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Twelve reasons why marketing plans fail

Twelve reasons why marketing plans fail
pic courtesy of

pic courtesy of

It has become fashionable to discuss only business plans in the entrepreneurial environment. The marketing plan should be incorporated within the business plan, but many business plans provide only a cursory look at marketing. One reason is that many business plans are produced with the sole purpose of gaining finance for an enterprise, and so the focus is on financial projections, staff required and management experience. Once the finance has been secured the plan can be buried with all the other tiresome paperwork.

This is sad, because my belief is that most entrepreneurial failures and businesses in difficulty arise from one simple fact – they do not sell enough! And many times the reason that they do not sell enough is that their marketing and sales is unplanned, and poorly funded, the salespeople are insufficiently trained and the person responsible for marketing lacks either knowledge or clout or both.

As Dwight Eisenhower famously said “Plans are nothing, planning is everything”. The process of marketing planning will force research and debate and question assumptions. It will point to the need to set aside budget and train people. And it will link performance to actions.

Even with a carefully thought out marketing plan there is still a risk of the plan not having the desired effect. In my experience the failure of marketing plans comes from some or all of the following:

      1. Poor or non-existent research – the plan is based on assumptions which have not been tested


      2. The plan forecasts unrealistically high sales from an early stage. This is frequently based on optimism about the desirability of the products offered; the planner assumes that the market will descend on the company because of the excellence of their product.


      3. The plan is too detailed or too theoretical – it will be difficult to decide what to do next to implement the plan


      4. The plan is not accepted by some or all of the affected parties – there is no universal buy-in or worse; it is not communicated to all affected parties, it remains the ‘secret’ of the originators


      5. No systems are planned or are in place to measure success / failure / change.


      6. The plan is isolated from (or ignores) external factors which affect it e.g. economic competitive, cultural, political, company style etc.


      7. The plan is unrealistic in its resource requirement, it assumes that resources which the company does not have (money, time, people) will magically appear


      8. No short-term improvement is planned for, so the plan withers because nothing seems to have changed


      9. The plan omits some or all key success factors, or does not monitor some or all of them in the implementation phase


      10. The plan is based on what the company wants and needs, not what the market (i.e. current and potential customers) require


      11. The plan does not include an action list with names and dates identified, so most of the detailed actions required to implement the plan are never done.


    12. The plan is simply not implemented

Of these twelve reasons for failure, the most common cause of failure is that the plan is simply not implemented. All parties agree it is a good plan, all are committed, but they then go about their day-to-day work as before, and the person charged with implementation is often the most guilty. The plan that omits an action list makes this possibility a near certainty.

About Ed Hatton
Ed Hatton had a successful career in sales and marketing management in the IT industry before launching consulting company The Marketing Director almost 20 years ago. Ed is passionate about entrepreneurs and the need to develop the SME sector. He co-authored a textbook on Entrepreneurship and writes the advice column “Start Up Coach” for Entrepreneur Magazine.
More information is available on the Ed page of this blog or by e-mail.

About The Marketing Director
This consulting company advises and mentors small and medium enterprises with a particular focus on strategy, marketing and sales, and the inter-relationship between these disciplines. The company has been operational for almost 20 years and has consulted to a wide range of IT, manufacturing, services based, and distribution SMEs. The success ratio of client companies is far ahead of industry norms, meaning that clients of The Marketing Director are generally high flyers in their sectors, and survivors when other fail.
More information is available here, or by e-mail.

©copyright  Ed Hatton. All rights reserved. You may republish this article or extracts from it provided you acknowledge me as the author and acknowledge my copyright.