You Should Always Have A Plan

It sounds simple.  Unfortunately, simple things are the easiest to overlook.  Regardless of what role you have in your company, and regardless of what level of seniority you are, you should always have a plan. A plan is something to guide your actions.  It is a hypothesis based on observations you have made, intended to give you and your team a path to follow.

A plan is a starting point and not necessarily a rigid outline for the outcome.  In fact, plans are made to be broken, optimized and improved upon.  As the saying goes, everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth (yes that is paraphrased to make a point, but you get the idea).

I was educated as a media planner, but I do plans differently from most people. My personal philosophy of data-driven storytelling is based on the scientific approach that all messaging and creative is based on a mathematical formula and a model that can be crafted to extract the correct signals from performance data to further refine the message and drive higher performance.



Media math is an art form in and of itself.  Traditional models are based on a customer journey of awareness, to interest, to desire, to action.  Newer models take into account awareness and competitive clutter via frequency versus a targeted reach.  They account for a subset of the audience who are decision makers versus those who are simply influencers, and the different types of engagement you can expect from each. 

A customer journey is not linear, so your model can no longer be linear either.  Your prospects will weave in and out of the journey at different points, and you want to ensure your messages are delivered to them at the correct points regardless of when and where. You also want a model that accounts for supporting their decisions to engage. These are accomplished through retargeting and content distribution as means of helping them stay engaged and helping them feel more alignment that you are the right partner for them to consider.  Of course, you can create a model that is far too complex very quickly, and then you have a formula that can’t be managed.

Building a media model is a fun exercise.  I use it as a plan.  It is about having a benchmark from which to respond, react and optimize.  Sometimes your message will resonate right away.  Sometimes it won’t.  Does that make the work you put in any better or worse?  No.  It simply helps you refine your hypotheses to be better over time.

Do you sit with your team to build that plan each year?  Each quarter?  If you simply renew what you did before, you are destined for it to stop working.  I believe you should build a new plan and rebuild your model every year, whether it is working or not.  The greater economic context around your business is constantly changing, so how could you assume your plan will stay the same?  It’s either laziness or hubris, and neither one is good strategy.

So I ask again: How often do you build your models and rebuild your plan?  How often do you share that plan with the people around you and look for their input, rather than tacit approval?  How often are you willing to be wrong in order to spark a conversation?  How often are you willing to set aside your ego and start over for the betterment of your go-to-market strategy?

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