The New Frontier of Marketing Planning: Adaptability

At the 2019 SiriusDecision Summit, there was a huge focus on what’s coming next for marketers. Marketing teams at companies around the world are going through constant turmoil as they are tasked with ever-growing responsibilities for things like the digital transformation of their organization to managing the entire customer journey, from engagement to renewal. Yet these teams are struggling because old processes and technologies are inhibiting them from properly driving impact for their companies.

The first step towards empowering marketing organizations to better tackle these larger problems is to implement agile and dynamic planning processes. Typical planning and review processes are not flexible or adaptable enough to support modern marketers. This was highlighted in depth by analysts Jeff Clark and Allison Snow during a session at Summit. In fact, they predicted that the need for adaptability in people and technologies is a core trend that will impact marketers and specifically marketing ops practitioners over the next 5 years.

More and more often it will fall to the marketing operations team to own, manage and execute the planning process for their teams. They are the part of the marketing organization that has the clearest view of what everyone else is doing and support the processes and technologies that the entire team uses to achieve success. And the way to achieve success in today’s fast-paced and ever-evolving world of marketing is factoring agility into plans.

Agility doesn’t mean the team is constantly hopping from one project to another. That’s not putting a strategic plan in place, that’s just executing on random acts of marketing. The planning process needs to ensure that marketing is setting strategic goals that will support and drive value for corporate objectives. And those strategic goals need to remain constant throughout the planned cycle, whether that is 6 months, a year, or 5 years.

Marketing connects to so many different pieces of the organization (customers, sales, finance, product, etc) and every shifting piece on those teams causes changes that need to be assessed within marketing programs promptly and with agility. Which means putting an annual plan in place at the beginning of the year and expecting nothing to change, is just setting a team up for failure immediately.

The best way to introduce agility or adaptability into the planning process, and set teams up for success, is to plan out the major buckets of activities. Marketing teams know the general types of campaigns they’ll need to execute or the projects they’ll need to implement to create success for the year. Those major areas should be planned out at an annual level, and teams should agree on investments for each bucket.

Then, when teams get into quarterly planning, they can begin to get granular and lay out specific tactics and dates. This enables marketers to continue marching towards their ultimate goals for the year while allowing them the flexibility to adapt to nuances in the market, shifts in products or anything else.

The next thing marketing ops can do to ensure planning processes are adaptable while still powerful, is to create a ladder of planning. Often, the problem with planning is that different levels of the organization don’t know what the other is doing, or how it supports the overarching plan or strategy. SiriusDecisions recommends incorporating this ladder of planning into the process both at the beginning of the year as well as during quarterly planning when tactical activities are mapped out. That way, each low-level task has a clear line all the way up to a strategic plan that has been mapped out by the company.

Putting in an automated system to track investments, workflow processes and results will enable marketers to improve their collaboration and ensure they’re always working against stated plans and goals. In addition, this ensures all marketers will have the ability to know how their programs are performing against KPIs. They will be able to adjust and be flexible to ensure that they reach their goals.

Marketing teams that don’t have an agile planning process will struggle to adapt to changes in their market and will fall behind the competition. How are you going to introduce more flexibility and agility into your upcoming planning process?