By Alexander Hiam

The more unfamiliar you are with writing a marketing plan, the more flexibility and caution your plan needs, so make flexibility your first objective if you’re creating a marketing plan for the first time. Consider crafting a gradual plan that includes a pilot phase with a timeline and alternatives or options in case of problems.

For example, instead of taking advantage of cheaper bulk printing with a vendor you don’t know for a marketing piece you’ve never tested, use short runs of marketing materials at the local copy shop.

Optimizing your plan for flexibility means preserving your freedom of choice, avoiding commitments of resources, and spending in small increments so you can change the plan as you go. Ultimately, you need to decide how much flexibility you require and build it into the schedule and budget. You may want to consider milestones achieved as the mechanism to release additional activities or budget funds.

If your business has been around the marketing block before and your plan builds on years of experience, you can more safely favor economies of scale over flexibility. (Economies of scale are the cost savings from doing things on a larger scale.) But always leave yourself at least a little wiggle room, because reality never reflects your plans and projections 100 percent of the time.

Adjust your marketing plan to favor economies of scale if you feel confident that you can make sound judgments in advance. Advertising is cheaper and more efficient if you do it on a large scale, because you get deeper discounts on the design of ads and purchasing of ad space or air time.

If you know a media investment is likely to produce leads or sales, go ahead and buy media in larger chunks to get good rates. And don’t be as cautious about testing mailing lists with small-scale mailings of a few hundred pieces. A good in-house list supplemented by 20 percent or fewer newly purchased names probably warrants a major mailing without as much emphasis on advance testing.