When it comes to marketing plan detail, it makes sense to document tasks and milestones to manage your initiatives effectively. But, knowing how much detail is enough can be a tough question to answer.
Also, it’s not specific to marketing as it applies to any complex plan. Finding the right balance can make the difference between completing your work on time, the way you want to – or not!
Too little detail will lead to critical steps being left out, and this often results in bad execution, quality issues, do-overs and delays. Are you a master of logic with an incredible memory? If not, you can’t possibly keep track of every step of the process. As the adage goes “fail to plan, plan to fail.” On the flip side, when the plan is so granular that you get bogged down in the minutia, your time will spiral out of control, and things become overwhelming.
Whether the level of marketing plan detail is too vast or too vague, the outcome is usually the same. A cycle develops of repeatedly pushing out due dates. The management of your plan becomes a frustrating exercise that can undermine the confidence of you, your team, and your manager.
Find Your Marketing Plan Detail Balance
Given the importance of finding the right balance of marketing plan detail, it seems worth an investment of time and thought up front. Here are some ideas that may help:
Learning from the Past:
Analyze similar projects and campaigns you have run in the past. In marketing, we tend to do many of the same things quarter after quarter. Think about the key steps and the level of detail you outlined previously. Was it too much, or not enough? Learn from this and use what you uncover moving forward. You can save time if you have already created project plans in the past. The goal here is balance. You want to execute your plan well, with the least amount of detail needed.
Think about the “big buckets” in your plan and use them as starting points. You can always break things down into finer bits if you need to. Let’s use the example of creating a new piece of content. There is likely a milestone for “final approval” near the end. If there is only one sign-off, a task called “gain final approval” is just fine. However, if there are multiple stakeholders – you may want a separate task for each person involved. By starting at the top and then breaking the detail down, you will be aware of the key things that must get done.
Define the Line:
It’s helpful to identify what types of tasks need more detail. Everyone on the team should understand what a task “is” and “is not.” You can use a time-based characteristic such as “tasks take longer than 30 minutes to complete.” Not a hard rule, but usually activities taking 15 or 20 minutes don’t require a lot of thought.
You might have a criterion to ignore logically implied tasks. For example, “share the results of our latest campaign” doesn’t require sub-tasks such as “open PowerPoint, create a slide deck, post it to our Intranet, and send a link to everyone.” Most of these steps are intuitive.
Whether it’s time, the number of sub-tasks, or logical implication, think about your past experiences and try to come up with definitions that make sense.
Adapt and Adjust:
Finding the right balance of detail is tough, especially when managing a team because everyone thinks differently about the planning process. You need to account for personal differences. I would err on the side of too much detail rather than too little. You can always condense later, and you don’t get a second chance to remember something important after the fact. As long as your level of detail works well for you, stick with it. If not, refine along the way. Planning is an iterative process that takes time, so be patient.
Why it Matters
By using these guidelines when thinking about marketing plan detail, you should improve execution and reduce some anxiety. If you don’t, chances are you will spend more time later revising your project lists and eventually running out of time.
In a role where one of your primary functions is planning and executing, your reputation depends on your ability to deliver. Having the right mix of marketing plan detail can help you achieve your goals with greater ease and consistency.