Marketing Planning In The Midst Of The Unknown

The pandemic has added a lot of variables into our equation, both personally and professionally. Dealing with COVID-19 and its impact is challenging enough in our daily lives, but as marketers we deal with the tragedy of the situation while delivering messages, serving customers and (hopefully) growing our brands. We have all seen how marketing messaging has changed as we’ve moved through the crisis, yet it is just as important that we remain planful about what our marketing is doing both now and moving forward. Plans may change, but not having a plan isn’t the answer and will ultimately short side your long-term progress.

So how do marketing leaders effectively plan for strategies and tactics against an uncertain backdrop? Here’s a few things to consider as you’re thinking through what’s next:

Stay in the now…for now – having a plan is important, but the time series of our plans need to change. Maybe you can only plan a week, a month or a quarter out because budgets are unclear or your market dynamics continue to shift. Regardless of the length of time you can plan for, plan for that length of time. Despite the macro conditions, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.

Embrace flexibility – even if you have solid, grounded plans we have all learned how to be more flexible with our channels and tactics. In its best form, that flexibility has made marketers more agile and aware, so let’s use that learning to make us even more nimble and proactive. Marketing will have to continue to adapt and overcome both internal and external challenges, but let those innvations drive you towards new opportunitites that may never have been part of your decision set before.

Evaluate what’s working and what isn’t – before the CFO starts cutting your budgets, figure out what can go with hurting your long-term efforts. If you’re proactive about this you stand a better chance of preserving the core elements of your programs that are needed to produce results now and into the future. Cutting into the muscle of your marketing plans may hurt your ability to accelerate after things begin to turn, so take time to get rid of underproducing efforts in the middle of the storm – it will make you stronger when you come out.

Future proofing will put you ahead – even though it may be hard to see life post-pandemic, it’s important for marketers to think about what happens next. Take some time to study the landscape and understand what may be temporary shifts in your approach versus what may be more fundamental changes to your business or industry. Short-term results will certainly be important but your ability to have them lead to long-term gain will be a key differentiator.

Despite our best efforts it appears we will be living with these uncertain conditions for some time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be effective. Marketers are often at the leading edge of change and this time is no different. Steer into these times with logical, effective, return-producing plans and you will help lead you business through these most challenging of times.