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It's 2020 Planning Time - The Marketing Posse
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It’s 2020 Planning Time

It’s 2020 Planning Time

We are only 3 ½ months away from the start of 2020.  If your planning cycle follows the calendar year, that means that you have 97 days until you will start implementing your plan.  Whether or not that seems like plenty of time or that creates a state of panic for you depends entirely on your business.  A good rule of thumb is to plan 12 months out.  That means you are planning your fall and holiday plans for 2020 right now.

If you start your conversation early, you might experience some people on the team asking why that is necessary.  That might seem surprising to some but there is definitely a point of view that getting too far out is not a good thing.  Three of the most common reasons for pushback on starting the planning process that I’ve experienced are (1) the business environment could change, (2) we should wait for new leadership to share their agenda, and (3) we need to stay nimble to react to our competition.  Sure, those are all valid scenarios but exactly the reason why it is important to have a plan.  One of the most critical components to the planning process is assessing the business environment and the competition.  What better time to get alignment around the factors impacting the business and where the competition stands?  And, if new leadership comes in, do you want to be prepared with talking points about the plan or wait around to see what they tell you to do?

To stay out ahead of things, below are a few factors to consider about timing to get started.  These are areas where I have seen teams get tripped up because they have not built in enough time.



Is this the first time your organization has been through the planning process or is there a plan in place that everyone is aligned to?  If it is the latter, then maybe you can move more quickly through the process.  If it is the former, ensure that there is ample time for discussion.  How many layers are in your organization?  Is your company one where leadership is in the room for the discussions or where polished solutions are presented to leadership for reaction?  Each step in the process may require multiple discussions to gain alignment.  You may have to go back to the drawing board altogether in fact.  Where possible, I recommend involving the highest levels of leadership in the planning process. Set a timeline with clear milestone deliverables and approvals.  A lot of unnecessary work will occur later if decisions are not fully aligned across all levels of the organization. Try something like:

    1. Do discovery/landscape assessment to align on the SITUATION
    2. Set clear OBJECTIVES with leadership
    3. Agree on a TIMELINE and key MILESTONES


Ideation Time

Don’t sell your plans short by not dedicating the appropriate amount of ideation time.  This is the part where teams can come together to brainstorm.  This is usually one of the parts of the process that is the most fun and where you can really get some good cross-collaboration to happen.  When teams across the organization are involved, not only do better ideas come forward but you bring awareness and hopefully support to the process as well.  I have found that factoring in multiple rounds of ideation works well.  Perhaps you ideate with different people on different areas of the plan.  Or maybe you work in a larger group to get ideas out but then work with a smaller team to refine.  Try it a few different ways and see what works best.  For example:

    1. Identify GROWTH Platforms (aligned with your objectives)
    2. Host a BRAINSTORM to develop ideas (go for quantity)
    3. Develop a PLAN for the top ideas (barriers, opportunities, resource requirements, etc.)
    4. Consider CONTINGENCY plans so you have options if you need to make adjustments


Validation Time

Think about how best to get customer feedback on your plan and ideas. What level of rigor is needed in your organization for testing? Do tests require a formal read-out and how long does it take to compile the testing data?  If the test is not successful, consider whether or not you will need to retest.  How comfortable will the organization be locking in on a plan when there are untested concepts?  Sometimes getting some preliminary feedback done for a quick gauge on a concept or an idea could be helpful.  Even something simple like Survey Monkey or Google Survey could be helpful.  An important input into the planning process is the results of past testing.  Being familiar with what has worked or not worked in the past can be helpful in developing future strategies.

    1. Set benchmarks for success
    2. Select test parameters (audience, questions, method of execution)
    3. Analyze and report out results
    4. Make adjustments to plan based on learning


Bring It All Together

Is now the time to get started on your plan?  A great place to start is building out a timeline of key dates and backing into a process that will work.  This approach will also rally your team around the process and gain the support and focus that successful planning requires.  Develop a calendar of activity based on the needs of your business and the ideas you have generated. Monitor success and prepare your contingency options so you can adjust based on performance. If you are looking for some thoughts on getting started on your plan, check out our prior blog post on the 5-Legged Journey to Marketing Magic.

Danielle Vona
  • Lisa Fernow
    Posted at 19:31h, 26 September Reply

    Having lived through both painful and joyful planning processes in my career I support Danielle’s advice to start early, and build in plenty of time for x-functional ideation and alignment. At Frito-Lay we used to go away as a team for 3 days of planning where every department got to participate – this kicked off the process and built team spirit in the process.

    • Danielle Vona
      Posted at 14:57h, 22 October Reply

      Thanks for the reinforcement, Lisa! We did the same on the Pepsi side of the business!

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