Annual planning. Marketers have historically set their calendars — and campaigns — by it. Each January 1st (or the first day of the new fiscal year) is a turning of the page to fresh plans with a tactical road map for the next 12 months.
But last year, many annual marketing plans went out the window. Many companies paused, shifted and completely rethought their marketing plans. While the situation was (to use the word of the year) unprecedented, it proved we can quickly adapt, make smart changes and find ways to grow businesses.
Break out of the 12-month mindset
What’s best for a business — what’s going to drive sales and engagement — doesn’t always happen on a finite calendar, so why do we plan that way? Marketing plans should be ever growing, changing and building on what you’ve been doing, and that doesn’t stop on December 31st or start on January 1st.
Instead, look to the future and where you want to go with continual conversations to evaluate:
- What are you currently doing?
- What’s working and what’s not?
- What are the areas of opportunity?
- How can you solve a pain point the business is having?
You’re likely already having some of these conversations around “planning time.” But, they shouldn’t just happen one time per year. These questions should be asked and answered often throughout the year.
Plan for the real world
Market conditions and environmental factors can change on a dime in the agriculture industry. Who could have predicted widespread drought or the market variations we saw due to COVID-19 impacts?
What you outlined in your annual marketing plan eight months ago may not be relevant anymore based on real-world scenarios. An agile marketing plan means you’re always ready to react to whatever comes next — adjusting tactics and campaigns to support your business and meet customers’ changing priorities.
If you find yourself building out your entire marketing plan because your budget is due soon, try and let it be just that…buckets of money you set aside for marketing. Create your budget and your goals/opportunities for the year, then take what you’ve been learning from your current marketing efforts to make adjustments when the time is right.
Testing and learning is the backbone of this approach to continually evaluate what’s working and what’s not — and then changing and adjusting in real-time based on data.
Forget about the “perfect plan”
What an agile marketing plan boils down to is making sure you’re thinking strategically about your marketing on a more consistent basis. That’s it.
And there’s no formula or template for what that looks like. So don’t put too much pressure on having the perfect plan or having all your ducks in a row by an arbitrary date on the calendar.
If you push yourself to think more frequently about your marketing plan and adjust where and when needed, you’re headed in the right direction.