Why do so many B2B marketing plans fail? Often, they are often merely a box-ticking exercise. When they are implemented, the initial enthusiasm often quickly dissipates. We outline three common problems and discuss potential solutions.

Build In Flexibility

One of the major reasons strategic plans are not implemented is they lack flexibility. They follow a rigid path based on assumptions about the future and what the market and competition will do.

Does our plan have the flexibility to cope with changing circumstances? Or is it so rigid that it is no longer applicable to any new situation?

There is value in taking the time to analyse a situation. Detailed plans may be useless but studying the current situation and what could happen in future is not.

With analysis in place, it should be possible to create a series of scenarios. Then construct a basic outline plan of what the business should do if a given scenario were to come to pass. 

Strike a balance between a plan with sufficient detail to flow down through the organisation but with the flexibility to accommodate unexpected events. The plan should be flexible and a living document that changes and adapts.

Sell The Marketing Plan

You could construct a strong, well thought out, plan. It may have sufficient flexibility to deal with the unexpected, but unless that plan is sold to those who need to implement it and their buy-in secured it will be a complete waste of time and effort. The word ‘sold’ is the key term as it has to be a standard sales exercise, illustrating the benefits and quantifying ‘what is in it for them’. 

With buy-in secured appoint a plan champion. Their job should be to ensure the plan is utilised when making key business decisions.

Whatever sub plans and objectives fall out of the main plan must be progressed and followed through. That can be difficult given the many competing business priorities. Many good plans founder because once put in place, they are not referred to or utilised and the business continues to bumble along as it did before.

Beware Of Plan Hijacking

A cautionary tale. In my early marketing career, I worked with the Sales and Marketing Director on building a B2B marketing strategy and plan for a medium-sized manufacturing business. We worked hard on the process for several weeks. We worked through the analysis, undertaking internal and external discussions and progressing each step of the process.

One of the final steps was to present the analysis, our conclusions and the draft plan to the senior management team. After a half-day of discussion, we were reaching a satisfactory conclusion when in walked the company founder. He was a brilliant innovator and technologist who had delegated Managing Director responsibilities several years earlier.

His strong view was that the carefully calculated future growth and turnover figures should not be ‘X’ but should be ‘Y’(where Y = X++). This view was based exclusively on a new technology (and potential product line) he had been working on. He forced through his view with the detailed planning for entry to this new market to be added later.

The result was a strategic plan with no foundation, unrealistic expectations and (crucially) no buy-in. Looking back, the suggested technology and product line were at least a year ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the founder failed to explain or convince those around him of its benefits. He kept analysis and product planning to himself and detailed plans to take the product forward never materialised.

I wish I could say the above was a one-off case, but I have seen several similar situations since. Setting unrealistic targets and outcomes is certain to ensure limited (if any) buy-in by those who have to implement the plan. 

B2B Marketing plans fail because people (and the businesses they work for) rarely conform to your expectations. Senior people may force through their view (as is their right) regardless of what any carefully crafted plan may suggest. There is another way.

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