Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have been bidding on a rather nifty house in Chicago. We finally reached an agreement with the sellers but at the last instant another buyer showed up with a significantly higher offer and got the house.
This was a huge disappointment for me.
When I look back on how my wife and I handled the bidding process, it is pretty clear that we bungled things: we didn’t decide we wanted the house until too late in the process. We took too long to commit and we didn’t make remotely credible offers.
The real issue, however, was that we didn’t know what we wanted. We weren’t looking for a house; this one just came along. We had no goals and no plan. My wife and I didn’t even agree on whether we should be looking at houses. As a result, it took months for us to finally decide that it would be a great house for our family.
We won’t be looking at another house until we have agreed on some goals and a plan.
Many people approach marketing decisions the same way we approached our recent house question. An attractive marketing tactic comes along and then people study it and try to decide if it is a good idea. These days someone might march into a meeting and exclaim: “I think we should do a Groupon offer! That is an incredible program.”
The problem is that this approach doesn’t usually lead to a good outcome. It is hard to evaluate the different programs and difficult to get internal agreement.
Before looking at marketing ideas and tactics, it is best to have clear objectives and strategies. When the overall plan is clear, it is much easier to make smart decisions. If you know that building repeat business is your top priority, for example, then it is pretty easy to conclude that a frequent buyer program might make sense, and Groupon isn’t likely to be the best tactic.
A marketing plan creates clarity and builds alignment. It should drive the marketing process.
A discussion about goals and plans helps when making life decisions, too.