Marketing planning in an uncertain world

How do you plan in a COVID world when things keep changing?

Business success often lies in the planning. We’ve all heard the saying Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail. Traditionally having a sound business plan supported by a strong marketing plan based on solid research helps a business grow and prosper. For the first time in my business life, which is over 20 years, the predictable results that come from solid planning are no longer guaranteed. It’s been strange not just for me but for many of my business owner buddies, to have our business world and the previous guarantees, thrown up in the air. It’s all because we are living and working in changing times and it’s really difficult to plan in uncertain times.

Effective business and marketing plans rely on an element of predictability and cause and effect. In other words, business owners have always worked on, if I do this task, I will get this result. To a certain extent, results could be predicted. You would let your business goal underpin it with a marketing plan and hey presto, if you stuck to the plan, you would most likely achieve the business goals. A business goal might be increase revenue or a customer base by 10%. The marketing plan would map out the activities required that will result in the increase in review.

This no longer holds true in a COVID environment. There are just too many dynamic variables.

Lockdowns, travel restrictions, health emergencies, fatigue and personal hardship are new factors that make predicting target market behaviour, product availability, channels of distribution, dates of delivery and costs and supply of raw materials almost impossible for anything outside an immediate time frame.

The question is with so many new obstacles creating havoc with the planning process, should we abandon medium to long term business planning? Is it worth just planning for the short term? Is that effective? Or do we just give up on planning altogether? These are all good questions to ask. After all, when we try to use business tools in the same way as we did prior to COVID, they are just not working anymore. It is frustrating. and is yet another area of business that business owners must now learn to pivot in.

So how do we pivot our marketing planning?

  1. Be flexible

Allow for shorter lead times, cancellations, people changing their mind, customers wanting to be communicated in different ways.

  1. Plan for what you can control

You can control your customer service, your customer database, your website and online presence, your social media effort, your content, your systems, payment methods, refund and cancellation policies, your systems.

  1. Focus your actions and energies on the things that are not reliant on others

Identify elements of your marketing that are in your control and elements that are not. What are the elements that you deliver versus the elements that you rely on third parties for? For example the ability to do face-to-face meetings or events are not in your control unless they are online. Guaranteeing delivery times or availability of materials.

Your plan might look different this year but it’s still worth having a plan. It can provide focus which creates efficiencies in your workday. Rather than spending time thinking “what marketing should I do” you just must refer to the plan. A little bit like organising what you are going to wear to work the night before. It helps you complete marketing activities which bring results – you don’t get results from an email newsletter in draft!

Tips for getting motivated to plan your marketing.

  1. Get someone to help
  2. Set aside a specific amount of time to do the job
  3. Set your business goals first

To help businesses create powerful marketing plans at an affordable price AP Marketing Works has developed a Get Your Marketing Plan Sorted in a One Day program.

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