If nothing else, the past year should have taught us that our ability to forecast consistent plans isn’t as good as we thought. The term scenario plans often seems so formal; I like to think of it as simply making well-thought-out adjustments to our plans. So why do many businesses continue to make an annual marketing plan and then put it on the shelf once it’s approved and Jan. 3rd comes around? Let’s assume for now, that the reason marketers don’t develop scenario plans is they don’t know where to start. In this article, I will share some high-level tips to get you started.
Step 1: Interim Campaign Goals
You probably have annual goals for your campaign, which is super. But few businesses develop interim goals to reflect how and when they will get to a certain number of leads, opportunities, or deals. Start here, if not monthly then at least quarterly. The second part of this step is to then determine your guardrails for this chart, is it +/- 5%, 10%, 20%? Only you know the best percentage to discern if you are on or off track enough to initiate action.
Step 2: Alternative Plans
This step should be the easiest, but most companies don’t put together a list of alternatives until it’s too late and then they are in scramble mode. The reality is most of your original plans include marketing tactics that you chose not to execute. It may be due to budget or the audience focus, but you had other options. This is your starting point, always take your unused choices and begin your alternative plan list. The second part of this step is to then add some thoughts on who is the audience and what stage of the funnel would these tactics impact your plan. Here is an example:
Step 3: Activate Adjustments
When do you pull the trigger on your adjustments? This is where the guardrails from the second part of Step 1 become critical. If we used a green, yellow, red matrix of comparing actuals to forecasts, then we can stay the course while in the green zone. We begin to evaluate the need for adjustments while in the yellow and act by the time we reach the red zone. One benefit is this also means staying on the positive side! I’ve been fortunate to work for CEOs that said they wanted to double down if something is working better than expected. If they are not willing to grant more money, you may need to shift funds from underperforming tactics.
Step 4: Keep Forecasting
If you have gotten through Step 3 congratulations, you are way ahead of most of your competitors. This step will help you keep accelerating that distance. We believe that once you have set your targets and guidelines, and have the actual results that you need, you need to keep forecasting based on market conditions or adjustments that you made. What if you made changes to a poor performing tactic and saw immediate results that quickly got you back into the yellow or slight green zone of your original goals? That might sound great, but if you had reforecast, you might see that you were outperforming your goals. And if you get to that point, you should consider shifting more dollars into this program. Here is an example to see how reforecasting can help you.
Scenario Plans are the principal way to stay out of Einstein’s insanity paradox of doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. Steps 1-3 will help you create meaningful marketing improvements and Step 4 is an advanced step. If this still seems to be a bigger challenge than your team can undertake, we’ve developed both the process and a technology solution at Rand Inc to help you make quicker scenario plans and adjustments. And, my videos on LinkedIn this month are all about this topic. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.