Sunday, April 09, 2006

More on Adjusting Plans and NASCAR

Today's race in Texas was a great example of being flexible in the midst of executing a plan. Pole sitter and eventual race winner Kasey Kahne (pronounced "casey cane") went from first at the start of the race, to somewhere buried in the middle of the pack and not a factor, back to first winning the race going away. He did so badly at the start of the race the commentators gave him a zero chance of finishing anywhere close to the top ten.

A couple of things happened. One; Kasey and his crew chief kept talking the whole race and every pit stop they made adjustments to the car while on the track Kasey kept looking for the right path for his car around the tri-oval. Two; the track conditions and weather (temperature) changed the track so that his car kept getting better while others got worse. In the end their plan worked. Not exactly as first foreseen, but definitely intact.

So the question a marketer can ask is, "What, when, and how can I change a marketing plan to be an ultimate winner?" Here is my take on what to change when:

  1. Public Relations – If your releases are not getting picked up rethink what you are releasing and how you are getting it to the editors. Your releases could be too long. They may be arriving at publications on the wrong day. The editor might not like you (no kidding). Get a meeting with the editor(s) to go over your releases and discuss how you might make changes for greater pick-up success. Or hire a PR professional and let them work their magic.
  2. Advertising – If the "street" is not acknowledging your ads, either in direct response or antidotal evidence it's time to do something different. Select new publications, change the frequency, alter the copy, and/or change the layout and graphics. As long as the message stays on track with the truth of your firm you have a lot of choices. Never get stuck on one way to present your firm.
  3. Sponsorships – You've spent the bucks, networked like crazy, but nothing on the backend is happening. In general, sponsorships are easy. Getting one new deal or client will pay for your investment. But if no deal or client is forthcoming; drop the sponsorship and look for something new. Too often sponsorships are driven by peer and industry pressure; Certainly all the wrong reasons. Listen to your clients and put your money on the events that they are attending. If your clients consider an event important, your future clients will be there as well.
  4. Internal Buy-in – It is one thing to discover the inner truth of a firm. It is another thing (process) for a firm to agree on this truth. If you have attorneys fostering a counter-culture it will disrupt what you can accomplish. Focus on gaining internal momentum with one-on-one meetings, group discussion, and leadership intervention.
  5. External Buy-in – If you make a change in your message that is radically different from how the market has previously perceived you, they will most likely kick it back in your face. Period. The market accepts change that feels more like an adjustment. Go too far and they stop listening.

To do any of this your timing is essential. Remember Kasey? Between pit stops Kasey had to race the car he had. Not the one he hoped to have later. In legal marketing I have been at events where I knew from the get-go I’d missed the mark. Patience is the only answer. I have to compete with what I’ve got until a change is possible. Never panic! Take time to really assess what is wrong and understand what needs to change. The answers are there if you can keep a clear head and are willing to accept that adaptation is the secret to ultimate success.

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