Solution Focus Marketing Planning

December 19th, 2012   •   no comments   

At a recent North American SFCT chapter meeting in Toronto I had the chance to workshop a concept I am developing to make marketing planning easier.

Marketing planning is the process of developing a roadmap to guide an organization in achieving their goals. Its derived from the organization’s vision, mission and business plan. It identifies the products and services to promote and sell. It defines how resources will be allocated to meet objectives; it identifies financial implications. Its pretty important: yet, we don’t make enough time for it because we get too caught up in day-to-day management of activities and fire-fighting. Because we don’t set aside time for planning, its not fun when we do it; its hard work, especially the most challenging part of it: setting objectives and developing corresponding strategies.

The truth is, its not so much the plan itself that’s important; its the planning. Taking the time away from day-to-day tactical management is where the value is because it gives us a chance to just think about what we’re doing and what we should be doing. It gives us a chance to identify the questions. As James Thurber said “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”


Thinking about the most challenging part of planning (developing objectives and strategies) I wondered how a Solution Focus approach might make things easier. Here are the requirements:


  • Clear statements of both financial and marketing goals for the organization’s products/services
  • Identifies what you want to achieve, by when and by how much
  • Must be quantifiable; not doing so is tantamount to marketing malpractice
  • Foundation for strategy and tactics
  • May be developed from situation analysis and SWOT


  • How objectives are achieved
  • The methods defining actions to take advantage of opportunities or solve problems
  • Single minded statements
  • There should be at least one strategy per objective

Developing the stuff above is hard! In his excellent book Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, Richard P. Rumelt, explains why:

…the essential difficulty in creating strategy is not logical; it is choice itself. Strategy does not eliminate scarcity and its consequences—the necessity of choice. Strategy is scarcity’s child and to have a strategy, rather than vague aspirations, is to choose one path and eschew others. There is difficult psychological, political, and organizational work in saying “no” to whole worlds of hope, dreams, and aspirations.

But if we follow some Solution Focus rules, we can simplify it. The Solution Focus approach is based upon the premise that:

  • There are no problems, only opportunities
  • There is no failure, only learning
  • There is not only solution, there are many
  • There are no resistant, unmotivated, uncooperative people, only people with their own way of working and creating
  • If it works, don’t fix it; do more of what works

Here are two ways I have integrated SF into the marketing planning template.

Firstly, instead of SWOT, I use SARO. Usually when we identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, we focus too much on the negatives (W & T), instead of thinking about opportunities and what our existing strengths, assets and resources our, what previous successes we’ve had and how we’ve achieved them.

So, instead of this:














I’m doing this:

Screenshot 2012-12-19 10:34 AM











Secondly, for the hard stuff—objectives and strategy, here’s a simple, if goofily named, approach: P.L.A.N.


And here are some Solution Focus questions to help get at the above, with the help of Suzanne Aldis Routh, of Effervescent Concepts, who was also at the SFCT meeting:

Lets imaging that it’s one year from now and your product/service is the most successful it has ever been. What’s taken place that’s allowed this to happen? What have you done? What has your team done? What has the organization done?


What difference has this made to sales of the product/service? What are your consumers saying about the product/service, about the brand, about the organization?

These (above) are the objectives.


When you have been part of a very successful brand in the past what did you do that worked? How did the brand become so successful?


What is working for you already that is helping to make your brand as successful as it is at present? What can leverage; what  can you do more of?

These are the strategies.


On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that you can be more successful? What allows you to feel this way?


What is one immediate, achievable step can you take to make you feel even more confident?

And these are the tactics.


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