. Absolute key to the planning process. Review sessions will need to become more frequent as the goal date draws nearer. Ask questions like: How are we doing? What needs to be adjusted. Can we speed anything up? Do we absolutely have to do this step? Can we bring on additional resources?
Depending on the scope of your responsibilities, you can have several or perhaps dozens of individual marketing calendars. You can have detailed calendars for each individual activity, all rolling up into a “master marketing calendar”. This is your roadmap to marketing success!
Be flexible and realize that ultimate success will require you to vary from the plan. Your ability to adjust and handle adversity will be a major factor.