Published May 2002

Use NASA strategy to help marketing take off

I recently watched the movie Apollo 13 — again. In doing so it occurred to me how remarkably similar a NASA rocket launch is to propelling a strategic marketing program. Here’s how you can follow NASA’s blueprint for landing the results you’re looking for.

Planning a strategic marketing program, like a NASA mission, involves three stages. Stage one is where you are today and involves assessing your current situation — your launching pad.

Stage two is identifying where you want to be in the future — your landing site.

Stage three encompasses mapping out a strategic path between where you are and where you want to be — your trajectory.

The launch sequence is basically the same between a NASA rocket and a marketing plan. If the itinerary sounds simple, it really is. The challenging part is doing all of the necessary preflight testing. Omit the advance work and you’ll be crying, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Apollo 13 blasted off on April 11, 1970. The countdown, however, started on June 13, 1969, when NASA began assembling the vehicle at Kennedy Space Center. That preparation was preceded by years of R&D. Fortunately, your marketing plan will be a tad less complicated.

To get the MOST out of your marketing plan (mission, objective, strategies and tactics), follow this launch sequence.

If you don’t already have a mission statement, create one. It’s an essential piece of your strategic marketing puzzle. NASA’s entire program in the ’60s was inspired by JFK’s mission to be the first nation to put a man on the moon. That common purpose galvanized the entire organization.

Your mission should be a concise statement of purpose. It defines who you are, what you do and whom you serve. It’s the litmus for everything you do.

This defines your landing site — what you want to accomplish and by when. Before determining marketing objectives, you’ll want to make an impartial assessment of your current situation.

Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your company, product or service. In addition, consider customer attitudes and how you compare to the competition. Your objectives should address these factors as well as specify a sales revenue goal.

This is the guidance system of your marketing program. Strategies establish how you’ll meet your objectives. Based on your situation assessment, determine what strengths you can capitalize on and what weaknesses need to be remedied.

Contemplate what you’ll need to do (from a marketing and sales perspective) to achieve your objectives. Be sure to align your marketing budget to these strategies.

This is the process of determining the way you’ll go about implementing your strategy. It is your action plan. You’ll want to detail who does what by when and who is ultimately accountable for seeing that it gets done.

Mission is the reason you’re in business; objectives are the “what” you’ll do; strategies are the “how” you’ll do it; and tactics are the “way” you’ll get it done. Follow this planning sequence and your business will likely “live long and prosper.”

Andrew Ballard, President of Marketing Solutions Inc. in Edmonds, develops brand leadership strategies for businesses and teaches strategic marketing through Edmonds Community College. He can be reached at 425-672-7218 or by e-mail to

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