A general once said, “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.”

While the comparison of warfare to marketing communications may be extreme, the quote does make a good point about adapting plans to meet circumstances.

As we approach the 2013 marketing planning season, make it a point to try to anticipate changes in the competitive landscape. However, it’s important to be ready to adjust your integrated marketing communication plan as the situation dictates. For example, you can schedule a quarterly or mid-year review to evaluate recent results against your strategies and plans.

Apply Critical Thinking

You will also need to respond when sales team members present new ideas for initiatives or tactics that aren’t part of your written marketing plan. How do you evaluate these ideas and decide if they are viable?

With a written marketing plan in place you can assess the new ideas against your existing strategies. At the same time, you can involve team members in the process to produce the best critical thinking.

Use these 8 questions to evaluate new marketing plans and approaches to address competitive changes:

1. What are the market forces that are driving the need for directional change?

2. Have market forces changed the assumptions on which your plan is based?

3. Does the competitive landscape require a rapid or immediate response?

4. Will you get better results by making changes during the next planning cycle?

5. Can you support the initiative with existing selling tools or will you need new tools to support each phase of the sales cycle?

6. Does the new idea or tactic match with one or more existing strategies? If not, should the existing strategies be changed, reworked or rewritten?

7. How can you engage your target audience by incorporating social media and online video into your plans?

8. Are budget funds available or will you need to request additional funding?

By taking a team approach to answering these questions, you’ll build support for planning, budgeting and execution processes. You’ll elevate the strategic thinking of your sales force or other team members.

Most importantly, you’ll gain new insights about the forces that are impacting the competitive landscape. These insights will likely drive the next round of strategic adjustments to your integrated marketing plan, whether immediately or during the next planning cycle.

Scott Mikus is a principal of Crawford/Mikus Creative Marketing & Design in Atlanta. Follow us on Twitter @CrawfordMikus or subscribe to our blog at www.crawfordmikus.net/blog.