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Planning Isn't Free: What Marketers Can Learn From HGTV

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Lessons marketers can take away from HGTV
  • Three common myths about creating a marketing plan

I had a cold recently and used my downtime to catch up on email, voicemail, etc. I had the luxury of watching some television, too. As a home-and-hearth kind of person, I feel as though HGTV was made for me.

As I watched some of the network's 30-minute shows, I thought, "They make it look so easy. All I need is a few days, a sledgehammer, a thousand dollars, and voila—that major home makeover I'd been planning would be complete."

Then it occurred to me that many marketers approach their marketing plan in the same way: a few days and a few dollars, and voila—a new marketing plan!

Well, the truths and myths of real-time television apply to the creation of a marketing plan. Here are three HGTV myths that marketers can learn from.

1. It's fast

There's no such thing as a 30-minute makeover or a 30-minute marketing plan. Many HGTV programs portray a major overhaul that's completed in a matter of days. And, let's face it, who hasn't fast-tracked a marketing plan? But the truth is that a lot happens behind the scenes to prepare those wonderful HGTV shows. And there had better be a lot happening behind the scenes if you want your marketing plan to have "divine design."

Off screen, a large team of experts have spent months developing and costing the plan, creating a project schedule, taking measurements, making selections, and organizing contractors and crews. That should also be the approach when developing a solid marketing plan. If you want a marketing plan that has the same effect on your leadership team as those home makeovers have on viewers, you will need to invest the time and resources to do the behind-the-scenes legwork first.

2. It's free

Although an HGTV show may claim that a project budget is only a thousand dollars, that usually isn't what the real cost is. Those shows often don't reveal the design and labor costs, which can be expensive. You can't design a marketing plan on a dime, either. Planning isn't free. Not to sound too redundant, but you will need to invest the time and resources to conduct market and customer research, complete competitive analysis, establish performance targets, and plan development.

3. It's easy

These home-improvement shows suggest that anyone with a little know-how can easily transform a room or home from "drab" to "fab." I'm reminded of two famous taglines from the large home-improvement stores: "You can do it. We can help." and "Let's Build Something Together."

But all of those programs are produced by professional home-improvement experts with years of experience. Those experts have a stable of crews they work with, including contractors who help them select and prepare for the projects.

A little know-how can go a long way with a marketing plan. But if you lack the market data, the expertise to make it customer centric, the ability to make it measurable, and the commitment to ensure it is properly aligned with business outcomes (and not just an extensive list of marketing activities with costs and dates), then you may end up with not only a bad plan but also a finished product that undermines your business credibility.

The planning season is upon us. So, develop those blueprints, collect your best tools, take good measurements, double-check your alignment, consult your experts, and craft a marketing plan that will make you and your team proud and that will demonstrate your value to the leadership team.

Note: "You can do it. We can help." is a trademark of The Home Depot USA Inc. "Let's Build Something Together." is a trademark of LF, LLC (Lowe's).

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Laura Patterson is president and founder of VisionEdge Marketing. For 20+ years, she has been helping CEOs and marketing executives at companies such as Cisco, Elsevier, ING, Intel, Kennametal, and Southwest Airlines prove and improve the value of marketing. Her most recent book is Metrics in Action: Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Organization.

Twitter: @LauraVEM

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  • by Michelle Wed Aug 17, 2011 via web

    Great analogy for a much needed reminder. Today's culture pushes speed and greed, but you've got to take time to chart a course before you go charging off. Thanks, Laura!

  • by Amanda Maksymiw Wed Aug 17, 2011 via web

    I echo what Michelle has noted. Too often, we all hit the gas and take off at full speed. It is essential to slow down sometimes to effectively plan.


  • by SpencerBroome Wed Aug 17, 2011 via web


    It isn't free?!?

  • by Lana Rice Sun Aug 21, 2011 via iphone app

    Great article and a sentiment that I constantly stress with the businesses I work with.

  • by Kim Boston Tue Aug 23, 2011 via web

    Great analogy and one we'll share with our clients. Too often in haste, clients want to just get something started and don't want to bother with the planning part. We like to call this the "Ready, Fire, AIM approach to marekting and we all know what the outcomes can be. Now the bigger challenge -- shifting the mindset.

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