Marketing planning has changed little in the past century. It's essentially a linear process built on the development of rigid 12-month plans built around brand and channel metrics. This approach is coming increasingly under strain as the combined effects of the growth of digital marketing platforms and a volatile economy demand marketing plans that deliver clear business outcomes and can adapt and improve to meet evolving market dynamics.

Over the past 12-18 months, we have come across several marketing organizations that have decided to do something about this situation and look for new ways to improve their approach to marketing planning by adopting some principles borrowed from a relatively new methodology originally conceived for software development efforts: agile development.

From the interviews that we did with marketers that are experimenting with this new approach, several of the key principles of "agile" development looked particularly relevant to innovating their approach to marketing planning:

  • A clear definition of business outcomes and associated business metrics
  • A dedicated cross-functional team
  • A deliberate test-and-learn approach
  • And a clear timing and measurement framework

All the marketers we interviewed agreed that by embracing these principles in their marketing planning process, they have dramatically improved effectiveness, delivered marketing programs that are more flexible and responsive to market conditions and — by involving key stakeholders, like sales, early on in the process — defused potential misconceptions about the value of marketing within the enterprise.

One of the other key takeaways from the research is that the successful adoption of this new approach demands that marketers adopt a new mindset about processes and concepts that have been around for a long time. In particular, we have found that marketers adopting this new approach have to:

  • Favor program performance over formal perfection in execution.
  • Shift their focus from proving ROI to improving ROI.
  • Use a trial-and-error approach to identify new metrics developed for a specific objective.

I encourage you to read the report to get the full details on what this new approach to marketing planning looks like and why we think this kind of innovation will be increasingly more relevant for marketing organizations in the future.

Do you think that these new principles and approaches could be applied to your organization?