It’s late. 7:30 p.m. Your day, which started at the office at 8:00 a.m., has been filled with stressful tasks and no shortage of fires to put out. As you shut off your desk light you realize you’re hungry.

Working through lunch seemed like a good idea at the time, but now, as you make your way out of the office and remember you’ve got to get to you kid’s soccer game across town, you realize it wasn’t. And, as if you needed a reminder, there they are again: hunger pangs.

You know better but halfway to the JV athletic fields you pull into a burger joint. You’re in a rush, you need food now and who can blame you? With your type of busy lifestyle, stuff like this is bound to happen. You order, pick-up and drive off. The instant gratification of stuffing your face with a huge burger, a large fry and a bucket of cola is exactly what you needed. There never would have been time to cook-up the chicken, yams and green beans waiting for you at home in the fridge, anyway, right?

Standing on the sidelines, about 10 minutes after you get to the game you realize you made a bad decision. Your ultra value meal has become your ultra crummy meal … and your digestive system is about to rebel. Loudly. Still, you diligently, uncomfortably man your post, waiting for junior to pack up his gear, the whole time feeling the metabolic funk associated with your body breaking down the junk you’ve put in it. You’re never doing this again. That’s what you tell yourself.

So what? What does this story have to do with marketing? Well, as you probably guessed, it’s a metaphor.

A rushed, last minute, cheap and dirty decision. A compromise, an appealing one that feeds your desire for instant gratification. All leading to unforeseen (though known) problems, regret and a hollow commitment to do it right next time.

We’re talking about botched tactics.

Much like expecting fast food to nourish your body in a healthy, meaningful way, marketing is not something you can approach haphazardly, like ordering from a drive-thru.

The trade show booth designed a week before the show; the website thrown together because you have an investor meeting and need to look official; the quarter-page ad in a trade journal because sales are down and you need to do something… anything.

Sound familiar? If it does, you’ve seen or experienced the downstream consequences of hasty marketing. I’m not saying that some situations don’t call for stop-gap solutions, but even last-minute decisions can be part of a phased, well thought-through plan to get your marketing back on track.

In most cases you can still take the necessary time to craft a successful, albeit swift plan. Here’s a quick checklist you can run through:

  • What’s my timeline/what are my deadlines?
  • What’s my budget?
  • What are my goals or objectives?
  • How am I going to measure the effectiveness?
  • How can I tie this in to other marketing efforts already in the works?
  • Can this be used over again or in different ways?
  • Does it fit in with my overall integrated marketing strategy?

The next time you’re in a marketing bind, stop, slow down and take the time to think through your options. How can you make this situation work towards your greater goal?

You may not have time make a healthy home-cooked meal, but you can at least grab a salad.