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The Dance: The Marketing Plan Approval Process

At the end of every year marketers attend a dance with the executives of their companies to get approval of the annual marketing plan. Many times their plan gets picked apart and the marketer is left frustrated and feeling like he or she has put too much energy into something not worthwhile. But I’m here to tell you that the time and energy put into a carefully laid plan is absolutely worthwhile to the success of the overall business strategy, even if the work gets picked apart. If you are one of these disheartened marketers, I suggest you change your perspective the next time you attend the dance (I mean, meeting). Your role is to inform the executives of what is available in the world of communications, and their role is to provide input and direction based on their knowledge and experience. Consider the planning meeting the “first iteration” of your final plan, but make sure you have a very thorough and cohesive one to present. Here is the start to a healthy approach to preparing your marketing planning. Align Your Plan With The Business StrategyYour plan needs to outline the communication tactics for the various market sectors the business approaches. Product management can provide the long-term and short-term roadmaps for their approach, and your marketing communications plan should support their plan within the targeted time frame. Research Every Opportunity to Connect with Your CustomerTo differentiate yourself, you need to communicate with the marketplace in a way that they will receive your message. The options are constantly changing and your job is to stay on top of the common as well as unique ways to connect with the market. This collection can be vast and sometimes random or even seemingly nonsensical, but still collect them because you never know what message your may need to take to market and your job is to present avenues to do so in a memorable and engaging way.  Remember, your plan is developed to give you direction and communicate with the organization. It is not inflexible. As General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Stay flexible and take advantage of what opportunities unveil themselves as the year progresses. Stay on top of your game. Be prepared with a very thorough plan but remain open for change. The organization’s leadership will make changes based on information and experience you do not have. It’s their company and they hired you for bringing the best opportunities forward. Don’t waste time and energy being defensive. Let them tear apart your good work and keep the frame of mind that this is a healthy part of the process. Stay tuned for Part Two – Determine Your Marketing Budget & Track Progress and ROI Quarterly

How Can They Rip Off Product Innovation?

While walking the floor at CES the other week, I was astonished at the blatant and apparently acceptable invention rip-offs that were being presented on the floor. One of my favorite brands, iRobot (robotic vacuum cleaners), had at least 3 competing companies selling products that looked and functioned almost exactly like their flagship “Roomba” product. The most well known rip-offed products on the floor, of course are the Apple iPhone and iPad products. There were TONS of mostly Asian companies showing multiple iPad and iPhone look-alikes for less money, including Samsung. Samsung won a most of a legal battle brought by Apple, which resulted in the U.S. government allowing copycat products even when there are patents in place. Apparently patent laws are much more relaxed than our trademark or copyright laws. It’s confusing for the marketplace.   In trademark law, you cannot have the same mark or product name for the same industry and sometimes that can be extremely vast (think industrial manufacturing). In copyright law, you cannot take any part of a written or designed piece of work and use it without permission. What trademark and copyright law protects is the confusion in the marketplace and of course, the originator’s work. In patents, confusion is fine… you just cannot make an EXACT copy of the innovator’s product. So a little tweak in the interface and a copycat product is ready for market. In terms of the Roomba vacuum cleaner, one of their competitors just added an additional sensor. The iPhone was copied by Samsung and the look and feel is exactly the same – they just use a similar but different operating system.   Has your competitor reversed-engineered your product, added a feature or two and then slapped on their logo and called it theirs? Just think of the money they saved to not have to create, design and launch! The only way to not have your market swallowed up by these competitors trying to drive your product down the commodity road is to champion continuous innovation. Always stay one step ahead of the game and go for the niche market with high margins. If that is not your forte and if the government isn’t going to have our back on innovation, then the only shot at eliminating this behavior is if the buyers of our products get angry and stop buying the knock-offs. Think about this and your personal behavior as you shop. Because every time you buy a ripped-off innovation, you are voting to continue to approve of this behavior. 

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