Rethinking the marketing planning process for an agile world

How to ditch old, bad planning habits and adopt new ones more responsive to a fast-moving world.

The whole premise of agile marketing is exactly that:

  • To be agile in our delivery of marketing assets, campaigns, educational content and product launches.
  • To generate conversations within our industries around topics of interest to our clients that would surface the next big thing we’d embark on.

The traditional annual marketing plan is a waterfall approach that does not support fast experiments. It talks about the “4Ps” — product, price, promotion and place — instead of focusing on the customer, their needs, and the fantastic way we are going to solve them. In today’s martech world, we cannot afford to be constrained with an annual marketing plan — and the good news is that we don’t have to be. 

Old habits, bad habits

I have witnessed time and again, throughout my career as a marketer, how marketing teams spend weeks crafting their annual marketing plans, only to see them forgotten in an obscure file somewhere in someone’s laptop. The frequently expressed frustration is: “We spend all this time working on a marketing plan and then we don’t look back at it all year” Who’s fault is it?

I used to adopt the main objectives in my product marketing plan as my goals for the year, actually entering them in the “system” and therefore, I felt a little reassurance that I had not worked for nothing. I’m sure I’m not the only one. 

Rethinking the marketing planning process for an agile world

New habits, better habits

As I evolved my thinking into an agile marketing framework, I moved away from the traditional marketing plan and more into thinking about “chunks of work” that would support the overall goal of the company with the product I’m managing. It has been my experience that, in fact, marketing plans that endure are living documents that get updated and evolve. That allows for flexibility and – the devil is in the details here – the plans should be stored in a place where teams can go in and periodically update them to reflect any major changes. 

Here are five things to tackle that will evolve your marketing plan and make it agile:

  1. Keep the market assessment and SWOTs in mind and review them quarterly.
  2. Review your value proposition, positioning statement, unique selling prop, and customer-centric benefits and revisit them throughout the year.
  3. Create Epics (user stories that span more than one sprint) for all your main marketing goals and objectives and add stories underneath the Epic that will become your backlog of deliverables.
  4. Note how many items or stories you have in your backlog that are unassigned.
  5. Keep your plan short in time and scope. In an agile mindset, planning through December 31 when it is only January 2nd is not only frowned upon — you won’t be able to keep that kind of planning up. If you do agile correctly, by end of Q2, your plan will have changed. And that’s okay.

When you think about agile and how to apply it to marketing, looking at the marketing plan and adapting it to be more agile will set marketers up for success as we start the planning season. Let’s start it with the right mindset. We know how to move fast — good marketers know that well. We’ve done it all our lives; we have mastered the art of fast-pace, change, and adaptation. We just have some lingering “old habits” we need to kick to the curb and we’ll be stellar.

Not only stellar, but we’ll be able to cope the work that needs to be done because it will be nicely placed in the multiple iterations that we’ll create on, say, fortnightly periods. We can measure, we can adapt, we can fail fast and move on, and we can conduct so many more experiments. The difference is that, with agile marketing, we’ll have visibility not only into the marketplace but within our organization. We’ll stop being the outbound marketing gals and guys, and be true movers and shakers within our organizations. 

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About The Author

Giannina is a product marketing manager at 3M Company. She currently manages the commercialization of new and established healthcare software products and creates brand and marketing content for healthcare organizations of all sizes. She’s a marketing veteran with 20 years of experience covering a wide range of industries, mostly with tech/software companies. Ever since she stumbled upon the concept of agile marketing back in 2015, Giannina became a strong proponent and early adopter of Agile Marketing and Scrum methodologies. She has subsequently led divison’s marketing team to adopt agile methodologies and practices. She is a Licensed Scrum Product Owner; holds a Bachelor’s Degree in international marketing from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and additional advertising and communications degrees from Instituto Peruano de Publicidad – in Lima, Peru, her home country. Giannina lives in Maryland with her husband and two kids.