Five tips for tightening up your tactical planning

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‘Tis the season for a blizzard of meetings, white boards, sticky notes and PowerPoint. It's August, and for most pharma companies and their agency partners, it means buttoning up tactical plans for the following year.

I've seen many approaches to planning. On the extreme left of the continuum, teams take the current year's plan and nibble around the edges, recommending doing essentially the same things, plus or minus 10%.

On the extreme right, teams start with a blank slate and build the plan from the bottom up, striving for total reinvention.

In the middle are approaches that try to balance what's currently working with what's fresh and new. No matter what process you choose, I believe there are several criteria to consider before your team can evaluate ideas that will ultimately make it into next year's tactical plan:

1. Aligned with strategy
Of course. Ideas and potential vendors that don't meet this first threshold should not make it past your receptionist.

2. Integrates well

Think of your current plan as a brand platform that includes not only creative and media, but technology, processes, agency partners, fulfillment, measurement standards and some degree of integration. Sometimes, developing stand-alone tactics that don't link to the overall platform can be expensive, risky and difficult to measure.

3. Scalable
Due to the nature of program development within a pharma company, tactics that can't scale quickly to reach a broad audience should be carefully evaluated. Think about it—it takes the same amount of planning, effort, agency hours and MRL review time to develop a piece that reaches ten customers as it does to develop one that reaches thousands.

4. Measurable
Marketers should enter the planning process with a pretty good idea of what's working in their current programs and what's not, and they get this through consistent, ongoing measurement. Simply further scaling up or doing more of the types of programs that work is a great foundation for the new plan.

5. Innovative
Many marketers are seduced by the new and shiny. However, even highly innovative ideas need to be evaluated against the criteria above. And innovation must be built into and budgeted for in the plan—it won't magically appear on its own in the second quarter.

Joe Shields is product director/team leader, Enbrel, at Pfizer
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