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Successful Marketing Plans Leave Room for Flexibility Your marketing plan isn't finished until the year is over when you have to start writing it all over again.

By Jim Joseph

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

All the planning in the world can only take your marketing so far. An annual marketing plan should not be set in stone.

This is your marketing plan, not the Declaration of Independence.

You shouldn't put your "pencils down" when you finished writing your annual marketing plan. Your marketing plan isn't finished until the year is over when you have to start writing it all over again!

Related: 3 Key Areas Where a Strong Corporate Brand Adds Value

Your plan needs to remain flexible. You can't possibly predict what will occur over a 12-month period, so you can't be certain that the plan you've written will be effective throughout the year.

Look what can happen in one week, let alone a year!

You have to be ready, willing, and able to respond to:

  • New, unplanned competitive activity: Your competitors may have pulled a trick on you, requiring either a quick response or a change in your plans.
  • Evolving customer attitudes and behaviors: Something may have changed how your customers think about your business and how they are engaging with it, which could cause you to rethink some of your plans.
  • Marketplace fluctuations: Let's face it, virtually every category is a dynamic one, and there's no way to foresee all the ebbs and flows. You may need to change your thinking while on the ride.
  • Sales attainment: As you track your sales performance against your forecast, you may want to change up your plans to push even harder or to refocus your efforts.

Remember that not all change is bad. In fact, when it comes to marketing planning, change is actually good. It's a good thing to be flexible and responsive, and to have a finger on the pulse of what's going on with your business and be ready to respond to it. It's good to be ready so that you can be even more competitive.

Related: How Does Your Marketing Content Measure Up?

Change is good, and the digital world can help you.

Staying active online can help you keep track of what's happening not only in your industry with your competitors, but also in context of the entire world as it affects your customers. Social media can be a key ingredient to your success.

By staying in tune to what's happening online, you may uncover ways to reach out to your customers in real time. You may see something happening in pop culture or in the news that merits your participation, showing your customers that you are present in their lives. You may see a development in your industry that warrants your point of view, proving your leadership.

This is why you also have to track how your customers react to your programs. We've seen many brands have to change their marketing programs mid stream just because they miscalculated how their customers would react to them. Social media gives our audiences an instant voice and you have to both listen and respond when they speak.

While you can't fully plan for any of this activity, you can plan to be flexible in your approach to your marketing plan. You can map out scenarios of what you think could happen throughout the year that would alter your plan, creating sub-plans that you can activate at a moment's notice.

That will keep you one step ahead throughout the year.

Related: Overwhelmed Marketers Need These 3 Ingredients to Build an Adaptable Company

Jim Joseph

Marketing Master - Author - Blogger - Dad

Jim Joseph is the chief integrated marketing officer and president of the Americas for New York-based communications agency Cohn & Wolfe, part of the media company WPP Group PLC. He is the award-winning author of The Experience Effect series, teaches marketing at New York University, and is on the board of directors for the number one branding school in the country, The VCU Brandcenter. Joseph's new book, Out and About Dad, chronicles his unique journey as a father during a unique time in our cultural evolution.

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