8 Marketing Plans Gone Wrong

1. The ‘one SWOT will do it’ Plan

The plan that attempts to use just one SWOT to help understand the data, focus the understanding and develop an outline strategy.  There’s just one problem: unless the market is incredibly simple, one SWOT cannot provide the necessary insight into each key market segment – it will always end up as a set of lowest common denominators or a random list of anything that seems as though it might have bearing on the strategy.

2. The Plan that treats industries as segments and organizations as customers

As any new marketing student knows, a segment is a group of people with similar defining attributes.  Marketers in BTB companies, in particular, have a tendency to ignore the fact that purchasing decisions are influenced by different types of human being, working in different functions with varying mind-sets and priorities. 

3. The Plan with ‘finger-in-the-wind’ objectives

Marketing objectives – particularly market share objectives – must be related to a constantly updated model of the marketplace in which the brand is competing.  The wishful thinking that accompanies a lack of such a model will only result in a bad ending.

4. The ‘strategies-written-as objectives’ Plan

Many plans contain objectives that appear superficially robust until inspected more closely: they turn out to be the means to an end, not the desired outcome itself, but expressed in the language of an objective.  ‘To increase our Google AdWords expenditure to £x in period 3’ simply raises the question ‘why?’.

5. The Plan that regards margin as something that Finance looks after

Many marketing plans never say anything about profitability, often because their authors know nothing about the costing structure of, and margin made by, the product or service.  Understanding the impact of a plan on margin, as well as revenue, is a critical element of good marketing planning; its frequent absence makes it little wonder that Finance Directors often hold their marketing colleagues in low regard.

6. The ‘activity-as-opportunity’ Plan

This is a plan that begins with some desired activities – particularly in the sphere of marketing communications – and force-fits them into an opportunity framework (“…using Instagram will be a fantastic opportunity for us…”).  The necessary process is to assess the opportunity with a group of potential customers and then to determine the optimum way in which to reach and motivate them, not the other way around.

7. The ‘to-do list’ Plan

Many marketing plans consist of little more than a list of timetabled activities for the coming year, accompanied by costings.  Missing are the driving objectives, an analysis of key issues, a justification of the chosen strategy, the relevance of the proposed activities, and methodologies to measure the success or otherwise of the plan against the objectives.

8. The vanity metrics Plan

A plan in which metrics such as ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ are seen as substantiation for investing in proposed activities should never get beyond its first iteration.  Similarly, metrics that consist of checking that the proposed activities have actually happened are simply an example of circular logic.  The only metrics and KPIs that count are those that tie the activities back to the overall driving objectives for the brand, product or service.

Further discussion of this topic is welcomed.


Check out the ‘How to’ resource library for a comprehensive range of documents relating to the preparation of marketing plans, as well as the practical and conceptual issues surrounding their preparation and role within the organization.  The resources include some downloadable templates and guides.


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