Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

It's still amazing to me (and it really shouldn't be since I've seen this for years) how many organizations throw money at things without a plan.  I think this can be especially true when it comes to marketing activities and customer programs.

In my past life, I had several clients who would take the bait from every direct mail, yellow pages and print advertiser who knocked on their door.  Their promises of huge results ("with our limited-time, special pricing for companies just like yours") were just too hopeful to pass up.  The problem as I see it is that they didn't have their plan and thought processes well-documented, making it harder to say no to activities that don't make sense.  With some careful planning and commitment to that plan, it would be much easier to tell the sales person, "Thanks, but it's not a fit for us. Bye-bye."

The same can be true when it comes to customer programs.  It's not so much that people get sold; rather, it's a case of not integrating all the programs to work well together, just like with marketing initiatives.  Approaching customer programs from a holistic view, making sure that all your constituencies are engaged, makes the value of your spend so much higher. 

An important element of this is making sure that internal leadership, decision-makers, influencers and users are all engaged in a way that is appropriate for their level of engagement with your company.  And, always keep in mind that each group is extremely important when it comes to the information they can provide and the power they can yield.  Timing is also a critical factor.  So putting together a long-range plan that encompasses the right people at the right time has an exponential, positive effect.

Being the visual learner that I am, I like to illustrate the plan in diagram form vs. a verbal one.  You don't have to spend a lot of time documenting - rather, put your time into thinking through what makes sense and then stick to the plan.  It's trite and overused, but appropriate in this case - "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

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