To Plan, Or Not To Plan?

On a marketing listserve to which I belong, the subject of having, or not having, a marketing plan has been the subject of much discussion. In addition, a few of my clients over the years have asked my firm to prepare a marketing plan for them. I am not very comfortable with the request, perhaps because personally I hate planning (don’t ask me what I’m doing a week from now, because I have no idea), and tend to favor inspired improvisation. In other words, the rationale that follows may be nothing more than my attempt to justify what is simply my own temperament. But here is what I had to say on the listserve:

The military theorist Von Clausewitz said of war that while planning is essential, all plans are useless. He meant, I think, that while it’s good to have some idea of what you are trying to do, it never turns out the way you thought it would.

Lawyers have a tendency to dither while indulging in endless analysis and planning. And since I am tuned into the military channel today for some reason, George Patton said, “a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”

With most of my clients an hour long phone call pretty much suffices to determine a marketing plan: What are your long term goals? What are your medium term goals? What are your immediate to-dos? In what priority? Voila — instant marketing plan.

An article in The Economist noted, “Preparation is an art, not a science, which makes planning for the future of a business more complicated. Strategic business planning went out of favor in the 1980s and 1990s because it got bogged down in the mathematics of detailed business plans that might or might not be implemented. Jack Welch, the leader of leaders during that period, set the tone by shutting General Electric’s 200-strong planning department in 1983.”

Welch himself has written:

“Clausewitz summed up what it had all been about in his classic On War. Men could not reduce strategy to a formula. Detailed planning necessarily failed, due to the inevitable frictions encountered: chance events, imperfections in execution, and the independent will of the opposition. Instead, the human elements were paramount: leadership, morale, and the almost instinctive savvy of the best generals.

“The Prussian general staff, under the elder von Moltke, perfected these concepts in practice. They did not expect a plan of operations to survive beyond the first contact with the enemy. They set only the broadest of objectives and emphasized seizing unforeseen opportunities as they arose. Strategy was not a lengthy action plan. It was the evolution of a central idea through continually changing circumstances.”

And Since We’re Talking About Commercials…

The estimable Bill Simmons of ESPN.com wrote what I was thinking. (Damn him, I wish I’d said it first.):

Here’s a nuts-and-bolts recap of the Jeep commercial they’ve shown 600,000 times during the playoffs: Starts out with a guy driving in his Jeep Liberty and signing along to “Rock Me Gently.” A squirrel leaps in the through the sun roof and starts singing with him. A few seconds later, two birds fly in through the sun roof and they join in. A few seconds later, a coyote plops in through the sun roof and quickly eats one of the birds. The coyote spits out the bird, and then the driver, the squirrel, the coyote and the birds happily sing the lyrics to “Rock Me Gently” and drive away. And this is supposed to encourage me to buy a Jeep Liberty … how?

On the other hand, ever since I saw that stupid commercial, I’ve been walking around humming the song. Two points if you can remember who did the original without using Google.

Wheels Of Fury

If you are over a certain age, you might not have heard of World of Warcraft. I won’t begin to try to tell you all about it. Suffice it to say that it is an online multi-player role-playing video game, and it’s addicting. I have at least one employee who is a regular participant. I also have a 15-year-old son who plays it waaaaaay more than he should, and has succeeded in involving his mother in this alternative universe.

Ten million people worldwide subscribe at an average cost of 50 cents per day or $15 a month. That = cha-ching to the tune of $5 million a day. The game is so engrossing that psychologists have estimated that between 10-40 percent of these gamers are more or less addicted, with the attendant consequences on the player’s everyday life.

I bring it up because I recently saw this commercial for a Toyota Tacoma truck, in which a “Truck Sommoner” invokes a weapon called Four Wheels of Fury, which is, of course, the aforesaid Tacoma. Actually, I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence.

Why, you may ask, would Toyota spend good money on a commercial referencing a video game that is obviously for kids? Well, it turns out, it’s not. The average age of a WoW player (if you use this abbreviation, you will show that you are not terminally uncool) is 28.3 years, and they are 84 percent male. Not a bad demographic for someone wanting to sell trucks. (Scarier number: they spend an average of 22.7 hours per week playing WoW, with no difference between the genders in amount of playing time.)

How long until we see an ad for a personal injury attorney as a WoW warrior?

Attorneys are already on MySpace, and if you don’t know what that is…well, that’s a subject for another blog post.

By the way, you need to be cautious with this sort of thing lest you fall victim to the rule that states: once a trend reaches anyone over 30, it’s over.

The Laureate Program and The Gathering

If you are an estate planning attorney, you’ll want to know about two offerings of the Southern California Institute. The first is The Laureate in Wealth Strategies program, which teaches attorneys the philosophy and techniques of working collaboratively with other advisors (CPAs, financial advisors, insurance professionals, and other attorneys, among others) in serving the needs of high net-worth individuals and families.

The other is The Gathering, an annual two-day symposium that combines a practical understanding of current events in estate, business, tax, insurance, and wealth strategies planning to keep you on the cutting edge. Laureates and colleagues provide a review of current events and techniques, including the best of the information gathered at the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning just a few weeks earlier — with a focus on how to integrate the “quiet confidence” approach for your practice and clients.

I’ll be there, and I can tell you from experience that in addition to the valuable knowledge on can glean at The Gathering, it is also a heck of a good time.

You can download the Laureate brochure here, and The Gathering agenda here.

The registration form for The Laureate program is here, and the form for The Gathering is here.

Who Pays The Most Per Click? Lawyers.

Out there in the world of Internet marketing and pay-per-click advertising, what sort of businesses are willing to pay the most for a click? Attorneys, that’s who. Specifically, personal injury attorneys. See the list of most expensive search terms here.

Why? It’s simple really. Who wouldn’t pay fifty bucks for a lead on a case that could be settled for millions? Or even for a $5,000 fee? The real question is how many clicks do you have to pay for before one turns into a client? And that leads to a discussion of conversions — the other, neglected half of the Internet equation. But that’s another blog post.