15th June 2016
It is often thought by innocent bystanders that financial marketing is solely about ideas – strong, ground-breaking, behaviour-altering ideas. But marketing life actually conforms to the 10/90 rule, where success is a function of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
The 90% is all about execution, and great execution starts with a good plan. But should great planning be rigid or flexible? Should we start and end with the same plan and deliver against clearly defined and measured outcomes? Or should we be forever flexible?
The reality is that we should be both and neither. Be it a campaign, product, business or new service, marketing will have have a big idea and a road map. But as we travel along that road, new opportunities will present themselves. Doors will shut and open. The skill of the marketer is to know how to navigate this. And it is something that is learned through experience, not taught.
Despite it being a long time ago, in a Galaxy far far away, I still remember studying for my marketing degree. We devoured Phillip Kotler’s great works, studied and debated the plethora of marketing research techniques, and wrapped our brains around the intricacies of customer logistics. It was as much about maths and statistics as it was about ideas, campaigns, great tag lines and ‘messaging houses’. It was a great grounding because it teaches you how to bring a product or service to life. But the best-laid plans need to factor in the human element. And humans are both predictable and unpredictable.
What experience teaches you is that marketing is not a science. It is a social science and social science concerns itself with the behaviour of people. Our job is to understand, influence and predict behaviour. But people are fickle. Sometimes they defy our best efforts to catalogue, define and tempt them.
Rigid planning does not fit in this world. Neither does a laissez faire approach, because we need a plan to do what we think is best and the conviction to see that plan through. But part of that plan is that we will deviate from that plan.
Is that unpredictability able to be planned for? Can we have contingencies for that? Yes we can, but we stand to spend more time planning rather than doing. In the time that takes, the opportunity could nestled in a competitor’s arms. That’s where experience takes over. Experience in the context of marketing is the ability to take risk through informed decision making.
So if you have a plan that’s not working to plan, trust in your experience to guide you in your next step. In the words of that great rock and roll philosopher, David Lee Roth;
“There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that we have lost our way. The good news is that we are WAY ahead of schedule!”
If you are not afraid to lose your way, you are a true marketer.