Most marketers start the New Year running. We get our track shoes on and we begin implementing all those creative plans we put together in the fourth quarter last year.

But before too long other priorities other than our marketing plan arise. If we are in financial services, our asset liability (ALM) needs can adjust, executive management can change the strategic course of our institution or we could encounter personnel challenges. And before too long we look up and our marketing plan is off course.

A few years ago I wrote poste entitled “Four Ways to Avoid the Strategic Plan Drift.” In that article I quoted Darren Hardy, publisher of Success Magazine and author of The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster as saying “You see, we don’t fall off course, we drift off course. We don’t fall off our workout schedule, our diet, our resolutions—we drift. We drift ever so slightly and slowly without realizing it. Then a while down the road, we finally regain consciousness, only to realize we are completely off course.”

Those same words of wisdom apply to our marketing plans: we must ensure we don’t drift off course. How do we avoid your marketing plan drifting?

Here are three ways to avoid that trap:
  • Promote brand above product—The marketing plan at your credit union or bank is probably focused a great deal on your institution’s products: checking accounts, auto loans, investment services and mobile banking among many others. You name the financial product and we financial marketers are promoting it. But if all you do is push your products then you will quickly drift away from your plan. Why? Because your plan needs a heavy dose of branding. You want consumers to bank with you because of who you are, not because of what you offer or the rate you are giving them. Promoting your brand and not just your products helps you avoid that marketing plan drift.
  • Conduct a marketing audit—Even if you have a marketing plan in place, is it the right plan? Have you had an outsider review your marketing strategy? One of the best ways to gain that perspective is through a marketing audit, which will include a thorough review of your plan. It also gives you suggestions on your plan and helps determine if your budget matches that plan (a common problem in financial marketing). Reviewing your marketing through a marketing audit helps ensure your marketing plan does not drift.
  • Review your plan regularly—It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day of financial marketing. Getting that loan promotion out the door, training staff on your new checking product or making sure that social media update gets complete. When the day to day captures too much of our attention then the plan gets discarded or put on a shelf. One tip is to spend the 10 to 15 minutes the first part of every week looking over yearly or quarterly goals and objectives. Another suggestion is to make sure the entire executive team reviews the marketing plan on an ongoing basis. That will help you focus the entire institution’s priorities when other issues arise that can cause you to get “off plan.” Spending time on a scheduled basis to review that plan avoids the drift.

Let’s be honest: unanticipated things are going to take place this year. That is life as a marketing executive. However, you can avoid having those potential distractions take your marketing plan off course by promoting your brand, conducting a marketing audit and reviewing your plan regularly.