When it comes to marketing a science-based business, you need a solid, long-term plan.
Far too many businesses expect the marketing department to plan for just the next quarter or two, saying they need “flexibility.” And they seem to think they’ll be successful in delivering awareness or leads by jumping between different tactics and trying out new things. Perhaps worst of all, they do all this without first looking at whether the next shiny object fits in with their overall marketing strategy and helps the company meet long term goals.
Many CEOs are focused on quarterly earnings because stockholders want to see results every quarter. Fair enough. However, while many businesses can and do deliver good results quarterly, if you only focus on the next quarter’s results, then you aren’t thinking about what’s going to happen three or four years out. This sort of “non-planning” is not healthy for the business in the long run.
Pivoting for Change
Unexpected developments occur all the time in science-based industries. New technologies, techniques, and products can revolutionize the market and leave any business needing to pivot and adapt. But, you need a plan in place to handle these developments and pivot in a way that’s aligned with your overall business strategy.
You need, in effect, to build a chain of dominoes – a step-by-step plan covering the next few years. This should include both your business goals and a marketing plan to achieve those goals.
However, even if you have those plans in place, you can’t just focus on what’s immediately in front of you. If you’re only focused on the first four dominoes – for example, quarterly earnings, a trade show, a new product launch, and a webinar – then you aren’t set up correctly for the 60th domino.
In marketing and in business, if your mindset is only focused on these first four business events and you’re not looking far enough down the road, that’s when problems start. You’re not really planning for growth or executing a strategic plan in this case. In fact, you’re not even thinking about what your company will look like tomorrow.
You must plan for Domino 60 – whether it’s:
- what your company looks like in five years
- how your products will serve your customers
- what trends are happening in the market/industry
- what the overall strategic goal of the company is
- or what your marketing plan aims to deliver.
If you’re only focused on the first quarter, then you’re not planning for the success of sales and lead generation over the long haul.
Big Picture Marketing = Future Success
While your marketing budget is only set for the coming year, you’ve got to think bigger than that to anticipate the future and stay ahead of the competition. Thinking by the quarter isn’t enough because sometimes you have to invest considerable resources to plan for that sixtieth domino.
Thinking that far out is extremely important because it sets your whole company up for failure or success.
If you’re going to build a successful marketing plan, you need the big picture. That ‘big picture’ is what allows you to plan and create marketing strategies that drive business growth in the long term.
The Problem with Reactionary Marketing
Unfortunately, marketing is often pushed into a reactionary position – responding to immediate company needs that are often considered critical in the heat of the moment. When this happens, we often see valuable budget and manpower resources wasted because the reactionary push doesn’t produce results. In fact, frequently, these flash (even rash) decisions driven by other areas of a company for a marketing push weren’t the right decision for the company in the first place.
If you don’t know what your larger long-term goals are, you won’t know what is working and what you can afford to take out of your plan. You won’t know when to say “No” to the flashy new idea that demands immediate implementation. Every marketing move you make should be well-thought-out and produce results that align with those big picture goals.
One thing everyone should remember is that many tactics in marketing need time to work. Don’t be distracted by every new shiny object and insist on trying them out rather than sticking with a consistent, coherent, and well-thought-out overall strategy.
You can’t try ads this week, then switch to content marketing next week and expect to see leads right away. You need data and real results to find out what is moving the needle for your science-based business, and you can’t gather that information over a short period of time. You have to plan ahead and look at the big picture to form the right strategy with the right tactics for your organization.
When you build your marketing plan by looking more than a few dominoes ahead in the sequence, you’ll move your marketing from reactionary with spotty results to a controlled, coherent strategy that gets results. By doing this, you can almost completely eliminate the feeling of constantly putting out fires and always trying to catch up.
Is There a Time for Reactionary Marketing?
Having said this, we’re not entirely down on reactive marketing.
You need both. While the foundation for your marketing should be well-planned in advance – especially because of the long lead times for selling in the pharmaceutical and bio sectors – humans are still human, and events can surprise you.
You still need to be responsive with your marketing and your business direction. You need to be able to pivot if needed. There should be some room for reactive marketing in order to respond quickly to unexpected developments in the industry and in your business. If you don’t think that’s true, imagine if AstraZeneca, et al. had ignored COVID-19 and continued with their original business strategy and product rollouts! Even businesses not directly connected to the pandemic pivoted their marketing to adjust to new realities – so yes, there is a role for reactionary marketing.
That’s why it’s critical to plan for the future, but give yourself enough space in your strategy to handle unexpected events as they come up.
With a solid marketing plan backed by the big picture and not just the next quarter, you’ll be prepared to generate solid leads and take advantage of new opportunities.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.