An obvious, but good piece of advice: What sometimes seems like an obvious scenario may be clouded with complications. Off the coast of North Carolina, right near the state line with South Carolina, there is a little barrier island called Sunset Beach. The only way on and off the island for more than 50 years was over a one-lane, floating pontoon swing bridge. That little bridge opened on the hour for boat traffic and on demand for commercial vessels.

While charming and sentimental, it also created some problems, especially with hurricane season. And, occasionally, someone may not have noticed it was open (or they thought they could jump it) and go for a swim in their car. In 2011, after much debate and a significant investment, a brand-new two-lane fly-over bridge was constructed. The new bridge offered beautiful broad sweeping views and modern engineering meant it was safe and always open. (It also brought more people to the little island, but that is a different story.)

When you have a good line of sight, a strong infrastructure, and a continuous flow of information, you create an environment of transparency and collaboration (or a beautiful bridge). This is exactly what you want to have when it comes to your marketing strategy and planning efforts. You want a two-lane fly-over bridge that connects your long-term strategy with your annual plan, and you want it to be embedded in the way the business operates. Just like you want the island to be always open to the mainland (and safe).

There is a reason we talk about long-term marketing strategy and annual marketing planning together. A strategy without a plan is a vision without action, and a plan without a strategy is just a set of tactics. Again, seems obvious, but we often forget those points and either never write down the long-term marketing strategy or keep creating the same marketing plans over and over, expecting a different result. The reality is that we must do both in concert with one another, and they must be connected if we want to experience growth.

A few reminders of why the two-lane bridge is better:

  • A marketing strategy will define measurable annual plan goals. It helps you stay accountable and on track to achieve your long-term vision.
  • A marketing strategy will guide the prioritization of investments to optimize resources in that given year.
  • Creating that linkage from marketing strategy to planning will provide an increased focus on highest priority activities to deliver the most value from marketing.

If you want to avoid going for an unintentional swim off a one-lane bridge, join me at this year’s B2B Summit North America In my session, “Marketing Strategy and Planning: It’s All About The ‘And,’” I’ll describe the continuum of strategy and planning in greater detail and provide some great examples that illustrate the relevance of adopting this approach. Hope to see you there.