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It’s all in the planning.

Anyone who has ever studied marketing, or read a marketing textbook, will be aware of the 4Ps – product, price, place and promotion – and know how important it is to get these right.  However, equally crucial are another set of Ps.  These are not often found in business textbooks but are known, I am sure, by the majority of people and once formed the basis of an answer I gave at university.  They comprise, depending on the politeness of your version, of 6 to 7 words beginning with P.

I am, of course, talking about “Prior Planning & Preparation Preventing Poor Performance”.

In the current climate where more is being demanded of all of us, usually with less resources (be that time, money or personnel), there is a temptation in companies to be reactive and fire-fight, responding to each mini-crises with a short-term solution.  An almost ‘fire and forget’ mentality of quick-fixes before moving on to the next problem.  Silos start to build up in which departments concentrate on projects and solutions without taking a holistic company-wide approach.  Invariably, one of the long-term issues this mindset throws up is that the end-user of your product/service – the customer – is forgotten in the haste.

Marketing’s role in any company is to be the voice of this end-user, to represent them at the board table and ensure that the product/service meets their needs.  To be effective in this, a marketing-led approach needs to exist in the company with an understanding that there is much more to this discipline than the simple design of a poster/flyer and populating the corporate website with the latest press release.  Marketing needs to be involved at the outset of the project where they can advise, rather than at the end when their role is limited to damage-reduction and product promotion.

For a marketing strategy to work it needs to have solid foundations built on customer insight and research.  The segments need to be identified, messages decided on based on the target audience and product position, and a compelling story, which the whole company signs up to, developed.  Competitor products need to be understood so that a differentiator can be identified and price points agreed.  All of this should take place well in advance of a pen touching paper to craft the first line of an advertisement, e-mail or promotional brochure.  With the proper groundwork in place this copy flows easily and pushes exactly the right buttons.  In short, the prior preparation will prevent a poor performing campaign.

My plea is therefore a personal one.  Step back from the fire-fight, look at what you are doing and focus not on your immediate problems but on the reason why the business exists in the first place – the customer.  Put marketing as a discipline at the heart of any issue, rather than reduce it to the department which you involve at the end of the process, once everything else is decided on, to produce the whizzy launch campaign.  Together you will achieve much more than the sum of individual parts and, what’s more, you’ll probably save the company money in the process.


Neil Lakeland