2010 Plan: Time to Expand Marketing's Role?

2010 holds the promise to be a banner year for marketers. Customers and prospects alike are reevaluating their definition of value and actively seeking new business relationships. What's different? In a word, just about everything:

1. Competition: Across industries large and small, the competitive landscape is shifting, as once-powerful players fade, leaving survivors to spar with new and unfamiliar entrants.

2. Customer attitudes and behaviors: Economic pressures are redefining customers' wants and needs, and many of yesterday's "necessities" now carry a "luxury" association for many consumers. Increasing budget uncertainties and consumer confidence erosion are impacting historical selling/purchasing cycles in complex, non-intuitive ways.

3. Government: Markets are experiencing a resurgence of government interventions, including both new regulatory actions as well as economic stimulus programs.

4. Supply chains: Changes in competitive, customer and government dynamics in turn drive changes throughout the intricate networks of relationships linking marketers to channel partners, distributors, and end users.

What's more, the pace of all this change seems to be accelerating, driven by the ever-expanding universe of sources offering business news, rumors, speculation, and commentary via traditional channels (television, magazines, newspapers) as well as emerging ones (blogs, social media).

The annual marketing planning ritual offers a great opportunity to redefine the role of marketing in the organization. And in 2010, that role may be more critical than ever, as companies of all types rely on marketers to:

1. Calculate compelling value propositions. Changing customer perceptions and budgets are creating new opportunities to provide value, and to establish and foster engagement.

2. Identify critical market insights. As the business landscape shifts in multiple directions, market research must define a new data collection agenda to answer new questions.

3. Plan effectively for many scenarios. Economic conditions may improve or may possibly stagnate further. New marketing channels (e.g., mobile, social media), for which no historical data exists, present new opportunities and threats. Scenario-based plans need to be developed and listening posts established to offer early indications of which direction things are headed in.

But to realize its potential, marketing needs to improve its skills and enhance its approach in several key areas:


  • Identify the key questions for 2010. Think through which uncertainties require the most attention, and why. Work through the potential business impact of reducing the uncertainty. Understand the potential impact/cost tradeoffs, and prioritize accordingly.
  • Test brand relevance. Awareness and favorability are necessary but insufficient for success. Learn which specific brand equities are driving profitable customer interactions (by segment) and put your money behind them.


  • Challenge the analytics. Market mix models may have performed brilliantly in the past, but a fresh look is in order in 2010. Think about what sort of alternative approaches might be employed as a sanity check for historical data-based analytics.


  • Develop more-disciplined decision frameworks. The 2010 planning process will uncover multiple, significant data gaps in the hunt for answers. Consider the many approaches for generating credible estimates/data proxies, such as simulation, experimental design, and calibrated expert opinion.


  • Keep the process transparent. Ensure that all participants, especially senior management, understand the nature and basis of all planning assumptions. Clearly identifying the important uncertainties and the approaches used to develop assumptions is a powerful means of establishing the credibility of the plan.

    By taking the right steps during this planning season to build and incorporate new customer and market dynamics into the planning process, you'll maximize marketing's contribution to your company's current and future financial performance.



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