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Marchand--Coherence - Putting The Pieces Together

February 1999
I used to provide advice about how to develop marketing programs in the fall, when most printers were developing their plans for programs to be launched in January. Today, there is no longer a single time of the year when marketing and sales executives write their plans.

New programs are likely to be launched in almost any month. In companies with fiscal years that vary from the calendar, annual budgets may kick in on July 1 or September 1. Newly acquired companies and additional capabilities also frequently lead to the development of new marketing programs in the middle of the fiscal year. So February is as good a time as any to write about the pieces of the puzzle that make up a coherent program.

Note the italicized word in the preceding sentence; it's emphasized for an important reason. Coherence, or its absence, may not always be apparent in a marketing plan, yet its presence is often the key to success—its absence the bane of many a program.

What is this quality we call coherence? Certainly it's not an ingredient of a marketing plan, nor is it an activity or a series of elements. Instead, it's the relationship among the elements—how they mutually support, reinforce and direct the whole toward a larger goal via specified objectives. (What a mouthful!)

Let's start at the tail-end of that wordy sentence: goal and objectives.

The goal is easy to describe: increased sales and greater profits defined by departments, regions and products. Making the goal specific—dollars and percentages—involves hard, sweaty work. Without the specificity and the information that backs up or justifies the numbers, a goal is arbitrary. It may be a motivator; but, to the extent that it is arrived at via inspiration without perspiration, it is unlikely to be achieved. (After a few years, numbers picked out of thin air will be forgotten, as hard reality sinks in and destroys the motivational value.) If the sales projections are real—that is, if they are specific and supported by solid data—they belong in the plan as its first component.

The objectives constitute a second element of the plan. These are the intermediate steps that must be accomplished to make possible the realization of the goal. These may vary widely, but here are a few examples:

  • Branding the company—making its identity clearer and better understood in selected markets;
 

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