Don't Just Plug in Last Year's Plan

Joe Pulizzi

No one seems exactly sure when, but shoelaces became popular sometime in the 20th century to better tighten shoes, replacing buckles and buttons.

Shoelaces are odd to me. The technology exists today that we can manufacture any type of shoe, dress, casual or sport, without the need for shoelaces. There is no need to tighten shoes, because the shoe itself can loosen or tighten, depending upon the need.

But, millions of us still purchase and wear shoes with shoelaces. This is partly because of what our personal preferences are and partly because of what is available (and at the right price).

But mostly, we purchase shoes based on what we had before. We like shoes we are used to. We can handle a little change, but not too much. The same goes for our marketing plans.

Do you know what the single biggest indicator of what will be in our marketing plans for 2010 or the next year or the year after? What you did the previous year.

And, you have a lot working to make sure things stay the same:

• Your agency and marketing partners don’t like change very much. They will convince you to tweak, but not radically change.

• A new plan means new convincing to higher ups. Very challenging.

• Finding new experts and partners takes time and resources.

• The eternal thinking that buying IBM (insert tactic) never gets you fired (but in today’s world, I wouldn’t be so sure).

I’ve been in four companies in the last month where we were doing a mini-content audit (going through what was working and what isn’t working in their content strategies). At every company, we came to a marketing tactic - an e-newsletter, a white paper program, a pr schedule, etc., where I asked what it was and why they were doing it.

The answer: because we did it last year, but not sure exactly what it’s doing.

What are your marketing shoelaces? What are those things that you are doing because you did them last year, or because that’s what your company is used to doing?

Make the promise to start fresh this year. Focus on what’s working and what you can measure. Focus on listening to your customers and stop listening to those people in your company that want to keep things exactly as they are.

Try some new shoes ... you’ll be surprised at the outcome.

Publication date: 01/18/2010

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