How to create marketing plans for uncertain times.

A new year should be the time for getting marketing plans and strategies in place for the year ahead. However, we live in uncertain times and many businesses are holding off planning. Political turmoil, global trade wars and  financial instability cloud the view.

While this is understandable, inaction and delay may be a far greater danger for businesses in fast moving, competitive environments.

A factor which may have contributed to this paralysis is companies only considering an old, obsolete, approach to marketing planning. Sadly, the traditional model is no longer fit for today’s rapidly changing markets.

The old model

Traditional wisdom was to assemble all the data needed by research, then plan, plan, and plan some more – finally, execute the plan.  The problem with that method in today’s world is that it just takes too long.

Markets move, new technology changes the game, competitors act quickly – the plan is usually out-of-date even before it’s finished.

In an uncertain world, one thing is certain – and that’s change itself.

A new approach is called for that allows businesses to plan with the flexibility to adapt to changing situations. Plans which allow companies to move forward in a changing world rather than be overtaken by events.

A better way.

In recent years, marketers recognised the need for a way to prevent marketing plans becoming outdated before they were even actioned.  Some far-sighted business-people began borrowing techniques from the IT industry and started building agile marketing plans.

Rather than produce static strategies, the answer was to create a structure that allows business to constantly improve and improvise.

We should not have to worry that reality gets in the way, but be able to keep our plans constantly aligned with reality.

Key to this concept is having a number of small goals. Rather than the: ‘plan, plan, plan, execute’, approach we tackle each small goal as: ‘plan, execute, measure, refine/iterate’. Constantly returning to the goal and checking it’s still synchronised with reality, and be able to adjust accordingly.

These small goals make it easier to build a picture of what success looks like, in easy to handle portions.

The uncertainty factor.

Let’s get back to the problems of a world and a market place which already looks very different from last year…   or even last month.

The big unknowns can be handled by an agile approach. We don’t need to be inactive. Businesses can have the ability to act on what intelligence they have today, then review and refine their plans as events unroll. The objectives set are small enough to handle flexibly and quickly with minimal disruption.

A feature of the agile approach is working in ‘sprints’. This means each ‘plan, execute, measure, refine/iterate’ cycle is contained in one ‘sprint’. The time scale is short – as short as is practical. It can be as condensed as one week – but rarely longer than three weeks.

Having sound measures and KPIs keep the goals grounded in reality.

Small goals will coalesce into tree-like structures achieving bigger, overall objectives.

Moving forward

Change is a constant – we all see an acceleration in the rate of change – this is the reality of an increasingly technological world.

We can handle change and prosper – it’s just important to accept a few realities and use them to inform our planning:

  • The traditional marketing plan is dead
  • The rate of change will increase
  • ‘Wait and see’ is not an option
  • Reality does not spoil our plans – our plans should be reality
  • Having many small goals is good
  • Continually monitor-measure-refine


Interested? We can help!

Ian West
dangerous ideas

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