You're happy because your marketing plan is internally consistent, synergetic and realistic. It meets your financial objectives, too.

BUT WAIT -- IS YOUR MARKETING PLAN ROBUST?

Companies often don't test whether they have robust marketing plans, and this is what gets them into trouble. In fact, this often explains why a seemingly good marketing plan goes bust soon after a product gets launched.

So, what do we mean by having a robust marketing plan? It means simply this:

Your marketing plan stands up to alternative market assumptions.

EVERY BUSINESS PLAN HAS ASSUMPTIONS

What kinds of assumptions? Well, all the assumptions that get naturally embedded in your marketing plan.

For example, you've assumed something about the market size, the market growth rate, and the rate of technological change. You've assumed something about customer preferences, the stability of those preferences, and maybe even the way customers perceive the various products in the market.

You've also probably assumed lots of things about your competitors - such as who they are, their strategies, and their likely reactions to your marketing plan.

Having assumptions embedded in a marketing plan is natural. After all, the finance department also has assumptions -- such as future interest rates and costs of capital -- built into their financial models. But finance people will typically do a series of "what if" scenarios to see if any of their conclusions are robust across various scenarios.

And that's the essence of making a marketing plan robust. Demonstrate that the marketing plan is robust across alternative scenarios of the world.

HOW TO CHECK FOR ROBUSTNESS

Start by coming up with the best marketing plan you can. Then, ask yourself the following types of questions:

  • If customer preferences aren't precisely as we assumed, is our marketing plan still a good one?
  • If the target market size turns out to be smaller or larger than we assume, is our marketing plan still a good one?
  • If competitors don't react the way we anticipate, is our marketing plan still a good one?
  • If our advertising or promotional campaign doesn't work as well as we expect, is our marketing plan still a good one?
  • If the world changes in some unanticipated but non-catastrophic way, is our marketing plan still a good one?

As you can see, what we're doing is simply making sure that the marketing plan is robust.

IT'S NOT ROBUST - SO WHAT DO I DO?

One thing is that a lack of robustness indicates that you have a marketing plan whose success highly depends on a specific set of assumptions. Thinking through the robustness of the plan helps you identify what these critical assumptions are. In that way you can monitor a narrow set of assumptions more closely.

Alternatively, if you have a marketing plan that isn't very robust, you should think through the various elements of the plan to make it stand up to alternative scenarios. For example, you may need to come up with a more flexible pricing arrangement or target fewer or more segments. Exactly how to make a marketing plan more robust depends on your specific circumstances. The point is to do it.

Finally, you may need to scrap your marketing plan. But as we often say here, it's better to know before you launch a marketing campaign that your hairpin assumptions don't hold. Getting crushed on the real marketing playing field is a lot more painful.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is founder, CEO, and Positioning Practice Lead at MarketingProfs. Over the years he has worked with companies such as Texas Instruments, Informix, Vanafi, and EMI Music Distribution to help them position their products defensively in a competitive environment. He is also the founder of Insight4Peace and the former director of Mindful USC.