A call for a more agile process for developing your marketing plan

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The corporate marketing plan as we once knew it no longer works. You remember the one we all learned in marketing school where your marketing team built a six- month to one-year detailed plan of how you were taking your product to market? Many of us, myself included, have worked in this traditional model for years. I have come to the realization that this model just doesn’t work anymore. I think it is time—just like product development has moved to a more agile, iterative process—to adopt a similar approach to developing the marketing plan.

First, the traditional approach is not responsive enough to market change to adapt to new opportunities and new challenges. With rapid economic changes and first mover advantage, a plan that was built six months to a year ago does not allow a company to be nimble enough to address new markets or react to challenges in existing markets. Having a base plan to start with and taking an iterative approach to adjusting that plan ideally monthly, but at least quarterly, would allow your company to be more reactive to threats and opportunities.

Typically, the traditional marketing plan is developed through the internal view of the marketing people on staff within your company with a very myopic view of market condition, what is really going on inside the competition and what your customers really want. In a world of interconnected networks fueled by the rise of social networks, not everyone with a stake in your marketing plan is on your marketing team and some are not even on your payroll. Inside of your firewall, many departments including sales, customer service and even product development have a stake in the effectiveness of your plan. Outside of your corporate walls, your business partners, loyal customers and key influencers have definite opinions on what marketing execution would help shape and grow your market. It is time that you asked for their input and vetted that input with your own thinking to harness the collective intelligence that could make your plan much more effective. Your marketing plan and execution should also be shaped to be more of a conversational dialogue than a one-way monologue.

If you are a global company, a truly agile approach would include having members from your local marketing team help build the plan from the ground up, instead of being receivers of your plan. This gives you the flexibility to address local opportunities and variances in the adoption curve from market to market and to bring unique perspectives and fresh ideas to your plan. Also, with digital marketing playing an increasingly important role in effective marketing, leveraging key search terms related to your offerings and sentiment about your company in developing both your competitive analysis and your execution would allow you to be front and center in the conversation about your industry on the Web.

Having marketed software development solutions for years and being married to a software architect, I have observed first hand the evolution of the development process from a waterfall approach to an agile approach. Taking a more iterative and incremental approach has revolutionized the way software is developed and has led to a whole new marketplace for apps. Isn’t it about time we revolutionized the marketing process as well? In a fast-paced, evolving landscape, the only way to be effective marketers is to be more proactive, iterative and adopt a more agile approach to build a continuously evolving marketing plan. It should not be a publication. It should be a living, continuously adapting document that breathes new life into the way you go to market.

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