Marketing Planning

Plans are nothing; planning is everything.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower

Regulation play in the 1925 U.S. Open ended in a tie between Willie Macfarlane and golf legend Bobby Jones. Their first playoff round also ended in a tie. Jones then lost the Open by one stroke to Macfarlane in the second playoff round.

In the first round of the tournament, on the eleventh hole, Jones's approach shot had slid off the front of the green into the high rough. As his practice swing swept through the grass near his ball, Jones saw the ball had moved. Nobody else saw it. Still, Jones informed his playing partner, Walter Hagen, that the ball had indeed moved, and he assessed himself a penalty stroke.

After the round, folks lauded Jones for adhering to the rules. His response: “You'd as well praise me for not breaking into banks.”

Business, like golf, doesn't always go according to plan. When setbacks happen at professional services firms, strong leaders do not look the other way or let themselves off the hook. When profitability flags in a division or practice area, these leaders hold themselves and the team accountable.

Less often, however, do leaders assess themselves penalty strokes when the firm fails to craft or execute a marketing and business development plan that will help the company succeed. Year after year, business leaders at the vast majority of service firms dedicate much blood, sweat, and tears to the delivery of strong client work, recruitment of great people, and investment ...

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