Bouncing Back in 2021: Increase Growth by Planning Better

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
December 1, 2020

Want to boost your company’s growth next year by changing only one internal process? Improve your team’s planning practices. 

Marketing organizations with the best planning processes know that even great plans can be derailed unexpectedly. While some organizations were moving toward agile processes before the pandemic, everyone had to change course this year and learn to adapt quickly. Rather than simply moving on and returning to the previous norms, organizations should learn to include iteration in their plans moving forward. If this type of planning is new to your team, you’ve got company.

Our survey found most organizations only adjusted their plans quarterly rather than on a continuous basis. But waiting a whole quarter to respond is far too long, especially in our current climate. With the industry moving past the challenges of 2020 and looking to grow, now is the time to take a look at changes your marketing organization can make to ensure a smooth new year. However, it can be difficult to know how to tackle them. We’re here to help you get started.

How to Create a Continuous Planning Process

Re-thinking plans on a regular basis also leads to strong results. Agile planning was correlated with revenue increases, yet only 10% of companies employ agile planning processes. AKA: Agility = More Revenue.

Here’s how to lay the foundation of a continuous planning process:

  1. Allocate a percentage of the budget for testing and iteration. It helps to have it as a line item so everyone knows it’s officially sanctioned. Teams will feel more free to take calculated risks when they know it’s a part of the budget.
  1. Make guidelines for the near and far future. You can keep activities more general the further away they are, but it’s good to start early and build in the details as you get closer to the date.
  2. Review plans frequently and iterate on what you’re learning. Sticking to quarterly updates is not enough to keep up with changes inside and outside your organization, so continue building scenarios and adjusting regularly as needed.

How to See Results with Scenario Planning

68% of organizations whose revenue increased 25% or more create multiple scenarios around marketing activities and budgets. Those who lost revenue were much less likely to create multiple scenarios. The importance of this level of flexibility can’t be overstated.

Our research also found that companies with sustained high growth are more likely to have marketing organizations that create multiple scenarios as part of their planning process. Having this continuous planning orientation allows them the flexibility to change direction if needed. Because these organizations have already thought through the advantages and disadvantages of many different situations, they can make quicker decisions when the market shifts. Having multiple scenarios is the best way to make sure you’ll be prepared for anything.

Start by discussing what your team would do if you had a budget cut of 10% or 20%. What would you do differently? What else would you include if your budget increased? Once you have those scenarios in place, make sure to check that they encompass all the possibilities on a regular basis, not just once per quarter.

Learn how to do scenario planning in five minutes

It’s also a good idea to have a set process for planning that spans beyond leadership—get the rest of the team involved as well. Having solid communication across the team is important to ensure that everyone stays on the same page and knows what to expect. Be sure to clearly state what your targets are. Once everyone understands the team goals, connect the plans you make to those objectives as well as the activities and budgets you have.

How to Successfully Incorporate Tech 

These types of technologies help automate time-consuming manual processes and eliminate the possibility of human error in spreadsheets. Saving time and cutting down on mistakes creates a better process, and creates more time for agile planning. Technology isn’t meant to replace people—instead, it’s meant to help with those burdensome but necessary processes that take up valuable time. The idea is to free up space for team members to do strategic thinking instead of spending time on data input and other cumbersome tasks.

Advanced planning technologies make a big difference in marketing organizations’ efficiency. More than two-thirds of those companies that saw a 25%+ increase in revenue actively used artificial intelligence, machine learning, and/or robotic process automation to drive efficiency in their marketing planning processes.

Want to learn more about how advanced data strategy and prioritizing investment data can help your team improve? Read the full report!

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