Preparing for the Unknown is Part of Marketing Success


The constant battles of strategy versus tactic or vision versus execution are real, and if not planned for and fought properly, they can end up costing you your marketing efforts in the long run.

In order to execute a successful marketing strategy, you need to be able to have a 50,000 foot view (yes, this is 20,000 feet higher than the average bird’s eye view) as well as the ability to drill down and execute any given tactic on a day-to-day basis that is part of the larger overall picture.

Many companies create a marketing strategy annually, which typically outlines who, what, and how all of their marketing activities will be executed throughout the year; more specifically, it outlines how much money will be spent. However, all too often this marketing strategy gets filed away to never be brought back or measured against. Measurement and visibility are key to understanding how your efforts are performing, but they also keep marketing professionals on track for achieving the goals and objectives that matter most to their marketing strategy. Externally, the same things are happening, such as new opportunities that pop up that were not available at the time of generating the plan.

So how can one plan for the known, while also remaining agile for the unknown? It takes a certain degree of dexterity to be able to stay on your toes, know what the opportunities are, and plan accordingly for both the known and unknown. Yes, I said, plan for the unknown!

So now, dust off that most recent marketing strategy that you likely last touched around the turn of the year. Does it outline incremental goals and objectives? What is the timeline, budget, and how are you measuring against it?

In order to successfully execute a marketing strategy holistically, goals and objectives need to be determined along with a timeline and budget. How about setting a monthly task of reviewing where you’re at in your marketing plan and how it’s measuring up to its expectations? Ensure that there are goals set for each month ahead no matter how small they are, to keep you on track and focused.

When opportunities arise that were not planned for, evaluate them, and give them a fair assessment. Are they relevant, do they fit, or do they offer a new perspective that makes changing your goals and objectives worthwhile?

A great example of marketing agility was brought up in a recent client project.  Our client had been serving the same market for the last decade, but took a step back at the beginning of the year, recognizing that there was an opportunity to grow their business into adjacent markets. Realizing that approaching these new markets was unfamiliar, they planned for the unknown! Dipping their toes in the water, they allocated a few resources toward approaching the new market. Upon the first sale and the affirmation that their solution was viable (and now known), more dollars were allocated to continue to penetrate that market. Their marketing strategy fundamentally shifted on a month-by-month basis as paralleled to the result of the market’s success.

What is key here is that they took what they didn’t know and planned for it accordingly. Had the market been a bust, the dollars would have been shifted back to traditional markets or to more new market testing. They did not have it all figured out when developing their annual marketing plan, but instead acknowledged it and strategically planned for the different outcomes of what they didn’t know.

Another example of planning for the unknown was when a client was presented with the opportunity to speak at a prominent industry conference as well as have an accompanying article placed in an industry trade publication. Being able to allocate marketing dollars to further capitalize on this opportunity by sponsoring the conference and producing a custom e-mail sent to the trade publication’s list with their article and supportive advertising showcased front and center resulted in increased brand awareness and new leads. Planning for the unknown enabled this client to strike while the iron was hot as opposed to simply front-loading and allocating all of their marketing dollars at the beginning of the year.

In summary, planning for the unknown in your marketing strategy is just as important as planning for the known. The unknown may come with big risks, but with that there may be big rewards. So go ahead and develop your annual strategy, but don’t file it away; keep it close and evolve with it as the world and market opportunities around you evolve too.