Perhaps it is the immediacy or ease that encourages people to just jump right in, but folk who normally plan their business carefully often neglect this crucial element in their digital marketing.

Cartoon - The Planning Department
Big companies, using digital agencies, would not dream of moving forward without a detailed plan telling them exactly what their campaign is expected to achieve and what it will cost. Smaller companies who handle their own projects often employ gut feeling, subjectivity and ‘JFDI’ approaches. Perhaps the important difference is that for a big company, with an outside agency, it is going to cost real money.  As a great deal of digital communications has apparently ‘no’ or relatively low financial cost, there seems less imperative to plan. You may look at your analytics, check the online sales and if everything seems to be going fine, that’s okay. Which is important, but it is historical information – needs measures and targets to compare it to.

If we come to place a pay-per-click campaign, then we are likely plan more carefully –  because ultimately we will have to write a cheque. But for other stuff, ePR, social network promotion etc. we treat it as though it were free. Of course  it is not – we will be are investing a good deal of the company’s valuable time.

It may be because digital marketing is a relatively new arena that there don’t appear to be the models or rigorous disciplines we are used to in more traditional areas – which is curious, in what is perhaps the most measurable marketing channel. Perhaps for smaller businesses it is not viewed with the same seriousness as traditional marketing and communications.

I’m not suggesting that we need hugely complex and detailed plans which take away a lot of the flexibility and spontaneity that makes digital so attractive – and represent the competitive advantagse of small and medium sized businesses. The best plans should take no more than one side of a sheet of A4. But crucially, what they should contain is a clear objective – what do you really want to achieve, and the measures of success – how will you know if you are successful. The other thing its important to be clear about is exactly ‘who’ you are talking to – the target audience. Those two simple points are at the heart of any strategy.

Every business needs a cunning plan.