The future of marketing depends on better planning

A marketing leader sits at a desk using the Workfront Scenario Planner application

Marketing leaders should be looking ahead to 2021. In a normal year, such plans would be well underway. But 2020 has been anything but normal. (I’m looking at you pandemic, social unrest, murder hornets, wildfire infernos, hurricanes, and electoral insanity.) What should strategic planning look like when every passing week seems to bring some fresh horror with it, making it difficult to anticipate next Monday, let alone the year ahead?

I recently had a conversation with Christine Cutten, principal at Deloitte Consulting, about best practices, tips, and strategies that can help marketers reimagine their approach to strategic planning for 2021—and beyond. In Christine’s 17-year tenure with Deloitte, she’s helped CMOs rethink their marketing strategies and operations by working alongside them to design their roadmaps to the future, even in turbulent times.

Uncertainty demands agile, strategic planning.

Here’s the bottom line: continuing to plan in a rigid annual cycle is no longer an effective model for most marketing teams. Marketers need to embrace a much more agile approach to strategic planning, one that allows them to anticipate, adapt, and prioritize within shorter time frames in response to, well, everything. Changing market dynamics, customer needs, supply chain issues, and the list goes on.

Alex Shootman, Workfront CEO, summarizes how planning has changed in his recent article for Forbes: “Honey, I Shrunk the Planning Cycle.” He says, “What I’m seeing now is companies replanning work on the fly. They are running and comparing scenarios and making smart decisions quickly to adapt to ongoing market shifts, mitigate risk and stay ahead of the competition. What they have understood is that the destination is the hero, not the journey. They are constantly prepared to recalibrate their journey to get there.”

And that’s exactly what marketing leaders must do: constantly prepare to recalibrate. Christine and I identified three key areas that marketers need to focus on to recalibrate their strategic planning in today’s uncertain environment:

  1. Infuse agility into your processes and teams.
  2. Increase visibility of goals, objectives, plans, and initiatives across your teams.
  3. Improve collaboration, now that so many people are working remotely.

Marketing must adapt to our new world of work—or risk falling behind. The reason high-performing marketing teams are navigating uncertainty so effectively is because they’re prioritizing visibility, collaboration, and agility in their work. Christine said something really powerful about agility—that it’s “a lead-in to the primary goal, which is changing buying behaviors and being aware of the customer mindset.” I couldn’t agree more.

There are endless examples of marketing teams that aren’t just surviving in today’s tumultuous business environment, but thriving. Consider all the pandemic-induced pivots from planned in-person events to virtual online alternatives—a big change that came with great opportunities, like reaching broader audiences in geographically dispersed locations. Many marketing teams are adapting planned marketing campaigns to focus on contactless delivery. They’re also changing the type of content they’re producing so it’s more consumable and relevant to people spending more time than ever at home.

Quickly anticipating and coordinating changes in how campaigns and content are planned and executed—while collaborating and creating remotely—requires visibility into all the work that’s happening within and across marketing teams. Visibility into that work and how it aligns with shifting markets, goals, and strategies has always been important. Now it’s a must-have.

Work management technology enables marketers to anticipate, prioritize, collaborate—and win. can a marketing team focus on strategic planning when they can’t even meet in person? It goes without saying that teams need to be able to communicate and collaborate seamlessly on objectives, plans, and initiatives across individuals and teams, pandemic or no pandemic. And that’s where enterprise work management technology comes in. It enables remote and recently dispersed marketers to adjust to the new realities of agile, responsive, continuous planning—while maintaining a focus on long-term business objectives.

As a recognized leader in this space, Workfront integrates the entire martech stack, giving everyone visibility into projects and initiatives across the business, whether they’re working in a nearly empty office or from a crowded kitchen table. And with strategic planning tools like Workfront Scenario Planner, marketers can quickly, easily, and accurately create and compare different scenarios to support the decision-making process. They can swiftly weigh their options before putting plans into practice, eliminating guesswork and instilling confidence that their decisions will deliver the right outcomes for the business.

It’s time for marketers to lead business revival.

As the fall planning cycle approaches, now is the time for marketing leaders to shine and lead the recovery and rejuvenation of their organizations. After all, according to Gartner’s “How to Prove the Value of Marketing to the Enterprise,” 70% of CEOs expect their CMOs to lead revenue growth for their organizations. Despite the abundant challenges of the day, there’s no better time for marketers to step up and empower the enterprise to thrive in a new era of strategic planning.