In a strategic presentation last week, a client asked us: “Is there some sort of check-list or plan so I can remember everything I have to do?” I think the client was feeling a little overwhelmed at the ominous task ahead. I imagine that many businesses express this same emotion when undertaking a marketing strategy – where on earth do I start? Often, it all goes into the too-hard basket.

It is for this exact reason that we ensure we always include a step-by-step action plan in our marketing strategies. It lists all the activities in priority order, planned out over the next 5 years of the business’ life. It also links these activities with the overall objectives of the marketing strategy and the goals the business is aiming to achieve. Importantly, it breaks a seemingly impossible task into baby steps, allowing the business to plan their financial investments and budgets. We also print our action plans on a large, A3 sheet and laminate them for our clients to pin above their work desks or wherever they desire.

I also believe there needs to be a clear delineation between a marketing strategy and a promotional plan. A marketing strategy is an overall plan which outlines the business’ objectives, and the methods and strategies to achieve those objectives. It is usually long term – at least applicable over the next 3 to 5 years. A promotional plan, in contrast, is an annual plan prepared prior to the business’ usual planning period (usually May for a Financial year start). It takes the annual marketing budget for a business and plans out how it is to be spent over the next 12 months, leaving a percentage (usually we suggest 10%) for a contingency fund. Of course, a promotional plan is linked to the overall marketing strategy – keeping the objectives, branding and positioning in sight. At the end of each financial year, the results of a promotional plan should be recorded and compared against the investment made and whether the objectives were achieved.

If these two processes are followed, all advertising and marketing activities will be carried out in order and to a plan. It also prevents marketing activities from interfering with work activities, and vice versa. So, get planning and empty your too hard-basket for good!