Don’t mistake getting stuck for being smart

37763642 If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I am a big believer in having a plan.  Strategy is king.  Today’s marketing dollars are too scarce to be wasted.  The 4th quarter and early January seems to have most marketers knee-deep in research, budgets, what if scenarios and gantt charts.

All of that is well and good.  And important.  But there is a serious danger that you can get paralyzed in your planning.  Smart is good.  Perfect is paralysis

Sometimes, especially when spending even a dollar feels like a calculated risk — we can let the need to be absolutely right freeze us in place.

Marketing is a healthy mix of art and science.  Exacting precision is for engineers and surgeons, not marketers.  We have to settle for darn close.  The reality is we don’t have the luxury of operating in a sterile space.  We have to function in the nitty-gritty of the real world.  We can’t control all the variables and factors. 

At a certain point in the process, we have to walk away from theory and leap off the edge into reality.

It feels safe to stay in planning mode.  After all, the plan looks so pristine and right.  There’s nothing tainting the purity of it. Once you step out and actually launch a new initiative, things get muddy in a hurry. 

While we can be pretty smart and quite right during the planning process, it’s in the fray of the action, that we get even smarter.  We can observe reactions, listen to customers, make little tweaks and then re-evaluate all over again.  Unlike an operating room, the marketplace brings nuances, unpredictable truths and quirks of human nature.

If you need one more nudge to get you unstuck and out from behind the planning mode, just remember, no one ever bought a product or service from a gantt chart.

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11 comments on “Don’t mistake getting stuck for being smart

  1. This is a hot topic right now. Everyone is trying to show their return on investment, but more importantly no one wants to “be on the line” if something doesnt happen. Fear is what is paralyzing people, not perfection…in my opinion. You have to be willing to put it out there…because I think most or all would agree, doing nothing will not change the results and not produce extraordinary results.

    Change agents are the ones who will succeed in this market. Believers, shakers and those that will go against the norm. Would you be willing to stand up to management in this dire time? Just because you dont, wont mean job security. I believe you will still have a rope around your neck, and by not speaking up may mean you pulling the rope yourself.

    I call this engaging your audience in a new 2.0 marketing world and would love to share some thoughts and you can go here

    Chad Rothschild

  2. The willingness to try new things and re-evaluate your present situation should always be in the back of your mind. Create a plan, but try and give yourself enough wiggle room within that plan to take a variety of different paths.

  3. Chris O. says:

    Yes, and it can be difficult to have to answer to people (i.e. surgeons, engineers, accountants, CFO) because they expect input=output but in marketing the balance can shift either way depending on outside forces.

    Thank you for the book “Greater Than Yourself”. I am in the process of reading it and may do a review on the Referral Key blog.

    I’ll be sure to mention you. =)

    Chris O.

  4. Chad,

    I don’t disagree that fear is a factor. In fact, I wrote about that very aspect of the challenge a couple months ago.

    But…part of what fear does to people is that they need more reassurance…more 100% sure it’s going to work (perfection), before they’ll pull the trigger.

    I think this is a very complicated happening…based on many factors, fear certainly being one of them. But I learned a long time ago not to think any major shift had only one cause.


  5. Stuart,

    Amen to that! The reality is…it’s not wondering if something will not go according to plan (good or bad) but which thing won’t go according to plan!


  6. Jeremy (or as I like to call you…Keyword Research),

    I think Stuart makes an interesting distinction. You don’t stop planning/anticipating just because you are taking action.

    The truth is…things are going to change. So move along side them…and have a plan to react accordingly.


  7. Chris,

    This is where the marketing is half art and half science gets to be a sticky wicket. The more left-brained a person is (accountant, detail driven job like surgeon, etc.) the harder it is for them to “just go with it” and let things evolve.

    But that’s when marketing is at its best. When it’s given time and room to evolve and the audience can have a voice in melding it.

    Glad you’re enjoying the book!


  8. Gonzalo Saiz says:


    I fully agree with you. Sometimes it is complicated to find the balance between INFOXICATION and SUBJECTIVE DECISION MAKING. Now it is one of those moments that can clearly lead to infoxication.

    Sure fear is one of those factors, but marketeers need to be brave and be ready to take calculated risks. I wrote about this on Monday but unfortunately it is in Spanish, 😉



  9. CShaner says:

    Hi, Drew. I really appreciated your comments. I’m an IMC master’s student, and there’s such a huge emphasis on planning in IMC coursework that I sometimes feel there’s no wiggle room to account for challenges that might arise as a marketing plan is implemented. Rarely do things go as planned in the real world; why should marketing be any different?

  10. Gonzolo,

    Couldn’t agree more — marketing is about calculated risks. Short of giving your product away for free, there are very few guarantees in marketing efforts.

    At some point in time, you have to take the leap. Even if it’s a small one.


  11. C (as I like to call you),

    That’s one of my frustrations about our post high school educational system today. Way too much on the theory and not enough on real life.

    Yes, it’s important to learn the fundamentals but it’s even more important to learn that the fundamentals are a guide and rarely play out the way students learn in a classroom.

    That’s why internships are so critical. They give students a dose of reality.


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