Marketing Realism for 2014: Don’t Let a Good Plan Sit on the Shelf (Op-Ed)

“Authentic” and “credible” are words that surface often in modern marketing. Your voice must be authentic in social media for followers to share your content and become raving fans. Your branding must be credible — would anyone believe that Volvo equals safety if the statistics weren’t strong? But when you’re planning your marketing for the year ahead, an important word to remember is “realistic.”

Typically, planners begin by developing what they want to do.

You can write a beautiful, ambitious and exciting plan to roll out a new product, expand to a new city or grow your market share. That’s the “what”of your plan. By all means, take the time to understand your target audience, assess your competitors, identify your brand — what really differentiates you. Decide your strategies. Maybe building brand awareness is key in the coming year, or demonstrating thought leadership. Select your tactics: do you need media relations, social media or community engagement to meet your goals?

But don’t forget to make it a plan you can realistically implement.

Take a good, long look at the “who.”

Who will work this plan? If you commit to doing the work yourself, make sure you really have the time. Will it sit sweating on your task list, waiting for attention? If you plan to do it yourself, put specific appointments on your calendar every day for your marketing efforts, even if they are only 15-minute blocks. Consider hiring a consultant, a marketing coordinator or an intern. But choose carefully. Make sure to look at samples of their work, and talk to references. You need a well-organized, action-oriented doer, not a creative but flighty dreamer. A poor hire will wind up taking more of your time training and supervising.

Then, reassess the “how.”

Biting off more than you can chew isn’t ambition; it’s fantasy. A realistic plan includes specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based (SMART) strategies and tactics. I recommend no more than three strategies, and three to five tactics per strategy.

For instance, if you are marketing a new jewelry line and targeting yoga practitioners, your favorite strategy could be “Build brand awareness in the U.S. yoga community.” Your tactics could include heavy social media, advertising in yoga publications and media relations. But the realismin the “how”comes in when you eliminate ideas that you can’t possibly execute. Do you have the time to build relationships with reporters? Do you have the budget for a big advertising campaign, or the creative resources to make it truly stand out? Maybe a test market rollout in the Buffalo or San Diego yoga community is more realistic than a national plan.

Consider where the work will be done.

Office space might be a factor if you’re hiring someone to handle marketing, but where that work will be done is more complicated. Your “who”may drive your “where.”For example, marketing consultants come in many varieties. You’ll find national practitioners who work virtually with clients all over the country. These big-name consultants cost big money, but they can also bring you national experience and connections. On the other side of the spectrum, you’ll see local individuals whose experience is targeted to your community.

For example, a New York PR firm might find it easy to get your new health-promoting royal-jelly-green-tea-face-cream into a national magazine. But if community engagement with Miami millennials is the core of your plan, you might do better with a well-connected local pro or a high-energy, socially focused marketing major intern.

Continue reading this marketing plan article at

Janet Altman is a Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.