Does your professional services firm have an annual marketing plan and budget?  If you answered yes to this question, first take a second and pat yourself on the back!  Whether you created the plan internally or hired an external marketing consultant, coming up with a strategic and/or tactical marketing plan for your firm is no easy feat.  It requires a great deal of research, brain power, and time.  And unfortunately, things don’t get easier from there!  The process of successfully rolling out your firm’s marketing plan can be even more challenging and as many of you may already know, filled with bumps in the road that cause your plan to stall.  So what should you do if you’ve invested in a marketing plan to help grow your firm, but that plan has stalled or halted altogether?  Don’t fret.  The tips below will help get your plan back on track.

Use the 5 W’s 

While the five W’s (who, what, when, where and why) are often used in journalism and in police investigations, you don’t have to be in an episode of “48 Hours” to put these questions to good use. These information gathering inquiries can be incredibly helpful in getting to the bottom of why your marketing plan may be stalling and help you identify ways to correct this issue.  Let’s look at the following examples.

Who is responsible for the execution of the marketing plan?  Or who is responsible for the failing or stalled tactic?  Answering this question will help you understand who can provide information about what is and what is not working and offer up solutions to correct it.

What about the plan is not working or not moving forward?  Are all website related items on hold due to a website change or overhaul?  Are business development efforts stalled due to a lack of communications materials available?  Pinpointing what exactly is not moving forward will help identify the specific areas that need immediate attention from the marketing committee or department in order to keep things progressing.

When did you notice that the plan was stalling?  By identifying when the plan started to hit roadblocks, you can figure out how to address the issue.  For example, is the plan stalling for a typical reason like a holiday break, or is there something more serious going on, such as a big event or change in personnel that is causing a lack of resources?

The question of where may come into play if you have multiple office locations.  Is one office having more marketing success than the other?  You may find that certain groups of people (or office locations) have a greater aptitude or interest in marketing.  If you notice this, it makes sense to have a serious conversation with the flailing group to assess their commitment to marketing.  If you gather that they don’t have the time or commitment to do marketing well, your firm may want to consider directing its marketing resources to the “invested” office or marketing committee group.

Why is the plan stalled?  This is probably the most obvious question and the first that will come to mind when you start to encounter road blocks to your marketing success.  Really look at each facet of the plan and ask, “Why is this not working?”  Is there a lack of resources, time or interest?

Other Important Questions

At Marketri, one question that we always try to ask ourselves with each client and project is, “Is this working?”  Sometimes certain marketing activities and tactics sound great and maybe even look great too, but it’s important to assess whether they are actually generating the desired results.  Once you have created a marketing plan for the year, it can be tempting for in-house and outsourced marketers alike to just blow through those activities, checking them off on the list as complete.  As a “list person” myself I know this can be a great feeling, and I understand the temptation all too well.  But it’s not so great if it is not working to benefit your firm.  If you ask this question and find that something in the plan is not working, don’t be afraid to replace it altogether with a more effective idea or tactic, or host a brainstorming session to figure out what can be changed.  Setting clear goals and using metrics for each piece of the plan can also help you keep tabs on whether things are working, and determine when to make adjustments.

Another important question to ask if you feel your marketing plan is stalling in some way is, “Are the tactics tied to the goals?”  Perhaps when you created a marketing plan, you identified a particular target audience or maybe you even envisioned an ideal client.  But if all of your tactics appeal to a different (and maybe less lucrative audience) it will be no surprise why you feel you are not making progress. Often it makes sense to go back through your plan (once annual marketing goals are clarified) to make sure each strategic recommendation and tactic supports those goals.  If not, don’t be afraid to give it the ax!

Don’t Jump Ship

Once you have used these questions to get to the bottom of what’s stalling or hindering your marketing plan, use that information to re-work your marketing plan and re-energize your marketing team!  A marketing plan is meant to be a living and dynamic document, not a static, set in stone document that lives on a shelf.  Don’t let bumps in the road or setbacks cause you to jump ship or feel that your marketing plan is a failure.  These little setbacks are actually clues about what is working and what needs further fine tuning; you just have to listen in to reap the rewards.

Please let us know of any roadblocks you’ve experienced with your marketing plan.  Or feel free to share your own tips for what has worked to keep your firm’s marketing plan moving forward!