Tuesday 2¢: “I can’t just go to the CEO with ‘just’ a plan”

In a world obsessed with tactics, optimizing, agile and failing fast, is the idea of a marketing plan old hat? Does a plan still have value?


As you may know, I now ply my trade free of my master’s lance, building a little agency and mostly generally having a fine old time helping some splendid folks create ART (Awareness, Revenue & Trust), well, apart from the moments of abject terror shared with anyone who has jettisoned the comfort of corporate life for the hustle.  

I digress, the abject terror should be reserved for another post, in this Tuesday 2 cents, I’m wondering what has happened to the value of a plan?

I understand from years in consulting that companies really don’t want to pay for discovery, I get that, although I’ve definitely seen organization benefit from a bit of externally facilitated self-reflection. But it seems to me that for some a plan is not a valued deliverable.

I’m a fan of a plan, regardless of whether I’m starting a new corporate gig, or engaging with a client, it makes sense to me to start with the needs of the business, a set of objectives (I use a framework based around ART, that I’ve talked about on my company blog), then work from there.

I work in B2B, so stuff like; how many leads to deliver the target revenue based on average deal size and close rate, how we are going to get those leads and the investment it will take, then onto the sexy stuff about awareness and brand. Something for everyone to get some focus around, especially our friends in finance and the C suite.

With a plan we can start asking why certain activities are happening and hold them up to some scrutiny, do they create ART? The plan will spot the wastage.

However, marketing is often defined by campaigns and tactics, not strategies, often driven by the C suite, who are keen to do a thing – it doesn’t matter what the thing is, but when they want to do a thing, you hear the line from a client:

I can’t just go to the CEO with ‘just’ a plan.

Yep, just a plan.

Like it has no value.

They want to do the THING; it has the value.

But, how do they know it will have value if they haven’t got a plan?

The plan is the WHY? In a world obsessed with the what or the how.

As marketers, we’ve all been there and yet another blog post that is pontificating as if we live in a perfect world is of no use to anyone.

Sometimes we need to be pragmatic, take a look at the thing, then sneak up on the plan. Maybe even say yes to the thing, but ask why – then ask why again -until you find the business reason to do it. (I’ve talked about asking why, in this post).

And yes, then you can go to the CEO with ‘just’ a plan.