Marketing Planning – a different approach

We’re about a week and a half out from US Thanksgiving (as I write this). I assume you’re knee-deep in planning mode. You’re planning your menu. You’re planning for any travel. And on top of that, you’re planning your 2022 marketing strategy. Right?

I’m not.

It’s not that I’m not thinking about what I want 2022 to look like. I am. But I am not going to burn myself out trying to map it all out before the year has even started. I have goals set but I haven’t locked into how we’re going to achieve those goals. Committing to a plan now assumes that I am not going to learn anything new over the next twelve months.

Let me rant for a moment (if you listen to our podcast you know I love to rant).

I am ALL for planning. I love a plan. I love milestones that tell me that I’m executing the plan. I love all the little details that go into a plan. And yes, I have made plans for the company.


What I see all too often, and I’ve done this myself, is that a plan is too rigid. It is “set in stone” and “unchangeable”. It also feels rushed and last minute. Why are you waiting until December? What’s wrong with starting earlier?

We can feel so passionate about the plan and that it has to look a certain way that we don’t allow for anything else. We set our budgets, allocate our resources, put our heads down, and plow forward. We stay the course for a whole year. A WHOLE YEAR! Once that year is up, we look around to see what happened.

Well, that’s a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.

A couple of years ago I got sick on Thanksgiving. My husband was in the middle of cooking. He was making the turkey, the stuffing, the potatoes, all the trimmings. I, on the other hand, had crawled into bed to slowly die. We didn’t see this coming and didn’t plan for it. All the cooking was being done that day so when he realized I was ill he had to abandon it. Dinner wasn’t so great that year.

Since then, we’ve started adapting our Thanksgiving plans to be more flexible. Will we have all the same food? Yes. The outcome is the same. The difference is the approach. Instead of cooking everything that one day, we start a couple of days ahead. I’ll make cornbread for the stuffing this weekend, and then make the stuffing on Tuesday. I’ll make the mashed potatoes on Wednesday. By the time Thursday rolls around all we need to do is reheat things and cook the turkey.

How does this help us? In the (not unlikely) event that I burn the cornbread or put sugar instead of salt in the potatoes, we still have time. We can decide to remake those dishes on Thanksgiving or decide to make something else. We will still have met our goal of having dinner.

So what?

I need to treat my business the same way I do my personal life. I’ve learned that not building flexibility into my plans tends to blow up in my face. I’ve also learned that you cannot anticipate everything that is going to happen. If I am willing to change the plan for Thanksgiving, why can’t I change how I approach my marketing planning?

Do you have backup plans for Thanksgiving dinner? Probably. It can be a stressful day otherwise. Why not your marketing as well? Think about that with your 2022 planning. Waiting until one time a year to plan what you’re going to do with your business is risky. It’s too much pressure and too difficult to stay agile.

What if, and hear me out, you made your plan for the year but you committed to checking in and adapting it once a quarter? What about once a month? You can set and keep your goals for the year but as you gather more information you may need to change your approach.

Setting your plan once and then assuming you can execute it with no changes will be challenging. That’s not to say you cannot do it. But why not set yourself up for success?

How do you do that? Allow for more time. Think about alternatives. Ask for feedback along the way. Stay open to possibilities and new information.

How do you approach your planning? Let me know in our free Slack group, Analytics for Marketers.

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