Don’t Use the Same Old Marketing Plan

"It is not enough to photocopy last year's marketing plan, change the dates and expect it to work."

By David P. Kowal

Marketing plans, like New Year’s resolutions, often fail because they are too ambitious in scope. The person who resolves to lose 50 pounds, quit smoking, lead a virtuous life and achieve world peace all in one year is bound to fail. Likewise, businesses don’t leap from moderate success to the Fortune 500 in the course of a year.

Marketing plans can fail from a lack of ambition, too. It is not enough to photocopy last year’s marketing plan, change the dates and expect it to work.

Most companies complete their plans in the fall, but any time is a good time to plan. Start by thinking about how your business has changed over the past year – and about how it can improve in the year ahead. It is also important to think about how the world has changed during the past year, and to determine how these changes create opportunities for your business.

Do not make resolutions you won’t keep. But do resolve to take advantage of at least one new technology that will help your company improve its marketing efforts. If you haven’t taken full advantage of the benefits of the Internet, plan to upgrade your Web site, develop an e-mail campaign or e-letter, focus on search engine optimization or even start a blog.

  • Start with e-mail. E-mail is the workhorse of the online industry. You can send out marketing information at a very low cost with the click of a button.
  • Use graphics wisely. Many Web sites use graphics poorly. Photos are often too small or too large. They may be taken by amateurs – and are likely to look like they are.

    If you’re selling real estate, for example, photos of boxy-looking buildings and telephone wires won’t help. If you’re trying to sell a multi-million dollar property, professional photography is cost effective. A professional photographer can add warmth and personality to even a plain vanilla building.

  • Analyze costs and benefits. Don’t be blinded by technology. Before investing in new technology, determine how it will be used and estimate your payback period. Investing in an electronic presentation, for example, will not be cost effective if it is not going to be used frequently.
  • Don’t be intimidated by technology. You don’t need to be able to program to use a computer. Likewise, you don’t have to understand HTML (hypertext mark-up language) to benefit from the Internet. It’s important to understand the marketing implications of new technology, but that doesn’t necessarily require a broad understanding of the technology itself.

I use my own lack of technical knowledge as my benchmark for new technology. I recognize that if I can understand and use a new technological innovation, then it is ready for use by the masses. Having used the Web for many years, I know any business can use it successfully.

David P. Kowal is President of Kowal Communications, Inc. of Northboro, Mass. He can be reached at