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Frans Riemersma, 15 Dec '15

The Agile Marketing Plan is Here - the Marketing Plan is Dead

Prevent your marketing plan from becoming outdated before the execution starts. Set up a goal-tree structure and update your agile marketing plan every week.

How do you keep your marketing activities in line with the overall marketing plan? 10 years ago, a marketing plan lasted an entire year. Nowadays the marketing plan risks being irrelevant before the execution actually starts. As a result marketers need to constantly improvise. On average 40% of all marketing activities do not align with the strategic marketing goals. In a fast changing world, you need to set marketing goals and objectives in an agile way. Here is how.

What is stopping the marketing department from executing what was agreed in the marketing plan? Well, the moment the plan is approved and you start executing, reality gets in the way. In the process of executing the marketing plan you are constantly being sidetracked by ad hoc events which come with fast changing markets.

Just think of the frequent time and attention consuming incidents; your manager comes up with an additional campaign, the product launch is delayed, sales demands a campaign to meet quarterly targets, your biggest competitor launches an unexpectedly successful campaign, etc. All these real life events slow down and jeopardize the execution of your marketing plan. On top of this, it will continue to be a frustration of being unable to jump on huge opportunities emerging in the market.

This is where agile marketing comes in. 93% of the teams who adopted agile methodologies increased the speed-to-market of campaigns. It is time to approach the marketing plan in a drastically different way. Let’s write an agile marketing plan.

The marketing plan is dead, long live the agile marketing plan

For over a decade we helped marketers execute their strategies and plans by optimizing their marketing operations infrastructure. We learned that the key to success is a combination of a correct planning structure and the ability to be agile when quick action is required. It all comes down to managing marketing goals and objectives in an agile way. We call it Agile Goal Management.

You probably know that nagging feeling that you need to update your marketing plan every week just to keep up with the ever changing reality. But what if change is the constant factor? Isn’t it the normal state of a market? If so, then your marketing plan should be continuously synchronized with reality while still pointing at the same dot at the horizon.

That is exactly what agile goal management is about: a continuous and collaborative adjustment of goals, objectives and activities to drive strategic value creation. With agile goal management you can neglect all strategically disconnected operational tasks on a daily basis and prevent 40% of the marketing activities going to waste. Imagine 100% of your budget and resources are contributing to the big hairy goals.

Unfortunately, the marketing goal setting reality is very different. Many marketing goals are troublesome, in many different ways. In daily practice we found 5 common goal setting mistakes.

1. Orphan objectives. 20% of the objectives are not linked to any higher goal.

2. Internal focus. 75% of objectives have no customer focus.

3. Incomplete objectives. 71% of objectives omit audience, proposition or date.

4. Incompatible objectives. 60% of objectives conflict with higher goals.

5. Group ownership. 87% of objectives have multiple owners.

With agile goal management it is possible to keep your marketing goals and objectives in sync with the overall plan at any moment of the day. Just imagine your marketing goals & objectives are…

• always in sync with the company strategy

• always in sync with the marketing plan

• translated to every level in the company

• aligned across teams in the company

• specific to every individual involved

• realistic and delivered in time

• always in line with the latest insights

• always up to date

• always in sync with the market

• known to every member involved

• ensuring zero waste

• enabling you to create a report in seconds

• enabling you to show progress every day

• enabling you to show success any moment of the day

The Definition of Success is at the core of the agile marketing plan

Time and time again, one question proofs to be of tremendous help when defining marketing plans and goals. That question is: “What result do we exactly need to deliver to be successful?”. Answering this “success” question will make your marketing plan and goals very focused and specific.

This is why we developed the Definition of Success. The Definition of Success is a simple syntax. It is based on the agile development User Story syntax. The Definition of Success ensures that for every goal you define, you cover the 5 critical marketing goal elements as known from the Objective Validator: Audience, Deliverable, Proposition, Date and Change.

As a marketing manager you want to ensure that all the marketing activities align with the marketing plan so you can create value for your company. When success is defined and collectively agreed upon, it will be much easier for your team to execute the plan and for you to monitor the plan. Only a few months after sharing the Definition of Success in the field and at coffee machines, the first marketing institute incorporated the Definition of Success into their agile marketing certification course.

The Definition of Success

The Definition of Success can be used at any level in the marketing organization. At the strategic level you can define goals, such as “2,5% increase of market share” or “generate 150k revenue”. On an operational level you are able to define objectives like “15% increase website Click Through Rates”, “Reduce Email bounce rates by 20%”, or “make 100 face-to-face appointments”.

When all your team leads use the syntax to define their objectives, you can connect them in a tree-like structure. This tree visualizes your agile marketing plan, showing the road to value creation. You can assess and adjust your route to success on a daily basis.

Having the overall picture of your goals in a tree structure will help you to ensure that all marketing efforts point to the same overall goal and eradicate strategically disconnected operational tasks.

These are the 7 elements that help you to define success.

1. As a <role>, beneficiary, an individual or team. E.g. marketer, sales, procurement, product manager, English MarCom team, Asian Catalogue department, etc.

2. I want to <deliverable>, output. E.g. website, microsite, event booth, etc.

3. So I can <achievement>, outcome. E.g. awareness, market share, revenue, conversion, appointments, leads, churn, CTR, CLV, etc.

4. I aim for <value><unit>, number and metric. E.g. 46%, 150k dollar, 200 leads, 5 face-to-face appointments, -4% churn, etc.

5. Before <date>, due date of the benefit, value + unit. E.g. June 2016, mid 2017, 12-12-2015, etc.

6. Targeting <segment>, audience which the beneficiary is targeting. E.g. segment, persona, market, region, etc.

7. Concerning <proposition>, offer. E.g. SKU number, star product, product family, service, proposition, etc.

Manage your marketing plan using the Definition of Success

If you want to use the Definition of Success syntax to manage your agile marketing plan, we suggest you do the following. Setting up the initial plan is an identical exercise to updating the agile marketing plan later on. The only difference is that the required effort for setting up the initial plan might be a bit bigger.

The recommended frequency for updating the agile marketing plan is identical to your sprint, say every 3 or 4 weeks. You might want to start out on a weekly basis. But we can also imagine your industry or market dynamics dictate otherwise. Here is how to set up and update your agile marketing plan.

Set up your agile marketing plan

1. Write down your top 3 highest priority goals.

2. Share your top 3 priority goals with your team leads in a meeting.

3. Link the DoS objectives of your team leads to your top 3 goals.

4. Collaboratively decide or vote on what is realistic.

5. Create one backlog of goals, objectives and corresponding To Do’s.

6. Agree which objectives go into the first sprint.

7. Ensure the team leads create their own backlog and sprints.

Execute your agile marketing plan

1. Meet every month or sprint (initially every week or even every day).

2. Repeat the first 7 steps.

We wish you a steep learning curve and a very successful execution of your marketing plan, tapping into every opportunity emerging in your market.

Alternatively, you can sign up for as your agile goal management tool.