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Five Marketing Plan Roadblocks (and How to Bypass Them)

Eisenhower Matrix

February. The month of Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day...and failed New Year’s resolutions. But your marketing resolutions for 2019 don’t need to suffer the same fate.

If you read our article “I Don’t Need a Marketing Plan” a few months ago, you learned that you do need a marketing plan. Maybe you have even created one! If so, congratulations! You are already a step ahead of many other businesses.

Not that a marketing plan is the same as a New Year’s resolution, but there are similarities. Both plans and resolutions fail without execution. Strategy without execution is like a snazzy sports car without an engine—it’s fun to look at but goes nowhere.

The clock is ticking toward December 31, 2019. You have a plan in place. But will you be able to follow through to success?

I’ve observed many businesses and worked with dozens of business owners over the years. I’ve seen marketing plans executed well, and I’ve seen them pushed aside by other pressing demands.

It helps if you know what you are up against. When going on a backwoods camping trip, you’ll pack based on the weather, the length of time you’ll be gone, and the distance you’ll need to hike (and whether bears are commonly encountered in the area!).

Let’s look at what you may encounter this year with your marketing plan. Here are five common roadblocks you may encounter, but you can bypass these or even turn them to your advantage. Read on.

A herd of wild horses

Roadblock #1: Busyness and Lack of Time

Saying 'yes' to one thing means saying 'no' to another. –Sean Covey

You have 101 things to do (or is it 1,001?). There is no shortage of things to accomplish, with urgent items rushing toward you every day like a herd of wild horses.

All of these “wild horses” may seem urgent. But are they? Not only that, can you identify how many of these items are actually important for you to accomplish?

Understand that your tasks fall into one of four categories:

  1. Some tasks are both important and urgent.
  2. Some tasks are important but not urgent.
  3. Some tasks are urgent but not important.
  4. Some tasks are neither urgent nor important.

Eisenhower Matrix

This is commonly referred to as the Eisenhower Matrix. (See the illustration.) Into which category do your marketing activities fall? While following up on your marketing plan probably doesn’t seem urgent, it is important. Usually, if important things are not addressed, they become urgent and important. You want to avoid that, especially in the area of marketing.

Don’t be held back. Set aside a day or half a day each month to execute items in your marketing plan. Here is a checklist to get you started:

  • Review progress on marketing projects.
  • Identify next steps.
  • Schedule time to do it or delegate it to someone else.
  • Create and/or review testing and measuring reports so you know how well your marketing investment is paying off.
  • Think of ways to improve your marketing. Read books and articles to glean great ideas.

Roadblock #2: Failure to Delegate

Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. –Jethro

Thinking back to the four categories of tasks we looked at in the previous section, you should be working on ones that fall into the first two categories. As a business owner, delegate the other tasks to someone trustworthy, particularly tasks in category three. As for the fourth category, consider eliminating them completely.

You might say, “I don’t have any employees who know how to do what needs to be done.” Don’t forget outside help—another company or even a single freelancer might have the expertise you need. Yes, hiring an outside firm or freelancer is a form of delegation.

You might not get the results you expect if you simply tell someone, “Do this for me.” Here’s what to do instead.

  • Clearly paint a picture of the results you expect.
  • If training is needed, document the steps with written instructions, pictures, or audiovisual instructions.
  • Set timelines and pre schedule meetings to follow up on progress.

Onetime Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca said, "I hire people brighter than me and get out of their way.” Similarly, whenever possible, delegate someone who can do the job better than you. If that is not possible, remember that consistently getting something done on time (even imperfectly) is better than getting it done perfectly too late.

“Good enough is fine,” say Jason Fried and David Hansson in their book Rework. “Whenever good enough gets the job done, go for it. It’s way better than wasting resources or, even worse, doing nothing because you can’t afford the complex solution.”

Roadblock #3: Procrastination

If we attend continually and promptly to the little that we can do, we shall ere long be surprised to find how little remains that we cannot do. –Samuel Butler

Procrastination is a common roadblock in any challenging project, not just marketing. One cause of procrastination is uncertainty about how to proceed. Questions plague us: Am I doing this the right way? What should I do next? Maybe you have an idea of what to do, but you feel the need to get a second opinion.

When you realize you are procrastinating because you don’t know how to proceed, try reaching out for some help. This could be an “expert” or a peer-like fellow business owner who has experience you can tap into. Talking it over with my wife is usually helpful even though she only has a mild interest in marketing. She does know me and my tendencies very well and that is key. Determine one thing to move forward and schedule a time to do it.

Sometimes we feel stuck because we haven’t clearly identified what we want. Maybe you planned to update your website. That is too general to act on. Break the job into smaller, more specific tasks. For example:

  • Add our six new products with photos and descriptions.
  • Create an easy way to compare differences in our Pro vs Homeowner tools.
  • Update our “About” page and hours of operations.

Roadblock #4: Planning Too Much

We greatly overestimate what we can do in one year. But we greatly underestimate what is possible for us in five years. —Peter Drucker

Realistic planning is difficult to achieve. We either overestimate or underestimate what we can get done in a certain amount of time. An over-optimistic marketing plan that we just cannot accomplish—whether it be due to time or resources or other constraints—morphs into something we dread and avoid.

Sometimes when we realize our goal was completely unrealistic, we are tempted to give up altogether. Instead, we should reassess what we can do and keep moving forward. While it’s generally not wise to toss your plan out the window, on-the-fly adjustments are completely legitimate and can keep it manageable.

When you get bogged down in a marketing plan that seems too big to complete, consider the following:

  • Remember the delegation option.
  • Consider what you are spending time with instead of this marketing activity. Is it really more important?
  • Remember marketing is an investment in your business you cannot afford to neglect.
  • Narrow down your plan to its most essential components and focus on those. Which activities will bring the greatest return?

The first time we do something new there is a larger degree of trial and error. Rather than neglecting your marketing responsibilities, tweak your plan as you go, and next year you’ll be better equipped to create a well working plan.

Roadblock #5: Distraction from Your Purpose

People lose their way when they lose their why. —Gail Hyatt

Sometimes in the midst of busyness, we forget why we are doing business in the first place. Like an instrument, scale, or gauge, recalibration can re-center our vision, mission, and core values.

Whether you are a one-man operation or a large corporation, you will benefit from spelling out your vision, mission, and core values. At a very minimum, spend some time thinking about what is important to your business in terms of the change you are bringing to the world and how you are going about it.

Perhaps this seems like business psycho-babble to you, and you wonder, "Is this really necessary?" Yes. It is necessary. We need a guiding star to follow in our business decision-making, whether it is in long-term plans or the day-to-day.

Otherwise, like water in a stream that only goes downhill, we might take the path of least resistance and do whatever works best or is easiest in the moment. Before too long we will lose our way.

Conclusion

Great planners who don’t execute their plans go nowhere. –Ray Dalio

Do any of these five common roadblocks sound familiar to you? Focus on the biggest roadblock you face and understand the reason it stands in your way. Consider some potential solutions discussed in this article. Determine one thing you can do to get around the roadblock.

Remember. Successful marketing happens neither as one giant achievement like scaling Mt. Everest nor as a one-time random event like winning the lottery. Rather, success is possible by taking many small steps closer to the reality of your plan.

About the Author: Roy Herr is the senior marketing consultant at Rosewood Marketing. The Rosewood team guides business owners through marketing challenges into sustainable growth.